For a while now I’ve wanted to write a piece about some of the cultural differences I’ve experienced here, but didn’t know how to do it. A list would get the point across, but wouldn’t tell the story of how it feels to live through differences. I’m hoping with this different style of writing that I can convey to you what some of the cultural differences feel like for me.
Her grocery list is on her phone. She knows exactly what she needs, but she puts off going to the grocery store as long as the possibly can. It’s by far her least favorite thing to do here because it takes SO MUCH LONGER to do something that normally can be done in 15 minutes tops when she’s back home. Today she changes things up, and instead of going to the Edeka, just a two-minute walk away from her apartment, she decides to go into the Rewe in the city center. She knows immediately that this was a good choice. There are so many more options and it feels more like her neighborhood Publix back home. But wait a minute… why doesn’t this store have somewhere to weigh the bananas? She’s adapted to the European culture of weighing and stickering her own produce and the fact that she doesn’t have to do it here is really throwing her off. It’s taken two and a half months but she’s gotten used to it.
She continues her shopping, phone in hand, dictionary app pulled up and ready for use. She always has the dictionary ready because her first week here she thought she was buying lotion but accidentally bought hand soap instead. She makes her way to the register for check out and gets out her re-useable canvas grocery bag. This is always the worst part because you have to pack your own groceries and you have to go FAST, shoving everything in your bag as quickly as you can because if you don’t, the cashier and people behind you in line will be irritated. Sometimes that means she goes home with squished bread. But today went better than most. She packed her groceries quick enough, consciously saving the bread for last and listened very closely to make sure she paid the right amount of money for her groceries.
She sits in class and tries her very hardest to pay close attention. She’s learned that she can’t zone out here and still be able to understand the lecture. It’s a lot different when you’re trying to learn complex things in another language. She keeps her tiny notebook out to try and write down words that she doesn’t understand so that she can look them up later. That means paying extra close attention. She’s taking notes but has to pause a lot to try and decide if she needs to write part of them in English… will she be able to decipher her own foreign thoughts when she comes back to these notes later? A new word! She asks for clarification and is able to understand the meaning of the word. She writes it down in her tiny journal... but her brain isn’t working quite right. She understands the concept completely but for the life of her, she can’t remember the English equivalent of the word. She leaves it blank to come back to later. She forgets English words probably more than she should. But maybe that’s good. It means she’s learning and her brain is operating in another language. That’s the goal, right?
She zips up her down coat (which never seems quite warm enough for the weather here), puts on her gloves and hat, and walks down to the tram stop. She looks at the sign and sighs because she just missed her tram back to her apartment. That means six more minutes in the cold waiting for the next. It finally arrives and she is glad to be somewhere warm. Three stops in to her eleven, an older lady enters the tram and there are no more seats left. She asks the old woman, “would you like to sit here?” and already knows the old woman will say no and that she’s fine to stand, but she gets up out of her seat anyways. The older women are always very appreciative and it’s evident that they always want to sit even if they say otherwise. A slow 18 minutes pass and she finally makes it to her stop. She digs in her book bag for her house key. The gloves and hat go back on (every time she wears them she gets excited to go back home where gloves are never necessary) and she walks to her apartment.
“Dang it.” The sweater and jeans she wanted to wear haven’t dried yet. She touches her socks, double-checking to make sure the toes are completely dry. She finds a dry pair and unclips them from the drying rack. Her clothes always feel just a little bit crunchy when she puts them on and it makes her miss having a dryer. Doing laundry and packing for trips would be a lot easier if she didn’t have to strategically think about how long it’s going to take for her laundry to dry. Just one day? Two? She makes sure that there’s always a drying rack available for her host family if they need one too.
At night when she crawls into bed, she misses having a top layer sheet. She fluffs her awkwardly large square down pillow, knowing that it’ll be squished like a pancake when she wakes up the next morning. But as she pulls her duvet up to her chin, she’s glad she’s here. It may have taken a while, but it’s finally not feeling so foreign. Maybe she’s just adjusted well… or maybe, “it’s starting to feel a little bit like another home” she thinks.
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<p>I love my hometown of Lexington, SC, where the weather is usually VERY hot. There are few things I love more than cozy-ing up with a great book to read! I also enjoy writing, exercising, and playing sports. I dabble in painting and photography, though I am new to the art of taking photos. I can't resist a coffee date filled with good conversation.</p>