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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Checking your mailbox is like opening a blind box

It’s my third time visiting Switzerland. I was here during an around Europe trip 10 years ago with my mom, and attended a one-week winter study program at the University of Fribourg in 2019. However, a long stay in a new country is a totally different thing. You have to get used to distinct systems of payment, transportation, waste collection, insurance, etc. These have made my first month a bit messy, but thank God I’ve finally got all the necessary things in place by now.

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Local vs. Erasmus

During an exchange semester you will not only get to know people who actually live there – the so-called locals – but also others who are staying there temporarily just because it is fun. You might reject it first (like I did) but at the end of the day you, as an Erasmus student, belong to the latter group. This text will be about the differences between the locals and the exchange students. Also, I will discuss the feeling of getting stuck in between those two groups. 

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To feel at home?!

Now, after five months, I am back. Back in my home country and every day since I have been back, I think about Finland, about my friends there, the daily routine I had and how I enjoyed my time there. Everything just seems like a dream and nothing here has changed. Everything seems the same as before. It seems as I had been away for only two weeks, but then I think about what I learned, how many people I met, how much I travelled and and and … I would never have been able to explore so much in just two weeks.

All my plans were made up to the day of my return to Switzerland. I hadn’t planned anything after my return and then suddenly I was back, and I had no idea where to start or what to do. From one hour to the other I was with my family, I knew the places I went to and everything felt familiar to me. But I recognized that I was not used to my living style in Switzerland. I cannot just come back to find everything is like before. I realized that I had lived another life, that I changed and that I had another daily routine for five months. 

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How an analysis of the size of beer can lead to a deeper understanding of culture

Since I was a child I was fascinated by the different cultures in the world, especially by the indigenous peoples and how those different societies work because it completely differs from what I am used to. That was one reason why I decided to take part in the MILSA Program. I wanted to get some more insights about what actually defines a culture. However, before my exchange I was not really aware about how difficult it might become to recognise the differences and to describe them.

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Familiarizing the Unfamiliar

When I first got to Malta, I was unsure how I would get around. ‘Public transport,’ I assumed, because that’s what I did in Switzerland. But there were many things that I found weird or negative about Maltese public transport that made it difficult for me to use. Not all the stops were listed on the bus timetables – how was I supposed to know which bus went where I needed to go? The arrival times were wrong at the bus stop, on Google maps, and on the bus’s own app. This made bus transfers virtually impossible to calculate into travelling time, since I didn’t know if I’d be waiting for 10 or for 50 minutes. Also, the buses were often late, especially in the warmer months when traffic was worst due to the number of tourists.

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