9 AMERICAN HABITS I LOST WHEN I MOVED TO GERMANY

“9 AMERICAN HABITS I LOST WHEN I MOVED TO GERMANY”

by Vanessa Van Doren

1. Idle chit chat

During my first days of work in Germany, I made sure to be super friendly to all of my coworkers. Whenever anyone passed me in the hallway, I would grin maniacally, wave, and yelp, “Hi! How’s your day going?” The responses ranged from bemused looks to a total lack of reply. Confused but not discouraged, I continued trying to work my charms on my new friends.

One morning, I passed Roger, the department’s statistician. I laser-beamed him with my eyes and yelled out my usual “How are you?!” He paused for a moment, staring at me bewilderedly and scratching his fluffy, mad-professor hairdo.

“Do you really want to know?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.

“Uh, yes,” I stammered, unsure of what to make of this.

Twenty minutes later, he was still going strong on a breathless diatribe about how the students’ inferior grasp of basic stats and unbearably messy datasets were contributing to his ever-increasing workload.

Eventually sensing my discomfort, Roger paused and gave me a blank look. “Well you asked,” he muttered, rolling his eyes before continuing down the hall to his office.

2. Thin skin

Germans don’t like small talk, and they don’t like bullshit. Idle comments and feel-good messages have no place here. German flirting is particularly brutal; “Your big nose looks good on your face” is about the best compliment you can expect to get in Germany.

3. Fear of nudity

Especially in the former East, Freikörperkultur, or free body culture, is an important part of German identity. Decades of oppression led to a particular appreciation for the experience of freedom and nudity without a direct relationship to sexuality.

This can sometimes be difficult for Americans to buy, particularly when your coworkers casually invite you to the office’s nude sauna or suggest a naked swim in a nearby lake. Adjusting to this culture without getting weird took some grit, finesse, and more than a few awkward encounters.

4. Expectation of safety above all

The pervasive fear of litigation that infuses most public activities in the United States is virtually nonexistent in Germany. Germans take a much more casual, reasonable approach to public safety. On a hike in Sächsische Schweiz, a beautiful, mountainous region of Saxony, I once commented on the lack of guardrails and warning signs surrounding the steepest cliffs. “Only an idiot would fail to realize that a steep cliff is dangerous,” my German co-worker stated matter-of-factly.

A few months later, after a particularly brutal snowstorm, I remember seeing an older gentleman faceplant on the ice while waiting for the tram. He stood up, casually wiped the trickle of blood from his forehead, and resumed his position on the platform without so much as grimacing.

I love this attitude.

Every year, a local artist would put on a crazy party called “Bimbotown” in one of the warehouses in the Spinnereistrasse neighborhood of Leipzig. The party was crawling with machines that this artist made — giant metallic worms slithering across the ceiling, bar stools that would eject their occupants at the push of a button from across the warehouse, couches that caved in and dumped you into a secret room, beds that could be driven around the party and through the walls. It was an incredible event that would have never been allowed to happen in the US because of all the safety violations — someone could hit their head, fall off a bed, get whacked in the eye. And it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to. . . . .

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“USING AN ASIAN TOILET – THE ART OF SQUAT, GO, WIPE, AND THROW”

Because these things are a need-to-know for study abroaders 🙂 **DB

“Using An Asian Toilet – The Art Of Squat, Go, Wipe, and Throw”

BY Unknown via “GuideinChina”

Everything you need to know before squatting over an Asian toilet

I figured having been here almost two months, it was about that time. It’s a fact: come to Asia and at one point or another, you’ll have to squat while going to the bathroom. I’m fortunate enough to live in a Western styled dorm, so I rarely have to use that “other kind of toilet”, but I do use them and with a good amount of success. I realize I’m not the first person to write on the subject – Marco Polo probably did back during Mongol rule when squat toilets were just dirt holes (still primitive when compared to the outhouse). However, his description didn’t have the colorful pictures, translated signs, and detailed diagrams like mine does. There’s more to it than just the perfect squat angle you know. Take a read, you won’t regret it when your bowels are relieved and pants are dry.  And in case you were worried, it’s relatively clean for a post about toilets. So here’s Everything You Need To Know Before Going To The Bathroom In China.

 

First, a few quick notes

1. China is a BYOTP country.

If you didn’t catch that, BYOTP is “Bring Your Own Toilet Paper” – 卫生纸 “weishengzhi”. In some of the more upscale, fancy, or international places, toilet paper is provided. But on the whole, if you don’t bring your own, your two options are to A) ask the guy in the stall next to you to borrow some, or B) walk home with a little extra something in your underwear. You can buy single rolls of toilet paper in just about any small store for less than a quarter, and I would suggest keeping a pack of pocket tissues with you at all times.

2. Yes, that’s a trash can in your stall. No it’s not for trash.

I haven’t been able to get a definitive answer on this, but in most places in Beijing, flushing toilet paper is a no-no. The sewage system in Beijing (and I’m pretty sure all of China) is old and worn out, and while you might be okay flushing one piece by accident, two is pretty much a sin. That’s right, no need to hesitate, you can just throw it right in with all of the other brown and white tie-dyed toilet paper wads. I like to think that those cans get emptied once a day, but I know that’s a little optimistic. On the positive side, there’s never a need to ask where a bathroom is…the constant stench of festering dirty toilet paper (or toilet paper composting if you will)  is a dead giveaway.

3. Different Names – formal and not so formal:

Squat toilet
Squatty potty
Pit toilet . . . .

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A Girl’s Guide to Surviving Study Abroad

“A Girl’s Guide to Surviving Study Abroad”

by Zoe Radner via “Huffington Post

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A smart girl’s tips for traveling abroad

While traveling abroad may be an equally enthralling experience for all, we ladies are faced with some unique challenges we must conquer during our journeys. Everyone receives the standard advice when traveling– tips to avoid pickpockets, find the best food and score the best deal on souvenirs. Aside from these more common suggestions, women must be equipped to deal with a whole other set of unique struggles.

Makeup Mishaps
Makeup is something I found to be one of the biggest nuisances during my travels. It’s a hassle to lug around a bag full of all your lotions, powders, creams and pencils when traveling continuously, or even over a short weekend trip. Not to mention, some of my most expensive and revered powder was smashed or shattered in a single instance of plane turbulence or mishandled luggage. Few things are more devastating than opening your bag to find that your nearly untouched Nars bronzer has crumbled into oblivion. To avoid mishaps like these, make sure you’re only packing the essentials for your trips. By bringing only what you can’t possible live without, you reduce the hassle and the threat of damage. If your powder does smash, a trick I’ve learned is mixing a little water in with the pieces, pressing it down to reform in the container and letting it dry.

Time of the Month Troubles
I was warned on multiple occasions prior to leaving for Europe that normal tampons, like Tampax, would be harder to find once abroad. While you don’t even want to imagine having to deal with a period while trying to explore and enjoy Europe, if you’re traveling for an extended period of time there’s a good chance you’ll have to. More often than not, I was able to find a completely normal selection of tampons in grocery stores and pharmacies across the continent. However, I have heard of people being unable to find tampons with applicators in some cities. Yikes. To salvage your European adventure while plagued with period, make sure you pack extra lady products in your bag, as well as Advil or Ibuprofen and water. . . .

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Top 10 Rookie Study Abroad Mistakes

“Top 10 Rookie Study Abroad Mistakes”

by Jenna Rice via “Huffington Post

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Your guide to avoiding the most common and overlooked slip-ups while spending a semester abroad.

The semester I lived in Europe was without a doubt the best time I’ve spent in college. While I had more fun than I could’ve ever anticipated, I also made my fair share of slip-ups. Everyone is bound to make a handful of rookie study abroad mistakes. However, these are the 10 you should try to avoid at all costs to ensure you have the most incredible experience possible. And if you’ve already studied abroad, hopefully you can look back and laugh when you realize you’ve made most of these yourself.

Not Staying In Youth Hostels.

If you’ve never traveled abroad, the idea of staying in a hostel might seem a little scary (thank you, horror movies). But in all seriousness, it’s just the opposite. Not only will staying in hostels save you some major cash, but you’ll also meet really interesting people from other countries. During my first youth hostel stay in Paris, my friend and I were the only two girls in this six-bed room with four guys. And to be honest, it was a blast! We ended up hanging out with our German and Australian roommates the entire weekend, and in turn we learned a lot about their cultures.

Overdoing The Partying.

If your mission is to party until dawn at the hottest nightclubs, then by all means, rage on. However, I’m pretty sure most of us sign up to study abroad to see beautiful sights and immerse ourselves in different cultures. I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink, but just use your best judgement and pace yourself or risk wasting a precious day in Europe lying in bed with a hangover instead of gallivanting alongside the Ponte Vecchio or Eiffel Tower.

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No Indulging.

This might be a given, but trying to diet while spending a semester abroad is probably the worst form of self-torture one can endure. During my time in Italy I ate all of the pizza, pasta and gelato my heart desired. And trust me, I don’t regret a single bite. Plus, the amount of miles I walked each day helped to burn off some of the extra calories. Despite stuffing my face, I actually lost a couple pounds when I returned to the states. Imagine that!

Missing Your Flight.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easier than you think. After a long night of partying in Barcelona (reference #2), my friend and I pressed our snooze button a few too many times and had to rush to the airport. Upon entering, we realized we were at the wrong terminal and had to hop on a shuttle to the correct one. With less than an hour until our departure time, the airport personnel wouldn’t let us even go through security. So, we had to pay for a new flight (ouch!) and waste four hours in the airport. Make sure to leave plenty of time to ensure you catch your plane, train or bus to avoid a major headache while abroad.  . . .

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5 Handy Travel Tips for Dealing With a Canceled Flight

Because Cancelled Flights can also happen to Study Abroad Students **DB

“5 Handy Travel Tips for Dealing With a Canceled Flight”

by Catherine Northington via “WallStCheatSheet

For all the brilliant experiences and opportunities that air travel has brought us since its advent, there are a few major pitfalls to cope with in the process. Even the most cautious planners among us can’t predict erratic weather conditions, airline snafus, or other factors leading to cancellations. You can, however, follow these five tips to make the best of a canceled flight at the last minute!

1. Keep essentials in your carry-on

There are tons of helpful resources online when it comes to packing a reasonably sized carry-on bag of essential items. USA Today shares this article covering anything a traveler might need in a pinch, while The Every Girl offers itemized, female-specific lists to suit any travel occasion. Crucial items for any traveler include a toothbrush, hairbrush, moisturizer, headache medicine, chargers, headphones, and a sweater.

For additional tips on efficient packing, check out Lifehacker’s helpful tutorial on the subject.

2. Rebook by phone

Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge, an air-travel assistance firm, recommends that flyers immediately call the airline’s customer service number upon learning of a flight’s cancellation. Real Simple explains that this easy move will not only eliminate the need to join a long line of frustrated travelers at the check-in counter, but it will also expedite the entire rebooking process.

Always keep the airline’s phone number handy in your wallet or phonebook in the event of last-minute emergencies. USA Today reports that there are three major airlines that offer a “Rule 240″ clause, meaning that the carrier in question will seek out an available seat on another flight out of the airport — even if it’s on a competitor’s flight!

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Helping Our Students to Study Abroad: Trends and Advice

“Helping Our Students to Study Abroad: Trends and Advice “

via “Ed Week: Global Learning

“The profile of U.S. study abroad is changing. Today a more diverse range of students are studying in more destinations and through innovative programs that fall outside of the traditional model. Being aware of these trends can help us understand what motivates students to go abroad so we can encourage and support them. By beginning the exploration of other countries in elementary school, we build on students‘ natural curiosity about the world around them. Short-term high school experiences abroad can seed interest in longer, more in-depth study at the postsecondary level. Christine A. Farrugia, Senior Research Officer, Institute of International Education, shares some of the latest trends and her advice.

By guest blogger Christine A. Farrugia 

According to Open Doors,®* 289,408 U.S. higher education students studied abroad from their home institution in 2012/13, an increase of 2 percent over the previous year, and continuing a trend of slow growth (between 1 to 3 percent per year). The high school rate of study abroad remains steady at less than 1 percent. However, against this backdrop of slow growth, there are pockets of strong growth among certain students and in certain destinations and types of programs.

New Students:  STEM majors are the fastest growing group
At the higher ed level, students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are driving the growth in U.S. study abroad. For the first time ever, STEM majors outnumber study abroad students in other major fields: In 2012/13, they accounted for 23 percent of study abroad students, followed by students majoring in social sciences (22 percent) and business (20 percent).

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Over the past fifteen years, study abroad by STEM majors has grown substantially, outpacing growth in other fields. Contributing to this growth is an increasing awareness by students and faculty advisers of the career-related benefits of global experiences, as well as increased efforts by STEM programs to provide more flexible requirements and short-term study abroad options that can be easily integrated into tightly structured STEM curricula.

This growth is likely to continue as more U.S. students are projected to major in STEM fields. This means that study abroad programs will need to provide more options that align with the structured curricula of STEM programs, including engineering courses abroad taught in English.

New Destinations: Asia and Latin America are rising
Asia and Latin America are the new hot spots for U.S. postsecondary students studying overseas.  While over half of these students head to Europe, growth in study abroad in Asia increased by 23 percent and in Latin America increased by 13 percent.

Student interest in studying in Asia has increased along with the region’s economic rise. China rose to the fifth leading study abroad destination for U.S. postsecondary students in 2006/07 and has held that position every year since. Initiatives such as 100,000 Strong in China have increased the number of U.S. students (K-12 and postsecondary) in China by promoting it as a destination for study abroad, as well as student research, internships, language study, study tours, and other forms of non-credit education. But Asia’s popularity among U.S. students is not just about China. Japan, India, and South Korea are also among the top 20 destinations for U.S. students.  . . . .

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Viewpoint: Why You Should Act like a Tourist During Your Study Abroad Trip

“Viewpoint: Why You Should Act like a Tourist During Your Study Abroad Trip “

by Kara Sherrer via “USA Today College

(Kara Sherrer)

“You know that looking up at the tall buildings totally gives you away as a tourist, right?”

My father gave me this gem of traveling wisdom during my first trip to New York City. Even though I was almost 18, I still walked around with my neck craned to the sky, in awe of the towering buildings I had seen so many times in movies.

At least, I walked around like this until my father told me that I looked like a tourist. Then I quickly dropped my head, put away my camera and tried my best to keep my eyes on the ground like “real” New Yorkers apparently do.

Acting like a tourist is pretty much taboo in my family. We eat in sketchy dives that serve the best food in town and avoid any spot that attracts swarms of out-of-staters.

As someone who worked as a teenager in the Walt Disney World parks — a tourist town if there ever was one — my father is now the anti-tourist. Everywhere we travel, his ultimate goal is to play it cool and blend in with the locals, and I’ve adapted this same mentality even when I’m traveling alone.

Without a doubt, there are many advantages to acting like a local, such as discovering great yet unknown restaurants, or reducing the odds that you’ll be marked by a pickpocket as easy money.

In fact, one of the major reasons college students study abroad is to immerse themselves in a different culture and to learn to live life like the locals do. And of course, no one likes ignorant, obnoxious tourists, whether they’re traveling here in the U.S. or abroad (the “ugly American” stereotype exists for a reason).

But there’s a time and a place for everything, and sometimes, it’s all right to act like a tourist.

I realized this during the spring, when I took a road trip to Florida with my roommate, then turned around and flew to NYC again for a conference. When I got back from NYC, my father ironically asked me to send him photos of my trip, but all I had was a photo of a colossal sandwich from Carnegie’s Deli.

I immediately regretted that I had spent my trip pretending that visiting NYC was no big deal rather than making a record of my travels, and resolved to do better on my upcoming summer study abroad trip to Italy. . .. .

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