Tag Archives: Culture

Copenhagen – Post 4, Grace Clifford

Danish is hard to speak, and the Danes know it. Structurally, the syntax is easy enough to decode, and verb conjugations are easy (nonexistent.) The pronunciation, however, is enough to tie the tongues of even the most motivated Americans.

Almost every young Danish person speaks fairly fluent English, because they are taught it in school from a young age. As such, cashiers in shops and bus drivers are quickly able to switch into English when they see that I have a problem and am not understanding their directions in Danish. The downside of this comfort is that I rarely hear Danish being spoken to me, so it can be extremely hard to get an ear for how street names or simple phrases should be pronounced. I have taken to mumbling to myself on the bus, repeating the announcements of each stop in an effort to internalize some of these pronunciations.

Academic Year in Brazil = Done

After one final, hectic round of tests, my third year, and academic year abroad, are done. At my university, Fundacao Getulio Vargas, the exam season was marked with the same signs: students sleeping in the libraries, coffee consumption skyrocketing, and the worried looks on faces. But just like every year, we all manage to get through it in the end.
This exam season was a bit different for me, however. Of the 4 exams I took, 2 were in Portuguese. When I first arrived in Brazil, I never even imagined that I would be able to do the high-pressure exams in Portuguese. And they were tough, don’t get me wrong. But in the end, I completed them (and am now awaiting my test scores…)
With the exams ending, most of my exchange-student friends are leaving. Some are heading straight home, others heading to far off places in South America to travel. Now that we are on vacation, more travel ensues. Despite the diverse end locations, I noticed a commonality between all of those leaving, which is a commonly held affection for São Paulo. For a city like Buenos Aires, or New York, or Paris, I can understand this attachment after so little time, but São Paulo?
When I first arrived here, all São Paulo felt like was a huge, at times austere concrete jungle. Arranha-ceus, or skyscrapers, dominate the landscape, like huge, concrete blocks dropped throughout the city. Not exactly stunning.
But as the months pass by, São Paulo grows on you. The wild orchids growing in trees above your head. The small alleyways hiding excellent restaurants. And the dizzying array of culture, food, and people is impressive. São Paulo is not a tourist’s city, because so much of what is great is hard to find. For such a huge city, the best things are in the small details.
-Alex Wolz

Life as an Intern in Brazil

Several weeks ago, I was in one of my classes at Fundação Getulio Vargas, and a small business consultancy came and hosted a ‘How to Pitch 101’ session. It was an engaging pitch that included episodes of SharkTank, and even some impromptu pitches from members of the class. I was impressed with the presentation, and the company seemed like a cool, exciting place.

A few interviews later, I start working at 7bi, the company, as an Operations intern. My job title is intentionally broad; in just three weeks, I have developed proposals for clients, dabbled in graphic design, and created my own business concept. For me, it has been the perfect startup experience; lots of different roles, fast-paced work, and a relaxed environment.

Highs and Lows of Life in Holland

In such a short period of time, I have really come to enjoy and love Holland. With all the amazing traveling I have been #blessed to do while I’ve been here I have been lucky enough to visit some of the greatest cities in the world. I will never forget the rich history and unique culture of Berlin, the waffles and French fries of Belgium, the spirited atmosphere of Prague in the sun, or the beautiful architecture of Budapest. And yet, despite this nothing has felt as comfortable as Holland. Admittedly, I am biased, as I obviously have had time to adjust to the culture and customs here. But I can honestly say that I would love to live here again when I am older. So, with my time in Rotterdam coming to an end, I thought I would reflect on some of the things I have grown to love while here…as well as some things I don’t think I will ever get used to.

Cheese Sandwiches

One thing I have grown to love during my time in the Netherlands is the cheese sandwiches.

That admittedly doesn’t sound like a huge feat of cultural adaptation. However, on a broader scale I think the sandwich represents a lot about the culture here and how it differs from life in the US.

You see, when I say “cheese sandwich”, I mean literally, bread and cheese and maybe some arugula on top. That’s all – no condiments, no tomatoes or pickles, no meat. If you did want a meat, you could get it – but that would probably mean a tradeoff, meat instead of cheese.

Continuing Travels in Barcelona

I have been on several trips since my last post and I wanted to talk about one of them in particular. I went to Barcelona last weekend and it turned out to be one of my favorite European cities. In this post I will touch on some of the different activities I was able to do in Barcelona, and the cultural vibes throughout the city.

Queen’s Day in Amsterdam

I just spent four days in Amsterdam, exploring the city and celebrating Queen’s Day. Queen’s Day is a holiday to celebrate the queen’s birthday on April 30. This date is actually the queen’s mother’s birthday, but she kept the holiday in April because her birthday is during the winter and the weather is nicer in the spring for the outdoor celebration. This Queen’s Day was special because it was the last Queen’s Day, for Queen Beatrix stepped down from the throne and her son ascended the monarchy. Thus, next year will be King’s Day, on his birthday, April 27. Queen’s Day differed this year because it included the  king’s coronation. I saw the royal family (the House of Orange, which is why everyone wears orange on this day) enter the New Church for the ceremony. Very cool! Then I celebrated with the locals. The festivities reminded me of a mix between Foxfield and Greek philanthropy events in the spring, but on a city-wide scale. All the streets and stores were shut down as people ate cheap yet delicious food and sang and dance to loud and energetic music. It is a day to have fun and celebrate the royal family. Queen’s Day is the only day when locals can sell their belongings garage sale style, so many street vendors sell clothes and goods. Children also sold goods at a local park! They are businessmen in the making.

Final days in Barcelona

I am down to my final days in Barcelona (BCN, or Barna as the locals sometimes refer to it)!! Where oh where did the time go? Looking back on my time in BCN, a lot happened in four months, but there is still so much left to do. I will definitely return to BCN and Europe one day soon, both to travel and hopefully work here. Four months is not an adequate amount of time to fully immerse oneself in Europe. There is too much history to learn and culture to explore– food to try;  architecture, art, and photography to admire;  and languages to speak. In four months I have certainly dabbled in the cultures of several countries, and I feel very comfortable in BCN. But I want more time. I suppose everyone does. (Side note: In my Spanish Art and Culture class I learned that Americans loved Dali’s melting clocks paintings [see picture] because according to Dali, Americans are obsessed with time. They want to maximize their time to maximize their profit.)

The Wonders of Traveling

Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Me with the camel I rode in Santa Cruz de Tenerife 🙂

This past week I went on a cruise with my family to Funchal, Madeira; two Canary Islands; and Granada, Spain for spring break. It was great to see my family again and spend a relaxing week visiting beautiful islands; however, I am a bit jealous of my friends who visited several cities over the week, instead of the four places I went to for a day each. I definitely appreciate the benefits of rest and relaxation, but my time in Europe is limited and I want to travel as much as possible. Fortunately this month I am going to visit Morocco, Portugal, and the Netherlands, as well as   Eastern Europe in May before returning home to the States—how time flies! I am extremely excited to travel and compare the different countries I visit, both to the US and to Spain.

The Danish Way of Doing Things

My first two weeks here have been an absolute whirlwind of emotions and experiences. Before coming to Copenhagen, to be honest, I hadn’t thought of how different the culture was going to be. Because I knew nearly everyone here speaks English (completely fluently at that), I automatically presumed that the culture couldn’t be that different. Ignorant, I know, but that was my thought process. After having arrived, I can say that boy was I mistaken. While many things are similar, the Danish way of doing things is much different. Here are a few things I’ve noticed.