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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What is different from South Korea

When I first came to Switzerland, the first place where I felt cultural differences with South Korea was a restaurant. While Korean restaurants pursue more efficiency and run fast, there are some more cultural practices in Switzerland. In Korea, most people find their seats on their own when they enter the restaurant (except in certain places), and once they choose a menu, they call a waiter with a loud voice or ring a bell on the table to call a waiter and to place an order. Likewise, if you have any requests during your meal, you can reach the waiter like you did when you ordered. Also, when you finish the food, you can go to the counter directly to check out without waiting for the waiter to bring your receipt. Therefore, when I came to Switzerland a few years ago, I was unfamiliar with Swiss restaurant practices and unintentionally acted in ways that could seem rude in Switzerland.

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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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The price we have to pay for a convenient life in Taiwan 

I come from Taiwan. Taiwan is well-known for its convenient life and 宵夜文化(culture of eating food at mid-night). For example, there are convenience stores that open 24/7 around each corner. Supermarkets also open every day. What’s more, there are Taiwanese night market, where you can find a lot of stand food until midnight. 

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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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