A few weeks ago I moved to Vienna, to start the second part of my year abroad as an English language assistant. I actually came straight from my previous year abroad home in Italy, by overnight train to Vienna, without going back to England in between which was strange. I went to sleep in Italy and woke up (very early) in Austria, to a snow covered countryside that looked like something out of a Narnia book. Although this magical scene made me even more excited as I ate the little bread rolls (Kaiser- semmel) I had been brought for breakfast (almost a breakfast in bed!), I soon realised that adjusting to the Austrian world was going to be hard.
The first thing was the language. I had to switch from talking and thinking in Italian (which after 7 months had become quite natural) to German, quite literally overnight. I found myself stumbling over words and really struggling to understand when people spoke to me, especially the Austrian German which not only sounds different but also uses different words! So I’ve had lots of awkward moments in the supermarket, especially when I used the wrong word when I was trying to ask for a plastic bag. Even though it’s frustrating (and embarrassing) I just have to remind myself that I felt exactly the same when I arrived in Italy.
There are also lots of other things that are different from life in Italy. One big thing I have noticed is the food. Italy is of course famous for it’s cuisine, from the rich and varied pasta dishes to the delicious pizzas bigger than the plates! In Italy I used to eat pasta almost every day, but in Austria the main food seems to be meat. In the supermarket everywhere I look are sausages! It also seems that there isn’t time for a long, relaxed lunch. In Italy I had an hour lunch break from my office job, but when I’m working in the schools there doesn’t really seem to be a set time to have your lunch, just the 10 or 15 minutes in between lessons, which is only enough time for a quick sandwich.
I don’t think these are necessarily bad things, but it will just take time to get used to them. Although, there are some things I have immediately gotten used to, like the very efficient public transport- it’s so easy to get around and it’s always on time! I have also settled quite well into the coffee house culture where you can go to a café and just sit for hours, chatting and relaxing with friends and a cake (or two).
Have you ever had to adapt to a culture different from your own? Was it difficult?