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Culture

The Nightlife Differences Between Prague and Belgrade

Having been living in Prague for the past 2 months, I have noticed many contrasts between the two Slavic capitals, but something what has completely surprised me is the difference in the nightlife scene.

The youth in Belgrade (starting from 14-15 and up) go out at night at first to bars (nargila – shisha ones are becoming more and more famous) and then later to the popular kafanas with live Serbian music, as well as to clubs. Standards are high. Young ladies spend hours on putting on a lot of make-up and high heels because even if you are 15 or 16, you can make yourself look mature and attractive enough and go to a club easily. Almost no one looks at your ID if you look good. Politeness is a must, but a serious ‘bitch’ face will get you in more easily than a smiling one. You will do good especially if you know someone working at the venue – if you have ‘a connection’.

A special phenomenon are ‘splavovi’ – clubs floating on the river Sava – very popular in summer. Even though the price of one ‘separe’ in a splav is most of the times higher than the average monthly wage in Serbia, people who get it make sure everyone from their group of friends know it and never forget posting a dozen of stories on social media. The atmosphere in kafanas, splavs and clubs is very vibrant and energetic – everyone is dancing, singing and just enjoying life, forgetting about all the worries and difficulties they are facing.

On the other hand, I have never heard any of my friends in Prague (locals) going to clubs to party. Interesting, since one of the biggest clubs in Europe is actually in Prague. Who goes to these? Foreigners. And where do all the Prague people go? That is easy – to drink beer! Although this seems obvious, they really drink A LOT of beer – everyone! In Serbia, most of the girls stick to cocktails because, you know, ‘beer is a drink for men’.

But no wonder that everyone drinks it because it tastes so much BETTER than anywhere else, at least in my experience. The Czechs in Prague go to ‘grab a beer’ and often they go to multiple bars or pivovar-s at one night. In Serbia, we mostly just go to one place per night. People just talk, have fun, put up some dark humor jokes and enjoy spending time in a lot cozier, more relaxed pace. No worries or thoughts on how you look or if your legs hurt from heels – because women hardly wear them at night at all.

In summer, a lot of Czechs go to summer camps and light up a bonfire in the night, have a nice BBQ, drink beer (or wine) and sing traditional songs. Never in my life before CZ have I looked for wood or set up a bonfire – no wonder my host Mom laughed so much when seeing I do not know how to light up a match properly.

This is a guest post written by Kaja Kindic, a Serbian girl on an internship in Prague

Culture, Exchange, Exchange Example Stories

Going from East to West

Coming from the east to live in the west: you can imagine how much culture shock I suffered. From a 90% Muslims country to a 97% Catholics country, yep, it’s different too. And if you are a future exchange students that also going to do an exchange from east to west and going to have a 360 degrees of change, here are some tips for you on facing your cultural differences.

#1 It’s different, not wrong.

That is the number one thing you should remember. There is no right or wrong in this ‘culture shock’ thing: it’s just different. 

“Oh but it is forbidden in my religious beliefs! And there, it is considered wrong.”

Son, remind yourself that you are doing an exchange for a new experience, for a new life, and especially, for a new culture. And no, culture are not only the art, the dance or the song, culture is the way of life. And the first thing that you should remember when you’re having a culture shock is that: that is how the people here lives

#2 Explain

There is nothing wrong with explaining and talking through what you think. You came from a different world, different country and most important, different culture. Tell your host family or the people that caused you the culture shock what happened.

It happened to someone you don’t know and you choose not to bark in to a stranger? Well, tell your host family. After all, your host family probably act the same as the stranger that you met since you live in their country. 

In my family in Italy, dinner time is sacred: that is when I should tell everything that I need to know or everything I think they need to know. Every dinner we talk about our day, so I am I with my day. I’ll tell them what happened, and they will tell me how to face it.

Explaining can also prevent the shock to happen again. For example, you are a Muslim girl and you can not be touched by other men except your brothers and father, since it is not right for your religious belief. But your Italian host father wanted to hug you since it is the way of Italian to show love. Tell him. Talk through to him, explain everything that in your religious belief you can not be touched. It is better than later when the other person wanted to do something that is not right and you have to act defensive.

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#3 Ask, ask, ask, ask!

Ask everything. Literally, everything. You might know how to use the toilet since it looks the same with the one in your house in your home country, but like I say, the people from the country you’re hosted might use it differently. 

Like explaining, there are nothing wrong with asking. Your family, friends and teachers know that you came from halfway around the world that makes you basically an alien. 

I, for one, always ask. Especially in the dinner table. The Italian eating style and Indonesian is really different. Indonesian eating style is very humble and traditional: sometimes we use our hands, even, without spoons or forks, and knife is barely used. But here in Italy: the opposite.

I always ask my family if I don’t know how to eat something. Like, “should I do this? Should I do that?” and my family will gladly show me how to do that. It might look like you’re stupid and like a pre-historic person, but well, you are there learning new cultures!

#4 Be a good observer

Although I don’t recommend this (I prefer you ask), be a good observer if you are too shy to ask. At the first time, you might be shocked with what people around you do, but, be a good observer. Find out why they do that. Do a background research. And, be a good observer and imitate. 

In Indonesia, I eat everything with a spoon, while here in Italy, I have to use the fork all the time. I don’t know how to do that at first, but also now I still find some discomfort eating with fork, but I look carefully at how my host family eat, and eventually, I imitated them. The shock will eventually gone, I am sure.

#5 Give up!

Confused? I’ll explain. Give up doesn’t mean that you go home to your home country and stop doing the exchange, but what I am implying here is: give up your old culture. You are learning a new culture, so, in order that new culture to get into your life, give up your old. And giving up doesn’t mean forgetting. It means that you have to accept the new culture.

At my first time using the bus to go home from school, I was really, truly, shocked by what happened. It was one of my biggest culture shock that I won’t forget. The Italian teenagers, after school, have no chill. They will fight for their seats on the bus to go home (because they are: a) tired  b) hungry  c) Italians don’t keep calm. Sums it up = chaos)

I struggled a bit at first. It was hard for me to get in the bus since there were a lot of people that wanted to have seat, that they will push you and give zero damn about you. I then remember that in Indonesia, they will get in one by one, or if they’re in a hurry, they will not push you away. One time, I was being an Indonesian and being calm, and I lost five buses that I had to walk 5 km to the city center to catch another bus.

I had a hard time: I wanted that calmness of Indonesian. But then, I give up. I accept the fact that that is how Italians live. And as I had written before, I imitated. (Also, I slowly became a) tired  b) hungry  c) have no calm after school) And guess what: right now I always get a seat in the bus.

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#6 Never compare!

It’s actually what exchange student always do, and I myself still do that also: comparing to our home countries. “In Indonesia, they…”; “they don’t do ….. in China”; “We don’t have this in Argentina”

While at some point comparing is important, for example, to explain why you are shocked or why you don’t do some certain things, but  keep on comparing things means that you don’t accept what’s in front of you. 

I, for one, at first didn’t like the Italian school system (I still kinda do, though). The Italian school system can be summed into one, single, strong word: boring. The students are passive and forced to sit and listen to what the teacher mumbling about for five hours with not a lot of interaction between them, and the students are forced to accept everything that the teacher say.

While in Indonesia, the students are forced to be more active, do fun projects and we have a lot of connection between the teacher and the student, we have a two-way connection, and although sometimes it sucks, the system in Indonesia made the students and the teachers partners. We could discuss different way of doing things, while here, according to me, not so much.

I did a comparison here but I need to explain. But, if I keep on comparing the school system, that means I don’t give up my old culture, and I can’t accept the new one. But as the time goes by, you will adapt. But adapting will be so much faster if you stop comparing things

That is how you could face the cultural differences, according to me. I know I am not perfect, but, I hope that this could help the future exchange students that will go on an exchange year. Ciao!

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This story was written by Aloysius Efraim, a student from Indonesia that is now doing  exchange year in Scorzè, Italy. If you want to know more about me, visit my blog indotaliano.wordpress.com or add him on Facebook.

 

Culture, Global Citizenship

Don´t ask me where I´m from, ask where I am a local

“How can a human come from a concept?”  – Taiye Selasi

Indeed. How could a human come from a concept? How can a concept define all of it´s millions of ´nationals´? I have always wondered how and why people feel so confident saying they are from a country. Because in any country, as in the entire world, not two people are alike. So how can millions of people have common ground in a concept, a concept that is different for each and every one of these millions of people based on the place they grew up, based on the way they were raised.

It´s absolutely amazing to hear someone else speak the words you have always thought of. Though Taiye Selasi and I have fairly little in common when you would look at our histories, I feel like I know her very well, and I think all other global citizens, so-called third culture children, will do to, because we share ´ Rituals*´.

The feeling of not telling the complete truth when people ask you where you are from, because you have been influenced by so many other things, so many other places and experiences, yet people will only hear where your passport says you are from. People will put you in a box and say you are a national to this country, but you aren´t.  When you act too different, people will take you out of the box and say you are not a national,  but you are.

“My experience is where I´m from¨ is among the brilliant this Selasi claims in this video. Experiences shape who you are and are in many ways far more important than concepts and the stereotypical ideas we connect to them. Saying you are from a certain country means nothing when you consider all the different nuances there are in being from a country. Did you grow up there? Where? What social class? How did your parents raise you? Where did you go afterward? What influenced your life? All of these are experiences. Experiences that shape your life. Experiences that are more revealing than the simple question of where someone is from.

“You can take away my passport, but you can´t take away my experience” or in other words, my passport or lack thereof doesn´t define my experience as a local somewhere. It does not take away the fact that I feel connected to these people. It doesn´t mean I am any less of a local than those who do have a passport to ´prove´ they are from someplace.

One of the biggest myths about nationalities is going back, and I agree. “I go to Accra every year but I can´t go back to Ghana. […] That country doesn´t exist anymore. We can never go back to a place and find it exactly where we left it. Something, somewhere will always have changed. “ No place can ever be the same as it once was. Times change, people change, rituals change… This is one of the hardest things to accept after having lived abroad. That every place you will go ´back´ to, you will only be chasing memories that are no longer there.

This might be one of the most relatable TED talks I have seen yet. It is beautiful and inspiring and to all of those that don´t relate to one ´ nationality´ or place, this is a must watch.

* Watch video

Culture, Language

Insults around the world

People say you should never translate a joke, but maybe insults shouldn’t be translated either. Those of us who have ever wanted to learn some words in a foreign language will know that the first things they teach you are always the bad words. But learning these swear words can be quite platonic. To you it’s just a get together of strange sounds without any meaning. But what if we compared swear words around the world?

In this video made by CUT we see people from different major cities all over the world explaining what insults and swear words they use, and it is really funny. Things like ‘Green tea bitch’, ‘Soft egg’ or ‘Indoorsman’ to ‘Sister fucker’ ‘Your dad is dead. Your mom is dead. Everything is dead”. See for yourself and watch the video below.

 

 

What is your favorite insult in a foreign language?

Culture, Lifestyle

How to make strangers more open-minded

I am a very big fan of social experiments. I like to challenge the way people think, especially when these people are strangers. For me, social experiments are also a way of seeing how people are, how open minded people are or what their previous experiences have been.

A way for me to see what kind of person someone is, is by taking on a character. I like telling that I am things that I am not, but that I could be, even though I don’t fit the general profile. When they ask me where I am from, I tell them I am from South Africa or Brazil, because people generally don’t expect blonde haired, blue eyed people to come from these exotic places. However, blonde, blue eyed South Africans and Brazilians definitely exist.

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The idea is that the next time people think about South Africans or Brazilians, they will not only see the dark skinned people they had in mind before. They will probably also remember that one blonde chick that was from there. They might even tell their friends about what an odd experience it was.

I think it is important to avoid routine, doing the same things with the same people who are all from the same place and think the same things. For me it’s not about lying about who I am to sound more interesting, but I think it is important for people to have different experiences with different people. Different social or cultural groups can stay very segregated and therefore it is very easy to think that a ‘everyone’ is like the people in your social environment. You are in a position of getting into certain groups of people where people with different stories don’t get in so easily, so use that access to tell the stories that other people can not tell.

An example of this a commercial the Victoria Secret model Doutzen Kroes did. She made a commercial telling people she has HIV to make the subject of being HIV positive less of a taboo.

But there are many other interesting experiments like this. A transgender person who describes how different their experience was while being male.  The straight Christian male who pretended to be gay for a year. These kind of experiences are often not only good for the people you meet, but also for you. Doing this, I can experience what it is like to be treated the way other people from these lesser known communities are treated.

And I would recommend it to everyone! Think of all the things you could possibly be. This can be from a different nationality, being raised with gay parents, being gay yourself, or being straight. You can tell people you are a different age just to see how differently people treat you. You can say you are from a different part of town. You can go around and say you were born a different gender. You can say you really like video games.  Try to think of something that doesn’t happen a lot in your circles. Something that people usually have prejudices about. Not only will it give other people a different perspective on those communities, you yourself will also experience what it is like to be treated like someone else. Being a minority is not an experience most people will have, but this could give you an inside look into the world of minorities, the way people treat them.

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I know it might sound a bit crazy, but when you are in a city where nobody knows you, try it out! I can assure you it is great fun, and it feels like a little victory when people are actually believing your story, but the best moment is of course when people say “I had never met anyone like you before, but you are actually really cool”.

Mission accomplished.

Culture, Exchange

7 Things you should do when you are in France


This is a guest post written by Maria Fidelia

FRANCE. What will you think when I say France? I thought you would think about, beret, baguette, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or even wine (or you might think French are stinky, would you? ). Well, those are the stereotype of France, we know that already, but you know, when you visit France, meet French, or going to say in France, you better read this.

1. Faire Bisous

Oh la la, YESSSSSS!!!! French like to kiss, not the mouth to mouth kiss, but the cheek to cheek kiss. Everybody would do it everyday, every hour, and every time they meet people they know. As my experience says, men tend to kiss with the one they are close to or they know. When I was in France, I have some boy friends in class and every morning they meet each other sometimes they only shake hand to each other since they are not close, but 2 boy friends in class, they always kiss when they meet. After quite some times I put on my stalking ability (well, not to do the bad thing), I know that the 2 boy friends in my class are close friends, best friends we could say. Also, there is one thing that I remarked since I arrived there, women tend to do it more, both with men or with the other women! The amount of the kiss is depend on their habit; some people would do it 3 times to family and do it only 2 times with friends.

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2. Having ‘Goûter’ at 3:30 PM

Goûter is something like high tea in England, but the different is you can take everything to eat and drink, n ot only tea to drink, but you can also drink orang juice or simply a glass of water, with crackers as something to eat. Eventhough you don’t have any crackers on the shelf, you can also take chocolate to eat or yogurt or everything to eat but not too heavy. Remember, NOT TOO HEAVY! Sometimes, when you are still in the office or school, you might also take a small packet of crackers and eat it in the time of goûter or when you are on the road going home or somewhere else, you might also stop by at any boulangerie at buy a pain au chocolat, it’s only 0.60-0.95 Euro. One thing to remember, when you want to goûter, take a look at the time, because when you want to goûter after 4.30 PM, you simply cannot do it, because it is too late. French think that it’s near to the time to have dinner.

3. Greet the bus driver, cashier and everyone who serves you 

I found out this habit runs in French blood, almost everyone do this when they meet the bus driver as they enter the bus; the cashier when they finish shopping, and any other examples. I found this habit is very good. Sometimes, you might see them not really friendly to you or they greet you without sincerity, but at least they greet everyone.

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4. Taking something when you are invited

This is quite a habit. French always do this when they are invited to their friend’s house to have a dinner, even when they are told that they don’t have to carry anything with them. I saw that they bring, champagne, wine, cheese, or just flowers to put on the table.


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5. Pick up fresh bread (aka baguette) every day

Pick up fresh is a big big habit of French. I guess that they cannot live without bread (No, I’m joking!), since they spend almost a baguette everyday, ONE BAGUETTE EVERYDAY. When you have sauce or gravy left on your plate, French will finish it with baguette. Tear a little of the bread, then lick the sauce or the gravy on the plate with the bread and eat it! One thing they also do with the baguette; as they walk back to their house, they will tear the tip of the warm baguette and eat it 😉

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6. Being addicted to crêpes (and nutella)

Oh my God, I don’t if this is true, but everyone in France (my friends there) love crêpes. Crêpes comes with 2 different types, the salty one which we eat with jambon blanc, cheese, or egg; and the sweet one which we eat with jam, refined sugar, or … NUTELLA. Once, I went out with my host brother and he loves crêpes with nutella so much. I found out, too that French are quietly addicted to it, but who doesn’t love Nutella, right?

(Ps : I love crêpes so much!!!!)

7. Talk or joke about sex at the dining table? Normale, quoi? 

Well, this habit is quite something. Since I grew in Indonesia and we don’t talk much about sex, even with our parents and on the dining table especially. After some times living in France, I started to understand French and one day, on an Easter lunch, the big family of my host dad visited my host family and certainly, the joke around about sex and well, I couldn’t help but smiling than laughing. Another experience, my other host parents took me visit their friends house and we had dinner there. As we know, they joke around about sex and of them ask my host mom, “Does she understand about the joke?” because apparently he caught me smiling about his joke and then my host mom said, “Ah oui, oui bien sûr! (Yes, certainly) Because she understand already about all French jokes and else.”

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20150808_194540This guest post was written by Maria Fidelia, an Indonesian girl who spend time abroad in France. 

Culture

Why it seems difficult to make friends in the Netherlands

When I meet expats I am always curious to know what they think of the Netherlands, and one issue that has always come up is the one of making friends. Even though they have plenty of contact with Dutch people, it seems to be hard to get in their group of friends and still end up having mostly other expat friends.

Being Dutch I think there are several reasons that might explain why it might be difficult for an expat to make ´native´ Dutch friends. First of all, Dutch people don`t have the necessity to make new friends. This phenomenon is quite universally known among expats and the people of the country in which they live. When an expat arrives he is unlikely to know a lot of people, maybe he doesn´t even know the language, whereas his autochthonus collegues have spent their entire lives there and already have lots of friends to do stuff with, family to visit and gym`s to go to. Therefore they simply don`t feel as much need to make new friends as an expat does. That´s why it is much and much easier to make friends with your fellow expats. You share the need to make new friends and maybe even more important – you share the experience of living in a country that is not your own. 

The second reason why it is hard for many expats is – yes I will say it – the cultural difference. Dutch people can be very direct and this eventually leads to a quite clear definition of the word `friend`. In many countries a friend is someone you know, someone you hang out with every once in a while. Although the Netherlands formally doesn´t have a very hierarchical society, informally the Dutch make a big difference between an acquaintance and a friend. A Dutch person might have between 5-20 friends. This might not be a lot, yet these friends are the ones they have known for a long time and they would trust completely. Anyone else they will simply refer to as somebody they know, work with or they have once met.

Now you have to understand that just because they don´t refer to you as their friend, does not change the relationship. In a lot of countries the word `friend` is to the Dutch standards overused and this person is probably just someone you know. They will run into this person on the street and say ¨Oh we should totally get a coffee some time!¨ and then walk away without any intention of contacting that person again in the near future. They would always tell me that even though they call them their friends, they know exactly who their real friends are and who are not. In other words, the label you put on a relation might be different from the label a Dutch person puts on the relationship, but that doesn`t mean a they don`t like hanging out with you.

Another point is that in the Netherlands there is not really a big culture of inviting people over for dinner, as there might be in a lot of other countries. However when they do invite you over, they truly mean it. No invitation or suggestion to have a cup of coffee together is meant to sound nice. And when you ask a Dutch person if they want to have lunch on friday and they say ¨I will see if I can make it¨, they don´t politely try to let you down. You will honestly hear again from them in the next following days.

Although it may seem difficult, it is definitely not impossible to make Dutch `friends`. The advantage for expats is that pretty much all Dutch people speak English, and I think as soon as you are able to look past the Dutch directness and the fact that they may or may not call you their friends, it should not be such a big issue to socialize with the Dutch.

 

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