After having spent the first two weeks in Graz, our dear volunteers Ana, Yassine, Shu and Tereza have started to get deeper into Austrian culture. They have started exploring this culture and communicating with Austrian, especially their colleagues.
Most of the volunteers have not yet really felt a culture shock. They all feel comfortable with living in the Austrian society with its customs, food, habits etc. and they do not feel that this culture differs all too much from their own. However, Ana points out that there clearly are some differences, even though they might not be very substantial. For example, at the beginning it was alien for her to wait for the traffic lights to turn green before crossing the street. In Spain, her home country, one would not wait for green lights but check if there’s a car in sight and cross the street if this not the case. Also, she highlights that Austrian people treat the environment respectfully and more carefully than Spanish people do. This goes also with the cleanliness of the streets or rather the city as a whole. Shu in particular feels that there is a quite a large difference between Hong Kong and Austria, especially regarding lifestyle “Hong Kong has a very quick speed of life. However, in Austria, it is very different. Everyone lives a very relaxing and slow speed of life”.
Furthermore, our volunteers are starting to get in touch with their native-Austrian colleagues. They explore how people here generally think, what point of views they may have and how they live. “I like the typical conversations about religion with Yassine, who is of Muslim religion, and also to see how far away “my world” is from his. The important point for me is that we respect what the other says and we search for a better understanding of our point of views trying to be assertive and without judgement”, says Ana. Of course, we must not forget that language is an obstacle that is hard to overcome. A lot of Austrians do speak English, but only to a certain extent. According to Yassine, the beginning was hard as he could not really understand what the others were talking about, but he’s improving and is now able to extract the key information. Because of this difference in languages and cultures, Shu has learnt a valuable lesson on how to overcome language barriers: “I found that even though you cannot speak German, the most effective way is to smile. Just SMILE!”. Tereza has also had many good experiences. She is open for new stories and new opinions and at the same time also her Austrian mates are. “I feel quite comfortable, I like listening to people telling different stories and exchanging ideas”, she states. A cultural exchange that comes along with cultural experience is taking place and is giving the four volunteers new input for their view on the world as well as on themselves.The volunteers have also made the most of the central position of Austria in Europe, over the last weekend Ana and Yassine went for a trip to Slovenia, Shu went to visit Budapest and Prague, and Tereza has been visiting other parts of Austria too. “Austria gives you the chance to visit a lot of countries because you can move very easily and the transport is really cheap”, says Ana.
So, the four are in the middle of this unique experience. We do frankly hope that they will go on as well as they did until now. We’ll keep you updated!
Author: Carla Kowanda