The Meaning of Time

At the beginning I was not sure if I should participate in the Milsa programme at all. The reason was that I was quite convinced that Swiss and Austrian cultures are very similar and that therefore there would not be a lot to tell. But of course I was wrong. I also thought that there would not be a big difference between the biggest city Vienna, where I lived for four years, and the second biggest city Graz, where I live now. I was wrong again. In this first blog post I will talk about what I have noticed so far here in Graz and why I am astonished about it.

In the last week of September, I was excited and full of expectations for the start of the semester at a new university with unknown people. Well prepared (typically Swiss) – that means I had filled out the perceived 68 documents for course inscriptions etc. – I went to my first seminar. But I was the only one. A little confused I went back home again and realised that the same had happened not only to confused Erasmus students but also to locals. The university realised that in the first official week of the new semester, the rooms were not yet available because of exams. Aha. Apparently, they had informed the students the week before. No problem, everyone was happy about one more week of holiday.

And after that, the semester actually started. Of course not too fast-paced. The (second) first week was filled with basic information and instead of a 90-minute lecture a 20-minute lecture was normal. “I welcome you to my seminar in psychophysiologischen Methoden. I do not have time on Wednesdays as scheduled because I have a child at home. So, when do you have time to hold this seminar instead?” Within minutes it was possible to find two alternatives days which fit to all 16 students – amazing. Again I had the impression that people of Graz have a different and more flexible time management than Austrian people living in Vienna or the Swiss.

Compared to Vienna or Switzerland, here I have never met people in a hurry or it has never happened that someone told me: “Sorry, I don’t have time.” Or “yes sure, I would love to drink a coffee, in 2 weeks from 14:30 pm until 15:30 pm I’m free”. It is very pleasant to arrive in an environment where time does not mean money but rather leisure time. Here it is more like “of course I have time for a coffee (and a beer, or even two)”. Often it is not about having time but taking the time. That makes social life in Graz so comfortable and is a reason why I think it is kind of easy to find new, local friends. I adapted quite fast to this “time difference”. At the same time, I do not feel that I work less (for university), probably just more efficiently. People seem to be more flexible and if there are some fixed appointments they are easy to change to another day. Thus, more spontaneous actions like cooking together, hiking, playing cards etc. take place and do not have to be planned a month in advance.

I assume whole societies could benefit from a less stressful daily life with more conscious (coffee) breaks. ‘There could some cities cut off a slice J.

Rahel Aschwanden

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