Know thyself

3rd Blog: by Tereza Kubalová - Saturday, 14 January 2023, 11:02 PM
Before I arrived in Liechtenstein for my exchange semester, I had heard many things, mainly positive ones, about its beautiful nature and kind people. But hearing about it and experiencing it by myself is very different. Honestly, I had expected the culture shock to be manageable, considering Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic's historical background. However, I was surprised by many unfamiliar cultural practices in Liechtenstein. The most surprising cultural practice was greeting. People in Liechtenstein greet each other at every opportunity, even though they do not know each other. In the Czech Republic, we only greet people we know. At the beginning of my exchange semester, I could not get used to being greeted by random people on the street and respond them. But over time, I started getting used to it, and now I feel the kindness and respect in this cultural practice. When I returned home for the Christmas holiday, I realised how much an anonymous country the Czech Republic is, meaning we generally mind our own business and do not have anything similar to the greeting culture in Liechtenstein. On the other hand, I started thinking if Liechtenstein people do not sometimes find not being anonymous difficult. Nevertheless, I must admit that the support of the locals is breathtaking, and the greeting culture is part of their lifestyle, which helps me to feel welcome in Liechtenstein. Honestly, I have never felt like an unwelcome visitor anywhere in Liechtenstein. I believe I will have to adjust to the Czech lifestyle again after the end of my exchange semester and will miss the friendly greeting word Hoi. 

Another cultural difference that has impressed me is the unity of the Liechtenstein people. From what I have seen, the local people are a strongly united community, like a big family, and they are proud of it. They do everything together, pull by one rope and have a strong national feeling. Additionally, I would say that life in Liechtenstein is more relaxed and calmer as the locals know how to appreciate the beauty around them and enjoy their time in nature. Even though the Czech Republic does not have such spectacular mountains as Liechtenstein, it still has many beautiful spots. However, we are in a hurry most of the time and do not feel a connection with nature as Liechtenstein people do.

Regarding a calmer lifestyle, it takes me a while to adapt to Sundays when all shops are closed. Although it should have been nothing unusual to me as I have heard about this practice, I was surprised how seriously this day of the week is taken in Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Austria. I suppose that the explanation is the religious background of Europe since Sunday has always been the day to go to church. However, religion's role has declined over time in the Czech Republic. While for people in Liechtenstein, Sunday is a day of rest when nobody works, the Czechs see Sunday as a regular day when all shops are open at least till noon. Even though I appreciate the day off to spend more time with family or friends or in nature, I found it very unpractical to have closed all shops on Sunday. I needed to reorganise my timetable as I had been used to going grocery shopping on Sundays. To understand this cultural practice better, I talked to Liechtenstein's classmates from the university. For all of them, Sunday is a day associated with religion, which is highly valued in Liechtenstein. Besides the religious aspect, the locals like to meet their families and friend and take time to relax or enjoy their hobbies. I suppose it could be one of the reasons why Liechtenstein people are so united compared to the Czechs.

Apart from Liechtenstein culture, I have had the opportunity to be in touch with more cultures. As someone who lives in the student dormitory, I have met people from all over the world, and the atmosphere in the student dormitory is very multinational. Despite this fantastic experience, in the beginning, I found understanding people from far-away cultural backgrounds difficult. Moreover, sometimes, I couldn't understand their different attitudes to everyday things, which always frustrated me. Finally, however, I decided to see this challenge as an opportunity to expand my understanding of new cultures and people. I realised I must properly observe my surroundings before making any decision or conclusion, as I occasionally tended to misjudge the situation and was impatient. Furthermore, I have also realised it is better to ask many questions whenever I do not understand and clarify the meaning than to be quiet. Through this process, I have learned more about myself and have started thinking more about my values, Czech values in general and the values of other cultures. 

To sum up, my exchange semester was an unforgettable experience. I met people from all over the world and learned much about their cultures and home countries. As a result, I have memories which will stay with me for the rest of my life. Also, I have learned more about myself and my strengths and weaknesses. This experience helped me realise who I am and which skills I want to work on to improve them more.