Ten Differences Between Austria and the USA
It has now been TWO months since I anxiously parted with my hometown. . . Wow. Since I have arrived in Austria, I have been fascinated by the differences between my home in the United States and my new home. I carry a notebook with me to quickly jot down any differences I observe, so here are just a few. . .
- NO PEANUT BUTTER. Well, I did manage to find some “Erdnuss Creme”, but it required extensive searching. My host family was surprised when I explained my passionate love for peanut butter, as they had never bought it. I was deprived of my daily dose of PB for a month, so now I carry a jar with me in my backpack.
- Public transportation is much more widely used than at my home. I take a train and bus home from school every day, as do most students. Since I had never ridden a city bus before I arrived in Austria, I was very confused by the process. My confusion caused me to get off at the wrong bus station twice… Once too early and once too late… But I have figured it out now, and I’m quite proud of myself!
- Dogs are allowed in malls, restaurants, grocery stores, and most other public places! I love it, and I wish Michigan would adopt this cultural difference. If only I could bring my little Henry with me everywhere I went. . .
- Shoes are not to be worn in school unless they are “house shoes.” This rule is exercised to keep the floors clean. I was perplexed by this difference originally, as it just felt a little funny and casual to walk from classroom to classroom barefoot. There are no clocks in the classrooms either, which is quite painful during a Religion lecture in German.
- Cigarettes are MUCH more commonly smoked. It is normal to walk outside after school and see a few groups of students smoking cigs right by the school entrance. Not only do adolescents and young adults smoke, but many older adults as well.
- THE FOOD IS SO DELICIOUS. Every night I take a picture of the dinner my host mother prepares for me because it is always amazing (sometimes I send the pictures to my mom because she does not cook for me). The food is always fresh and homemade. For breakfast, we eat bread made at a local farm, butter, honey or homemade marmalade. I am given a sandwich for lunch with fresh vegetables, butter, cheese, meat, and fresh bread. We also eat dinner much earlier than at home; anywhere from 4-6. Sometimes a light dinner of various meats, cheeses, bread, and vegetables is served; this is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. I hope to find a way to sneak some of this delicious “Jausnen” into the States. Also, the sandwiches at the gas stations are incredible (I don’t think I would ever buy a sandwich at a gas station back home…), and the chocolate is a billion times better than in the US.
- First names! Karina, Elena, Lukas, Felix, Alina, Rafael, Emilio, Claudia, Gregor, Gerlinde, Raimund. They’re so European. And I love it. I’ve decided to name my future children Felix and Gregor.
- The clothing style is quite different here than at my home in Michigan. I’m so in love with the edgy European fashion. A typical outfit considered “stylish” for girls consists of distressed jeans, an infinity scarf, a leather jacket, Converse sneakers, and a trendy sweater. Also, most of the boys have their hair short on the sides and long and spiked up with gel on the top… But I’m not as fond of this trend.
- The lifestyle is very active and overall healthy. It is standard to go on a hike, walk, or bike ride as a family on Sunday. I’ve particularly appreciated this difference, as it has allowed me to spend time with my family and friends and explore the incredible landscape.
- The holidays are different! I am especially excited about Christmas. In fact, the festivities are already beginning. The expansive Christmas markets will soon overcome the streets in the cities. On the fifth or sixth of December, St. Nicholas and the Krampus will visit the houses of little boys and girls. The Krampus is an ugly monster with horns, unkempt fur, and a long tongue. His job is to punish the poorly-behaved children by swatting them with rusty chains and then kidnapping them. St. Nicholas rewards the well-behaved children with gifts, nuts, and sweets. On the 24th of December, families will celebrate Christmas by eating a large feast, revealing the Christmas tree, and opening gifts afterward. The 25th is spent eating, singing, and relaxing as a family, but no large festivities occur.
I’ve found that my host family and new friends are just as eager to learn about my culture as I am to experience their Austrian culture. So why isn’t everyone curious to learn about other cultures and customs? On the other hand, however fascinating these comparisons may be, perhaps the differences and similarities between us are almost irrelevant. Before beginning this expedition, I had an idea in my mind that the Austrian people would be completely different than myself. In the two months, I have been here, I’ve learned that it’s not the people who are different… only their customs. Maybe this thought I had before departing was irrational or this conclusion is rather obvious, but if everyone were as open-minded and welcoming as the people I’ve met thus far the population would be much more educated as a whole.