February 4, 2014, by Guest blog

Illustrating some cultural difference through some funny exemplary stories

Coming from Switzerland, where the culture is highly influenced by both Austria and Germany, Vienna did not present any obvious cultural challenges. “Obvious” cultural challenges must be emphasised, because as it is the case in every new country and city, I was soon confronted to those more subtle cultural differences… And what better way to illustrate those through some funny exemplary stories… Enjoy this slightly different, but hopefully entertaining blog post…

#Erdapfel-pretty-please… Right upon arriving in Vienna, I proceeded to go food shopping so that I might survive in my new flat. As I was walking through the door, I asked my housemate if she needed anything – instant reply: “Some Erdäpfeln, please!”.  I walked off confident I would find this in the local BILLA, but was still wondering what on EARTH these could be. Well after touring the shop many times, and looking positively confused, they appeared before me: the Kartofeln (the German word for potato)! It turns out, in terms of food, Austrianisms are very frequent. And they become equally challenging when you attempt to order food in a restaurant. Or when you get “Kaiserschmarrn” (a typical Austrian desert) and “Käse Spätzl” (a savoury dish)…

#Klopfen… Think about the end of a lecture in the UK, you would normally clap right? Well in Austria you don’t, you “knopf”. So instead of loosely clapping as you get up and leave, you remain seated and knock on your desk in acknowledgement of your appreciation of the professor’s lecture. Oh the beautiful moment when, on your very first lecture, you start clapping at the end of the lecture. Well, I did attract a few looks, but luckily I adapted quickly.

#U4-U2-Schottentor… If there is one significant difference between Switzerland, Nottingham and Vienna, it has to be its size. While Vienna is deemed a “small” capital, it is still very large, with an extensive network of public transport. While it is rather punctual, it can be unpredictable and your ability to arrive on time at a lecture usually depends on two key factors: planning and luck.  It is basically a matter of being time-cautious versus hoping for the best. In my case, it was definitely a cultural adjustment to make, trying to catch both subways, the U4 and the U2, and be punctual!

These are only a few examples, but after all Viennese culture isn’t that different from my native Swiss culture! However, my next semester maybe a lot more challenging, in every way, as I am soon flying to Havana!

Posted in Cultural challenges