Thursday, November 4, 2010

Where did all of the smiles go?

The biggest thing hands down that my classmates and I experienced as a culture shock was the coldness of attitude of Austrians. We all noticed that as we walked to school (our 30-45 minute walks) that nobody looked us in the face or smiled. Sometimes they would look to observe that we were Americans. This was hard because from most of the communities that we came from in America it was standard to look people, even if they are strangers in the face and acknowledge their presence on the street. Also a lot of us came from communities where you smile at someone to acknowledge them.

We noticed that over the first few weeks that as we smiled at people on the streets we got dirty looks back like we were crazy. It is not a part of the culture of Austrians to smile or look each other in the face when they are on the streets.

Austrians often think of us as the Smiley Americans and that our smiles are fake. They do not understand why we smile so much. This was probably the hardest culture shock for most of us to get over because it was as if nobody acknowledged your existence, or they were being rude coming from the American perspective.

Austrians are a just a much more reserved group of people. It does not mean that Austrians are mean it just means that they express things in different ways. Once you go to a bar or beer garden and hit up a conversation most of the time they will be willing to talk to you. It was hard for me to just start up conversations with Austrians, because I did not know enough German to hold a long conversation and it was hard to break that awkward barrier when starting a random conversation. I found much more luck talking to Austrians that went to Salzburg University and when I joined a Salsa aerobics class that had Austrians in it.

Be careful who you smile at because before I knew about smiles not being common to strangers in Austria I got myself into a bit of an awkward position. I was dressed up at night waiting at a bus stop to go to a Mozart concert when a elderly man came up to the bus stop. I smiled at him to acknowledge him and from that moment on he kept watching me and smiling at me. I finally got on the bus and he sat across from me and kept smiling creepily at me! I finally got off the bus at my stop and he kept riding. But he had gotten the wrong idea that I was suggesting something when I smiled at him! Beware! lol

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