Spanish Culture Do’s and Don’ts

Is culture shock real? Junior Alex Jackson explores cultural differences between Spain and the United States, and shares her tips on how to navigate the culture.

There were many cultural norms in Spain that were different in the United States. First, the concept of personal space. In the United States, unless you know someone very well you tend to keep your distance when meeting someone or even just in public spaces. When standing in crowds, you try not to stand too close unless it is absolutely necessary to be on top of each other. Even in a crammed train or bus I am still on the lookout to make sure no one is trying to take my things or read over my shoulder. In Spain the concept of personal space seems almost non-existent. On the metro, there would be plenty of seats open but people would hop on and sit right next to you! This took some getting used to because I did not understand why out of all the seats you would pick mine. This was also alarming because we were warned of getting pick pocketed and I did not want people too close to me who I was not familiar with. Another cultural norm I learned from riding the metro everywhere is that staring was completely normal. I do not know if this is because I was American or if it was just normal for people to stare and talk about someone so blatantly. I do think that some of this probably came from people thinking I did not know how to speak Spanish.

Secondly, there was a lot of public displays of affection. People would hold hands, kiss, and even sit on each others laps in public. People were very touchy with each other, especially those close to my age. When I asked someone why that was, they said  that there is a lot of public affection because young adults tend to live at home until they finish university. This meant that they did not have the same freedoms that we have in college here. Many of us move away from home, get our own apartments, and pay our own bills. There is a big family aspect in Spain and because young adults cannot freely bring their significant other in their house they show a lot of affection in public.

The last difference between American culture and Spanish culture was the fashion. For one, there is no sales tax on clothes, so the price you see on the tag is the price you pay. Also, being in Europe clothes were much cheaper! Being closer to the manufacturers even designer goods were cheaper to buy in Spain. Everyone in Spain seemed to be trendier than those in the United States, including the kids. There were mainstream stores like Zara and H&M but there were also huge discount stores like Primark where you could find anything you wanted, at good quality for a low price. I noticed the difference in fashion because when I went to work, everyone dressed trendy and not necessarily business professional. This gave me a great excuse to go shopping for new, trendy clothes!

The biggest takeaway from living in Spain was that, for me, there was not much of a cultural difference to the United States. It was easy to adjust when it came to personal space and staring, but other than that it was not a huge adjustment. The best advice I received before traveling to Spain, was do not act like a tourist. This is the best advice, act like you belong there and people will not bother you, or single you out!

Sports in Spain: ¡CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ!

Sports in Spain! Hear Junior Alex Jackson’s experience of being in Madrid during the country’s biggest soccer game of the season, while interning on the Summer Global Internship Program.

Sports are a huge part of Spanish culture! One of the first places I went to when I got to Madrid was the soccer Stadium, Santiago Bernabéu. It is a huge stadium that has many great restaurants across from it. There are also tours you can take in the stadium, I never got around to doing that but some of the other students did.

Since soccer, or fútbol, is such a huge part of Spanish culture we were lucky to be here during the Champions League Final game of Real Madrid versus Juventus. This was a huge deal because if Real Madrid won the game they would be named League Champions! There was a lot riding on this game and luckily all of our employers made sure we understood how big of a match this was. To get in the spirit of this momentous game, a huge group of students decided to go to a local bar to watch the game. We wanted to be able to experience a Spanish soccer game just like the fans, and we were not disappointed!

When we first got to the bar, it was already packed and we arrived three hours before the game. The atmosphere was contagious, I even bought a Real Madrid soccer jersey beforehand so I could join in the fun. It was great to see how an entire country could rally behind  one team and how they had so much pride! Although Real Madrid was favored to win, it was still a great game. The fans cheered the entire time and when Real Madrid scored the first goal, the crowd went crazy! Similar to Ohio State football games there was screaming and chanting, friendly taunting to the other team it was definitely a site to see. The crowd also sang different songs and chants throughout the entire game, which is a little different than OSU games. At halftime the fans from both teams trickled into the street and a couple fights almost broke out, both fans were chanting and excited to see the outcome of the game.

The final outcome, Real Madrid won! Everyone stormed the streets and ran to the main square. It was complete chaos but it was so much fun! We were able to meet up with the rest of the internship students and we all danced and chanted ¡‘CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ’! The atmosphere was incredible seeing people hugging, jumping up and down, and being extremely proud to be Spanish! 

The rest of the night we decided to all stay together and take in this huge win! We went to multiple places for food and were able to connect with the people of Spain more by celebrating the streets. Being a part of this soccer celebration showed me the pride Spain had for its team and that everyone could join in the party! However, the celebration was great but we had to be conscious that we were still in another, at the time, unfamiliar country. By staying in a group we were able to watch out for each other and truly enjoy the experience of being CAMPEONES!

Getting the Job Done Right!

After a successful first weekend in Spain, Junior Alex Jackson talks about adjusting to working in an international environment as she participates in the Summer Global Internship Program. She shares her observation on the differences in business norms between Spain and the U.S.

Although my title is as a Marketing and Communications intern, they have me doing much more! It is nice though because some of my other friends on the trip are having trouble staying busy at work. My main function is to work on the website as well as my final marketing project on ways Fundacion Aladina can expand its image and into the community. Although it may not seem like a large task, working on the website and translating it from Spanish to English was helping the organization expand into English speaking markets, mainly the United States, because non-profit organizations are more common here. This is huge for them because a lot of their business runs on donations, so it is important for them to build relationships with as many people as possible.

Although I was mainly working on the website, I was able to see many different parts of the business. I was able to sit in on interviews to fill new positions, pack and ship merchandise to customers, and help plan a movie premier. It was really cool to see how a non-profit functioned and the multiple “hats” my colleagues would put on to accomplish their daily tasks.

Seeing these interactions in the office made me realize a couple of comparisons between business in the United States and in Spain. First, that time was not as important. Many times, meetings would not start on time and no one was offended. My coworkers would continue working until the meeting arrived and sometimes they would even continue working until they were ready to meet. In the United States time is very important, there is even the saying, “If you’re on time you’re late”. Another thing I noticed is that the organization was very friendly with their clients. They would all chat as though they have known each other for a long time and would greet each other with a hug. I do not know if this is because  I am at a nonprofit organization or if it is just how business is conducted in Spain. I also found it interesting that all of the meetings were in the morning before lunch. After I asked some of my co-workers, we came to the conclusion that after lunch people may have other obligations such as family, health, or social. The work life balance in Spain is very important and I even noticed this with my boss when I was sick she told me to take the day off and get checked out. It seemed as though the person came first and the work came second.

These differences in the workplace were refreshing to see, because in the United States it seems like the job comes first and then the person. Or that we are very business oriented and worried about time that we do not get to know those we do business with or the best thing for the employees. The friendly and truly team-oriented culture, made me want to do my job even better because I know my work truly mattered. I also realized that jobs are not always about the money, but you have to fit well with the people and overall culture of the company. When looking for an internship for next summer, I will definitely make sure the company has good values and company culture.  Although I think this idea is changing in U.S. business culture it was heavily a part of the business culture in Spain.

New Country, New City, New Experiences!

After just one week in Madrid, Spain Junior Alex Jackson discusses the excitement of moving to a new country and navigating your way around the city.  

The first week has been full of activities, adjusting to work, and exploring the city! The flight to Madrid was long but it was funny running into other people on the trip when we landed in Madrid because we all looked a little lost with our phones out looking for directions where to go. We were all bussed to the accommodations and they were beautiful and in a perfect location, Moncloa! Moncloa is a part of town with multiple metro stations, popular restaurants, and shopping within walking distance. They were very similar to a dorm but we had dinner included, our rooms were cleaned while we were there, and it was a 5 minute walk from two metro stations.

The partnering agency did a great job at making sure we adjusted well. They planned a welcome reception for us where we were able to meet all the students in the program! They then went over what the 10 weeks would look like for us and how to get our metro cards activated. After this meeting my friends and I decided to settle in and then wander to find the nearest McDonald’s. I know finding a McDonald’s in Spain?! The one thing I have learned from traveling so much is to always find the nearest McDonald’s!! Not to eat at all the time but sometimes it is just good to eat food that reminds you of home!

Day 2 in Spain my roommate and friend bought a 2 day metro pass to go get our month long passes. This was a task! First, we got turned around and walked 15 minutes in the wrong direction. When we finally got on the metro station, we were not paying attention and missed our stop! We had to double back to the metro card office where we waited for a short period of time until they were able to help us. We took our pictures and got home without a problem!

The day before work we traveled to our new work sites to make sure we could get there on Monday morning. I ran into a little trouble, but the partner agency was very helpful and escorted me to my site Monday morning, so I would get there safely! My first day of work was nerve wracking and fun at the same time. My office was so small, but everyone was so nice! They took me on a tour of the office, helped me get situated, and even took me out to lunch! They spoke in Spanish the entire time, but this is what I wanted. It was a little overwhelming but I was able to understand enough to learn about my co-workers and the job. I worked from 9-2 everyday, so I asked them to make a “What to do in Madrid” list that I could do after work! On the first day of work, do not be nervous, dress your best, and ask questions! Remember that they picked you to intern with them for a reason and that first impressions are the most important. Treat the internship as a way to figure out what you like and don’t like, ask questions to get to know the company, employees, and their everyday jobs.

Besides work, the partnering agency had so many activities planned for us the first week! We went to some of the staple places in Madrid like Parque Retiro, Temple Debod, and the Royal Palace of Madrid. These were just the places I went to but it was optional to go. My favorite was Parque Retiro is was huge, beautiful, full of activity! People were walking, running, reading in the grass, and playing music in open areas. The park was peaceful and full of life at the same time. The group had a picnic there and took so many pictures together. My first week was great and if it is a precursor to the rest of my trip I would enjoy it!

T-Minus One Week until Global Immersion…

Who is to say she is ready? With only one week until she embark on a five month exchange to Spain through the Fisher Student Exchange Program, Madi Deignan is beginning to feel the intensity of this life-altering journey. If you feel stressed going abroad, read her blog to help you through this major transition!

This spring I will be traveling to Madrid, Spain, to study through the business school at La Universidad Pontificia Comillas. I would like to say that Ohio State was the only inspiration in me journeying to Madrid, but this dream began many years ago.

I grew up outside of Chicago, in a city with a high population of native Spanish speakers. My parents enrolled me in an elementary school with a bilingual option to aid the students who had yet to learn fluent English; my parents seized the opportunity to enlist their kids in a similar path: to become fluent in Spanish. As I grew and learned basic language, math, history, social science and other topics, in Spanish as well as English, my understanding and appreciation for Spanish culture grew. My parents loved seeing my progress with the language, and my dad lamented on his time abroad during college in Madrid. I knew I wanted to follow a similar path, and aspired to study abroad in Madrid during my college experience as well.

The sunset on the Guadalquivir, the river running through the city, and the fifth longest in the Iberian Peninsula
My friend Macie and I while visiting El Alcázar de Sevilla

My interest in Spanish did not decrease despite leaving elementary school and moving to Cleveland. I traveled to Spain and studied in Sevilla and Cádiz the summer after my Junior year. One month of exploring was not nearly enough, but it did reignite my dream of studying in Madrid during college. I knew then that no matter where I ended up for school I would need to find a university that was able to supply me the means of fulfilling this dream.

Finding the right program was not easy, despite my determination in studying specifically in Madrid. In fact, I almost missed the deadline for the Student Exchange Program! On chance, while visiting with my adviser about my schedule, I mentioned in passing my desire to study abroad, and discovered the deadline for second semester Junior year for this program was within the month, and there was an option to study in Madrid. I quickly applied, and when I met with the Global Education Adviser, emphasized my dream of being in Madrid.

Over Winter break last  year I received the email that I was accepted for the program along with five other students – I was extremely excited, and began to work on preparation. Over the last year I have researched the city, traveled to Chicago to obtain my Student Visa, read multiple travel guides, composed packing lists, secured housing, and locked down my flights. Now, with only one week until my departure, I am beginning to finally feel the anxious nerves hit me; living in this city with such independence and freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. For those who are experiencing a similar nervousness, I have compiled a short list of things to help in this transitionary time.

  • RESEARCH! The more you know about your destination, and the more planning that is done, the more comfortable and confident you will be upon arrival. The world works in similar ways, regardless of your location, and the key characteristic for success is confidence. Don’t be naive – this is a big transition! The best way to feel truly confident and have a strong attitude, is to do ample research. Memorize your new address, check out nearby amenities, plan for weekly trips to the store, figure out your daily walk… Come up with simple ideas to feel more like a native in your new home.
  • RELATE! Think about the similarities between your cultures, and begin to prepare for the emotional and mental journey that is about to begin. Understand that many others are in the same position as you, and think of the exchange students that you have encountered at school. The sooner you can relate to the culture you are immersing into, the more comfortable you will feel.
  • RELAX! Stressing out can be very easy, but more importantly, it can be brutally time-consuming. Stressing out too much is truly a waste of your valuable time before you leave. Easier said than done, try to do some relaxing activities before you leave, and use valuable time with loved ones before you embark on your journey. As the saying goes, let the chips fall where they may; it is no shock that this will be a difficult transition, but it is better to approach it level-headed and relaxed, rather than uptight and stressed out. Come to the table with an open mind and a light heart!
The views of the Atlantic Ocean from Cádiz were incredible

So: Am I ready for this trip? Can anyone truly be ready for such a culture change? What I can say is I feel very prepared, and I definitely feel ready for the semester of a lifetime.

My Global Mindset Journey So Far… and Where to Next!

After going abroad on Student Exchange and participating in the Global Option in Business program, Katelyn Mistele reflects on what she gained and what she recommends/advise to future students who aspires to have a global mindset. She also shares a glimpse of what she plans next to continue to go global!

Over the past year I have experienced so much and reflected a lot on my experiences. I have grown as an individual and in my global mindset. The purpose of this blog post is to reflect on my best experiences and ones I suggest you take, as well as determine where I am going next before I officially sign off!

A beautiful view from my trip to Killarney, Ireland!

The best experience in my personal growth and global mindset growth hands down was studying abroad for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. I became a more open-minded person and self aware. Being immersed in a whole new culture and being the minority, forces you to become open-minded and also immediately makes you more self aware. Studying abroad changed my perspective about a lot of things and I would go back and do it again in a heart beat if I could.

A photo from cross country skiing in Helsinki, Finland!

If you have the opportunity to go abroad for a month, summer, semester, or a year I suggest you do it! Fisher has great programs through Student Exchange. Additionally, I never did it but I heard the Global Internships are a great way to get exposed to other cultures as well. If your budget or schedule doesn’t permit education abroad, I would suggest you take a trip and truly immerse yourself in a culture. Stay at Airbnb’s and interact with your host, ask for suggestions, see the sight seeing stuff, but then go to a local restaurant and chat with locals to get an authentic experience (check out my blog post about this if interested). Even if any of these ideas push you out of your comfort zone, I suggest you do it. I was nervous and scared before heading over to Denmark, but it was hands down the best experience I have ever had! Also from an employer standpoint, companies love it if you have this experience. I have talked about my experience in multiple interviews. Companies love to see that you can adapt and immerse yourself into other cultures because that’s what they want to you to do with their company culture at the end of the day.

Picture from my home for five months. I miss it everyday! @Copenhagen, Denmark.

Another great opportunity I suggest everyone doing is get involved in a global club. Ohio State has SO many and I wish I got involved sooner. I am involved in the Exchange Partner Program at Ohio State. Basically I am a mentor and point of contact for an exchange student who is coming to Ohio State for a semester. I have been fortunate enough to provide mentorship to students from Italy and Japan over the past two years. I have learned so much about their cultures and even more about what other cultures think of the United States (I always ask for what their thoughts on Americans are and how these have changed since they’ve been here). I wish I would have gotten involved in more because there is so much that Ohio State offers and everyone is so willing to share their culture with us!

Check out Global Option in Business, if any of the above interests you. It is a certification program through Ohio State that helps foster your global mindset. I am in the process of finishing it out right now. It requires you to take part in a education abroad experience, global club and activities, as well as global courses. So the best of all worlds and you get a certificate to show employers that you have made efforts and have grown in your global mindset.

Berlin Cathedral, in Berlin Germany.

From here I am graduating in May. I am not going into a career that is global right away as I will be working for an American company that has some degree of “globality” to it but I am not going to be sent on global assignments all the time. I am hoping some day that I will find myself traveling globally for work, and even maybe working in a different country! I am going to keep traveling and culture seeking (planning my next trip right now)! I am still keeping in contact and growing my global network. I am hoping that all I have learned and my growth does not plateau after I graduate, but instead increases exponentially as I can apply what I learned through Fisher and Global Option in the real world. I am going to stay “hungry for culture” and I can’t thank Fisher and Ohio State enough for revealing and harvesting one of my new found true passions!

Enjoying sweet treats in Tallinn, Estonia!

Hygge – The Danish Way!

While in Denmark on the Student Exchange Program, Katelyn Mistele discovered a “hygge” way of life, and still carries this with her as she returns from abroad! She attempts to share this feeling of “hygge” in three parts: light and mood, relationships, and the way of life.

The most fundamentally unique and beautiful aspect of the Danish culture is “hygge”. Hygge cannot be translated into English, but it has been attempted, and most simply it translates to English as “cozy”, but hygge is much more than that. The concept of hygge has stuck with me long after my time in Denmark, and has influenced the way I live my life. I will attempt to describe the feeling of hygge in three parts: light and mood, relationships, and the way of life.

Hygge is commonly describe in Denmark by the lighting and mood of a place. Hygge spaces are dimly lit with tons of candles. Spaces are designed for close seating with your friends and family. Copenhagen is known for its coffee shop scene and many of these coffee shops had a hygge feel to them. This feeling of the space makes it feel extremely cozy and homey which at the end of the day the Danes would describe as hygge. Also when in these spaces it is not common to see the Danes engrossed in their cell phones. Instead you will see groups of people having coffee for upwards of two hours and just taking the time to be present with each other. I had the opportunity to get coffee with a few individuals from Denmark and this was my experience with all of them.

Even some of the Danish cuisine at restaurants had the hygge feel to them. There’s nothing more cozy than eating eggs out of a teacup! Kalaset restaurant Copenhagen, Denmark.
My favorite coffee shop chain in Scandanvia: Coffee Industry Sweden! This coffee shop really sums up the feeling and lighting of hygge for me!

The other part of hygge that is extremely important is the importance of friends and families in ones life. A lot of times Danes and people will describe hygge as spending time with friends and family. The Danish culture places a strong emphasis on the importance of close relationships. This is why at first the Danes can appear cold and not open. Danes would prefer to have a close knit group of friends as opposed to a large network as we commonly see here in the United States. At the end of the day a dinner party with lots of candles and ones family would be a perfect example of hygge.

Lastly hygge at the end of the day is a way of life. The emphasis on creating a cozy environment for one to live in with their close friends and family is a way of life for the Danish people. It is a life that is rooted in the simplicity and act of just being present in the environment with those around you. It is truly hard to explain the way of Danish culture and hygge in words.

Even drinking free coffee samples in the streets of downtown Copenhagen can feel hygge!

For me personally I took all the aspects of hygge I learned and lived and internalized it. There is nothing quiet like this concept anywhere else in the world. Hygge has its core concepts but the part that makes it unique is that it isn’t “translatable” it is at the end of the day a feeling that you can interpret and live any way you want. Personally, I found hygge in placing a close emphasis on relationships but instead of being trapped inside with my candles I found the same feeling when I was in Denmark at one of the many parks in the city. Just taking the time to be in an environment with my close friends made me feel hygge.

A photo my friend captured during our 3 hour coffee stop! Very hygge!

Back in the United State it is hard to find this hygge. I have become a lot more self aware in my personal relationships with my friends and family and placed importance on all of these relationships. Also I do find myself lighting a lot more candles! To me hygge is all about taking time to realize what’s important and blocking out what is not. To you hygge might be something completely different but at the end of the day just remember that hygge should make you feel at home and cozy! Go find your hygge!

To show you all how much I loved and appreciated this aspect of the Danish culture I’ll show you all a photo of a tattoo I received in Denmark. This symbol is from the Danish coin, the korona. To me this symbol means hygge and I want to carry this piece of Danish culture and the Danish way with me always! It’s a powerful thing!!

Reverse Culture Shock… It’s Real!

Reflecting on her return back to the U.S. after her Student Exchange Program to Denmark, Katelyn Mistele, shares her insights in experiencing reverse culture shock – culture shock you feel coming back home.

It has been officially five months since I have been back from my exchange experience in Denmark, and it still crosses my mind every day. My love for traveling, culture, and Denmark was solidified in a way I never thought was possible, and it still effects me everyday. We were all warned about the potential impacts of culture shock and reverse culture shock, but my self personally never gave much thought to the latter. I thought I would be itching to get back to normality and Ohio State, but instead leaving Denmark I was not looking forward to getting back to reality I was dragging my feet in every way possible to hold onto the five months I spent in Europe.

Beautiful cobblestone streets of downtown Copenhagen!

It’s interesting I never really went through a huge culture shock when I arrived in Denmark. I wasn’t really anticipating anything out of the ordinary when I arrived. I went in with a very open mind. Slight nuances in the Danish culture surprised me. For example, I wasn’t anticipating everyone to be speaking Danish all of the time there was little English present. I never would categorize any part of the culture as a shock though. I was open to new experiences and a new way of life and I suggest everyone who goes abroad to try to do this. There isn’t really a way you can prepare for it to successfully be open-minded but I found success in simply being aware of the differences and asking the Danes when I wanted to know why.

Culture sharing in Europe is more prominent than it is here. Individuals love to share their culture and learn more about yours. I had a few Danish friends who were so interested in America and satisfied my hunger for the “why” for aspects of their culture. For example I got coffee with a Danish friend for almost two hours and we discussed the differences in Danish and American culture. We chatted about everything from the different methods of grocery shopping to politics! I also had the opportunity to go into a Danish high school and learn more about their culture (see my blog post on this if you’re interested)! Culture sharing is so powerful and present in Europe, so take advantage of it! This also helps mitigate culture shock if you view it as a learning experience rather than throwing yourself into a new culture and trying to live.

A common street sight that you will experience from anywhere in downtown Copenhagen!

At the other end of this “culture sharing” is the return to home and the culture shock that comes along with it. Pieces in the American culture that used to be so normal, now seems obscure. For example, everywhere in Europe charged you for grocery bags. It was expected for everyone to be environmental and sustainable and bring their own bags. Also I feel as if the American culture isn’t open to new ideas. I mentioned this to people, the bag policy, they often scoffed and said that’s a hassle or they might say it’s a good idea but they were never going to take the time and effort to do it. I don’t want to stereotype the American culture as being close minded or “bad”, but my personal interactions with this idea is that the American culture is often very “near sighted” and think the American way is always the best.

In Europe individuals are curious about our cultures and practices, whereas American’s in general seem to be rooted in our own ways and not open to “culture sharing” and change. I personally fell into this stereotype of American’s that I held too, prior to going to Europe. I always thought we did it best here. In a way the reverse culture shock to me has helped me grow as an individual. The experience of my exchange program helped me become more self aware and open minded but the reverse culture shock has solidified these aspects.

One of the quieter canals in Copenhagen!

So yes, reverse culture shock is real! It’s not necessarily bad however. Dealing with it now I am urging myself to embrace it just as I did for culture shock abroad and use it to my advantage to help myself solidify by new found self-awareness and open-mindedness. I am finding myself craving traveling and planning new trips, but however I am also finding myself craving new experiences. I am a part of a group on campus that connects foreign exchange students with a mentor on campus. I am currently a mentor to a Japanese student who is here for a year and this helps with the reverse culture shock as I still find myself being exposed to new ideas and participating in this constant conversation of culture sharing. I am also pursuing a degree in international business in addition to my operations management degree so I find myself fully engaged in these courses too because at the end of the day they are all rooted in culture sharing and the discussion of different business practices all over the world.

Hamlet’s Castle in Denmark. This castle is what Shakespeare based the location of Hamlet off of!

Tips for overcoming reverse culture shock:

  1. Plan your next trip! — get excited about trying to experience other cultures, and invite your family and friends to join you! However this isn’t always feasible so see the other tips below…
  2. Find a cultural group — There are many groups on campus that all have a different culture to them and can help continue to foster the new sense of open-mindedness you might have gained from being abroad. Even groups that aren’t necessarily full of exchange students, but a group that is focus on heritage of a different culture can help in decreasing your reverse culture shock!
  3. Use your peers — Your peers that went abroad that is. My friends will honestly probably say they get tired of my abroad stories but the people that don’t are my friends from abroad or my other peers within the Fisher Exchange Program. Use these people and chat about your experiences it can help alleviate the reverse culture shock.
  4. Embrace it — Experience a different culture and way of life is a powerful thing. Don’t look at reverse culture shock negatively instead look at it as a learning experience and help break down some of the stereotypes that exist saying that “American’s are close minded people who think their way is the best”. Use your experience to your advantage!

 

Life and Study in Strasbourg

Ling Shao shares her life in Strasbourg, France, from what she recommends seeing in the city to how the education system is different, as she studies abroad on the Student Exchange Program.

Strasbourg is a really safe and quiet city close to Germany and Switzerland. You can always take a train to go anywhere you want outside of France. If you live downtown, you can go anywhere that might interests you by walking. There is a really famous Cathedral named “Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg”.

You can see the whole view of the city at the top of the cathedral. It has the same name as Paris’ famous cathedral but it is much bigger and less touristy than the Paris one. I am not able to see the famous light show, but if you come in August or Early September, you can enjoy the light show in the evening.  It is really nice.

Other than the Notre Dame Cathedrale, you can also enjoy the biggest Christmas Fair in Strasbourg. It is still November, but normal trees are ready to become Christmas trees.

The study here is really different than that in the US. We only have 5 or 6 classes per week, however, classes here are more intense. One period class might take about 3-4 hrs and in some special cases, you might have to take an 8 hr class on Saturday with breaks. So bring some snacks and water for the classes and check your schedules before you arrange some trips on weekends. There is less homework which also means the grades heavily depend on the exams. I suggest that listening to the classes on a daily bases will help, so  you will not be so stressed during finals. I haven’t experienced an exam yet, but I am pretty sure that there will be a really intense reviewing week before the exam.

French Social/Business Etiquettes

On the Students Exchange Program in Strasbourg, France, Ling Shao shares some of the social and business etiquettes she learned which you might want to be aware of if you are going to France!

I live downtown in Strasbourg and I love shopping. So you know what happened to me. I went out shopping every free day. Since I have been experiencing different shopping experiences in different countries, there are some differences that I found when people are out shopping.

People here value appearance heavily and is part of the country’s social etiquettes. This does not mean that you have to be “good-looking” but how you dress and present yourself. They value people being appropriately dressed. It is really important to bring business suits or dresses to survive in events in France and you can always buy it here. There are also a lot of dressing codes here in a lot of restaurants and bars. So if you want to enjoy and feel the real French life, be prepared for the dress code.

For formal restaurants and bars, the dress code could be at least nice shirts and trousers for boys and dresses for girls (like the dress below I am in). It is better to use a clutch or leather bag instead of canvas bags or backpacks. No sneakers, no jeans or sports pants. Overall business casual is good. There is no dress code for attending school classes. Dress codes for events are different for different events.

“La bise” is also a really important culture in France. People kiss each others’ cheek when they meet, especially for people who you already have a good relationship with. This is not only for friends though, but you might also need to do it when you had a really good business partner.