Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SΩ3 - Cultural Tales

My first posts have been filled with some rather thought provoking material. I figured it’s time to change it up a bit. As promised, my blog will also provide insight into other cultures. To start off, I figured I’d share some playful anecdotes from my experiences thus far with other cultures! If I made any blatant errors regarding my understanding of any of the cultures mentioned, please let me know!

She Kissed Me
When I returned to Zürich in 2011, I was certain I’d fit right in. It was my city of birth, my parents were both Swiss, and I was fluent in Schwiizerdütsch (Swiss German). I quickly realized my homeland was foreign to me!
Other Swiss found it difficult to pinpoint my origin and I was once asked if I was Norwegian!? Most Swiss know various regional dialects. Mine was a bizarre mixture from Zurich, Luzern, NYC English, and some standard German.
The language aside, I had trouble adapting to the various cultural norms and the countless Swiss rules. On the plus side I had inherited the Swiss tendency to be honest, organized, and direct. Great, maybe I am Swiss after all!?
There was one norm that took a while to get used to. This first caught me off guard while I was helping my roommates move. Two of their female friends arrived to help us move. One of them was exceptionally pretty. As I greeted both with a smile the pretty one kissed me! Not just once, but three times on the cheek! That’s right, in Europe it’s fairly common to greet with kisses. In Switzerland it’s typically three, in Spain it’s two. In Swiss culture, it’s usually more common to kiss people one is familiar with. Always amusing to extend a hand and instead get three kisses!

Lunch for Dinner
A few months upon arriving to Barcelona, I decided to try a work exchange. A family in the suburbs of Barcelona was looking for an English tutor for their two children. In exchange I would have my own room and free meals. Being such a tasty offer, I decided to take the Catalan plunge.
It turned out to be a two-month cultural ride. On a daily basis I received tidbits about Catalan culture, traditions and language. For example that Barcelona is in Cataluña, which is trying to gain independence from Spain. A rather overwhelming experience to be with a family so passionate about a conflict, I have limited understanding of. I was clearly out of touch with the culture I had immersed myself in.
One day I decided to show my gratitude and cook dinner for the family. Being Swiss, I naturally decided to make Tortellini with Bolognese sauce. Yes that’s right, my forte is Italian cooking! Well I’ll save the culinary post for next time, back to the story!
At around 9:00pm dinner was ready to be eaten. I made enough to feed all five of us: a full pot of tortellini and a large brimming pan of Bolognese sauce! Like a good cook, I served everyone with a gracious serving. They ate with gusto and I got ready to serve seconds. As the family was halfway done they came to a halt. Almost in unison they said to me “This is too much!” That day I learned in Spain and Cataluña they typically have 5 meals per day. Most, including dinner are fairly small and lunch is the biggest meal. I had served them lunch for dinner!

Package of the Forgotten
My first taste of Asia was a sweet one. In the summer of 2012, I finally got the chance to visit Japan. This had always been a dream location of mine. As a child I got hooked on anime and manga. Especially fascinating were the movies created by Hayao Miyazaki. I also enjoyed sushi and was intrigued by the elegant architecture of Japanese shrines and temples. Could Japan meet my expectations?

To be continued...


  1. Haha! I remember the first time I went to Switzerland, first time I was actually meeting Daniel, Susi, & our cousins. Not long after dad & I got off the plane from Germany, we met Dani & Susi. He did the three kiss thing, with a handshake, I was so thrown!!! Second time I went over was a little more used to it, but it is an odd custom - especially between people who barely/do not know one another....

  2. I believe it's important to be aware of social etiquette when visiting another country. Also, be aware that it may differ, depending on the region. Might be weird to you...but just realize if you don't adjust, you'll be the weird one! Here is a brief overview: However, I suggest using this more for entertainment value than an accurate guide!

    In Switzerland 3 kisses are common for relatives, close friends, and sometimes when meeting new acquaintances. It's done between female and male/female.