3rd Blog: Familiarising the unfamiliar

Almost 4 months have passed since I first came to Slovenia. Now, when it is almost time to go back home, I want to reflect on a few things that I became familiar with and learned during this exciting time. Looking back, I definitely don’t regret the decision to do an exchange semester. I learned a lot about a different culture and about myself. Because of the difficult times during Covid-19, me and my friends here sometimes philosophised about “what if” scenarios. If Corona hadn’t been there, we would of course have been to more parties and would have been able to see a lot more of the country around us. But on the other hand, it was a very unique experience and it showed that we took every-day things for granted before and didn’t value them. We experienced various lockdowns in a different country and learn to be flexible and adapt to new situations. During my stay in Ljubljana, I had to handle certain limitations and restrictions due to several lockdowns. Most of the times the restaurants and non-essential shops were closed, although picking up food or products was always allowed. For students, this was definitely a test of patience and you had to get creative during these times in order to still meet up with friends. It became a common practice to gather in front of a restaurant that offered take-away food. A number of restaurants had to adapt their menu or their way of serving the customer, but they got creative and managed to make the best out of the current situation. If someone had told me a year before that I would eat burgers outside while it’s snowing and cold, I wouldn’t have believed it. But picking up food and eating it outside was always a little “adventure” and a distraction from studying and being inside all the time. Additionally, to the above mentioned topic with eating on the go, I also spent my spare time with cooking and trying new recipes. In Ljubljana supermarkets have a lot to offer and it was exciting finding new products which are probably not available at home. At first, I found it very unfamiliar to go grocery shopping alone. I was used to go together with my parents or not at all. But with time I got more comfortable and tried out Chinese, Indian or typical Slovenian shops. Because Slovenia is a rather small market, the big grocery chains like Spar or Hofer are mostly selling German products. This means, that the product description is also in German and therefore it made life a lot easier for me and I didn’t have to translate every product with the help of my phone. Some things in Slovenian are self-explanatory but sometimes words were so different and I could not even guess what a specific product contained. Continuing with the topic “food”, something that I was very surprised of is that vegan products in supermarkets and vegan food in restaurants aren’t rare to find. Compared with the offer in Austria or Switzerland there are a lot more brands and product categories available here. For instance, in a bigger supermarket called “Maxi Market” in the centre of Ljubljana there is a whole separate refrigerated section with vegetarian and vegan products. Finding this broad assortment of products was a pleasing experience for me and I will probably miss it back home in Austrian supermarkets. Lastly, I want to mention that I became very familiar with using the English language. As mentioned in my blogs before, I did not quite manage to learn Slovenian. English is, at least in Ljubljana, always present and most of the times people speak it almost perfectly. So, my beginning “fear” to not be able to communicate was pointless. I am now very familiar with using English all the time and fluently.