Have you ever thought about jumping on a plane, flying half-way round the world and settling down in some far-flung corner of the globe? Or have you already? Whatever, living in another country or culture can be a fascinating and exciting experience. But it can also lead to a few cultural ‘faux-pas’, especially if you’re still getting to grips with the language!
We hooked up with Canadian Lomographer Jayme Cochrane aka jamesco, who made the move from Vancouver to Austria, and got the low-down on his experience of being an expatriate.
What were the first five words you learned in German and what do they mean?
Well, my first friends in Linz were from the Mühlviertel region of Upper Austria so I learned a lot of “Mühlviertlerisch”. It sort of ruined proper German for me because I was only learning slang. But the very first things I learned were all food (very important), I remember spending ages in a supermarket when I first arrived looking at Milch (milk), Brot (bread), Saft (juice), Obst (fruit) and Gemüse (vegetables). The basics.
What is your favorite part of your new home, Austria?
I started climbing mountains in Austria and Austrian hut culture is truly amazing. It’s such a bizarre feeling to be in a hut with a group of strangers far away from everything else, amidst total peace and quiet. There’s an immediate sense of connection because everyone is there for one night with nowhere else to go, so there’s a lot of drinking, talking and card playing and it’s all very friendly. Then the next morning everyone goes their separate ways and it’s done. The proximity to such amazing hiking mountains is unbeatable for me.
What was your biggest culture shock?
Smoking in bars. Prior to Austria, I’d never been in a bar before where you could smoke inside, and for the first month I could only spend about 30 minutes at a time in a bar before my eyes would be burning and I’d need to escape to some fresh air.
Also my first Sunday in Linz, a city in Upper Austria. It was a ghost town. Not just that all the shops were closed, but that all the sidewalks and trams were empty. It was very surreal.
What was your most embarrassing language faux pas?
I’ve had a lot of random old people talking to me on the street or in a tram and there was usually a point where they realised I was just saying “ja” and nodding my head and smiling politely. I remember once saying “ja” to an old man when I clearly should have said “nein.” He was mad.
What do you miss most from back home?
Where to begin! But seriously, the ocean. I miss being able to walk to the ocean in under five minutes. And being able to watch live hockey before 1am (or 4am if it’s a game from Vancouver). And proper sushi. Vancouver is pretty spoiled for food freshness and diversity and I never really noticed it until I moved away.
So guys, what’s your most embarrasing cultural faux-pas?
Thanks to Jayme for his interview! So, Lomographers – what’s your all-time worst, most embarrassing cultural faux-pas? Let us know!