First Impressions Simply Abroad

Over the course of two weeks, I have been wondering what to write my first blog post about. Should I do a quick deep dive on agriculture? An excerpt on moving in with a host family? The night life that is so popular here in Austria? The Austrio-American Institute itself? We can tackle these in the weeks to come. But as I have struggled with deciding how to introduce this, I have noticed myself adapting in certain ways to the etiquette and cultural norms around me and I feel as though this would be worthwhile information to anybody thinking about studying abroad.

Before you decide to make the, truly, life-changing decision to take that leap of faith for a month, semester and/or year; take the time to look at how you carry yourself at home. Now compare that to how you carry yourself around your superiors; whether that be in an academic sense or a work environment. There are different means in which we choose to present ourselves and our behavior. This will only be amplified moving into a genuinely foreign land. Practices are different. But as a student abroad; you are inherently expected to try and blend in.

Now the question may arise; where is he going with this? Something as simple as good table manners can be the beginning to blending in with your environment. Over here in Austria, dinners are much more different than at home. It is not just a meal. It is a time to converse. A pause on the day to just talk.

9 people eating pizza
Our study abroad group in Austria enjoying pizza with some of the AAIE folks.

Sure, each household has their own expectations. But here, those differences can separate you entirely. Head/elbows on the dinner table? No go. Feet on the empty chair across from you? Big no go. The honor system does not just apply to the public transit here, it is much more deeply embedded. My overall point is that understanding what the new people around you subconsciously expect will help you so much! 

Dmitri Sofranko