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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Korean Language 101

Hangul is the writing system of Korea, created and introduced by King Sejong the Great in 1443. Today, the 9th of October, is a national holiday that celebrates the first publication of the Hunminjeong’eum, the document introducing the language to the public. Hangul’s most important purpose was to reduce the illiteracy of the Koreans with a lower education. They struggled with the Chinese writing system, as the spoken Korean and Chinese were already very different, and the large number of characters didn’t help either. So the newly created alphabet consists of only 24 letters, benefiting everyone who wants to learn to read, including me.

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The limits of translation tools

The solution to all translation problems is “papago”. Despite an introductory course in Korean in Switzerland, I got into a bit of a rut when I arrived at Incheon Airport. I was surprised by the fact that people in South Korea don’t really know how to communicate in English. This is surprising because English is taught from the basic level and the Korean school system requires a high school diploma. The final exam includes a multiple-choice reading comprehension test, tricky even for native English speakers. And yet only Koreans with an international background can communicate in English. This was not a bad thing for me because it gives me the chance to immerse myself in new spheres of communication.

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Learning Swedish in a country where everybody speaks English better than you do

I‘m currently on a semester abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. As I am a master’s student, all the courses that I‘m attending are held in English. I was able to receive a room through the universities housing office. I have my own room (bathroom included) and I’m sharing a large kitchen with eleven other international students. In those aspects of my life English is needed, in the other part of Swedish is the dominant language, e.g. grocery shopping. Therefore I’m going to divide my analysis into two parts.

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Berlin in and its languages

Compared to other exchange students, I have the advantage that I don’t have to speak a foreign language. As a native German speaker, it was easy for me to find my way around in Berlin, linguistically speaking. Especially the German students are often surprised when I tell them that I come from Switzerland. At the beginning, they often can’t understand why a Swiss German comes to Berlin for an Erasmus exchange semester. But when I explain the reasons to them, of course they can understand me.

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When looking for similarities between Korea and Switzerland, what comes to your mind first? Even after spending more than three months here, it is not an easy question for me to answer. Maybe the food, in the end, both Swiss cheese and Korean kimchi is a fermented meal? I have to admit, I had to google that fact. But there is one thing that the Swiss and the Korean people share: A love for hiking!

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Life in Berlin

Even though I had already been to Berlin twice before my adventure of the exchange semester, I was still able to discover and explore a lot about the culture. At first glance, the differences between Germany and Switzerland don’t seem to be that great. We have the same time, we wear the same clothes and have similar traditions. Are there any differences at all? Trust me, there are differences.

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Community is everything, especially while living abroad

At the time I am writing this blog, I have already accomplished an Erasmus abroad in Paris for six months and am currently doing my second in Italy. During these months, I have learned a lot about what it means to live in a community or family. Therefore, I want to write a blog about myself today, and also present to you methods on how to connect with people in a new city.

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Let’s have a coffee in Seoul

To experience the vibes of Seoul, it’s best to sit down in a coffeehouse. These are easy to find, as no matter where you look in Seoul, you will find a handful of options within sight. It is, therefore, no surprise that Seoul is the city with the highest density of Starbucks stores in the world. This international chain set the minimum standard in coffee quality a few years ago. South Koreans, however, are eager to point out that real coffee is brewed elsewhere.

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