From Winter Wonderland to the Desert

The semester in Canada starts in January and finishes by the end of April. Therefore, my exchange semester in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is already over. I finished all my assignments and packed my stuff. It was hard to say goodbye to all the people I met here, but at the same time I was very excited for what was to come! I flew to Denver in the US where I met my brother for an eight-week road trip on the Westcoast. 

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Communicating in Korea

Seoul has become a very international city and a popular destination for studying, so I was surprised to realize that very few Koreans speak English. Outside of university and during my travels through Korea, I have been constantly confronted with situations where I couldn’t communicate with very basic English and had to use my hands or translating apps instead. 

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The Art of English

As a Swiss person you learn English from 7th grade on, but coming to Australia made me realize the first few week that English is not just English. It has very different forms and different dialects. When I arrived in Wollongong, the Australian accent gave me a lot of trouble, because my ear was just not used to it. I feel this would be different with English as it is spoken in England or the US, because I know it from the movies. 

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I will miss the daily chats

When I arrived in South Africa a couple of months ago, the presence of security staff in many public and private places was unfamiliar to me. There is security staff on the campus, in public parks, in streets highly frequented by pedestrians, at every gate and parking lot entrance, in malls, and in shops alike. Besides patrolling the area, the security staff on the campus even offers services such as accompanying students to their cars or waiting with them for an Uber in the dark. Uber is a popular car ride service in South Africa. This escort service is provided almost all night, at least at venues such as some libraries which are open all day and night.

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Fireworks and Lights – and more Fireworks: Fallas in Valencia

The Fallas is a Valencian spring celebration held every year (if possible) in March. Coming to Valencia, I had of course already heard about the celebration and was hoping it would take place, as it had been cancelled the two years before due to the pandemic. 

I first received some first-hand information about the Fallas (or Falles in Valencian) from a local during an organized tour around the city centre from my Spanish school: Apparently the tradition started in the Middle Ages, with carpenters burning their spare wood in spring.

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Italiano or English? 

When traveling to a foreign country it is always better to learn some important words in advance. I think this is in generally a good approach to get in touch with locals. You are coming to their country, so you should at least be able to say hello or thank you in their language. To me, that shows some sort of respect for their culture and your that you are a visitor. 

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Challenges of Winter in Canada

About two months ago I arrived in Sault Ste. Marie. A small city on the shores of Lake Superior in Ontario, Canada. The winter months here are pretty harsh. Very cold temperatures, strong winds and lots of snow. When I arrived it was -26°C cold. I had never seen winter like that before and therefore also never known how life is like under these conditions. It led to quite a few minor cultural “shocks” for me. Let me tell you about a few of them:

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On Ticket Drawing Machines and Conversations with Strangers

The Swiss and Swedish culture have a lot of similarities since we share a lot of cultural and religious values. So there wasn’t any crazy cultural practice that I encountered in Sweden that threw me off completely. But I’ve encountered a lot of small differences between the cultural practices here and at home that added up over time. 

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Being polite in Korea

During my childhood, I was taught to be polite in every daily situation. My mother would be extremely proud whenever my brother’s or my own behavior was praised by adults. When I was a young boy, I wanted to make my mother proud and therefore strived to be a well-mannered citizen. This self-evident principle is still valid today. 

However, here in South Korea, I recognized directly that the rules of etiquette are not just a little but completely different. After spending the mandatory seven days of self-isolation in Seoul, two weeks ago I was finally allowed to leave my quarantine hotel. Therefore, this short essay is a summary of my first impressions about Korean politeness gathered during that short time span. This essay should by no means to be understood as a guide, but merely describes my subjective perception.

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