Last week I was in Belgium in the beautiful city of Leuven for the SIETAR Congress.
SIETAR stands for the Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research and their biennial congress is a very friendly affair. Of course a Congress is always very diverse, forgive the pun, and in addition diversity was one of the main themes of the Congress this year so todays show is also very diverse.
If you are listening to this from our website then you will see a beautiful image of the gothic town hall of Leuven. This is where we had the opening reception to the Congress and this is also where we heard the mayor of Leuven, Mohamed Ridouani, give a very inspirational talk about what you can do at local level to make people feel valued and included. Unfortunately I did not ask him to be on the podcast but we do have an interesting variety of people for you in the next 25 minutes or so.
Merhaba, welcome, and iyi günler. Yes, I have learned some basic Turkish and took part in a beginners’ language course. Why did I do that? Well, here in Germany we have important Turkish communities in our big cities, so my idea was to learn more about their language and their culture. G’day from down under! I also want to present Lucy! Lucy is one of our new members in the international team of the Rhein AhrCampus in Remagen. She is from Australia and over the next months we might hear more from her if she decides to help us with this podcast.
As you know, every year we have a number of international students, who visit us to spend a semester or two at our university. One of our newly arrived incoming students is Lucy Warren from the University of the Sunshine Coast. She is half Australian and half South African. So I asked her about the first impressions she had after her arrival and what differences she has noticed in Europe. Perhaps we will be able to convince Lucy to keep us up to date with her intercultural discoveries throughout her stay over the next months? In our first category she told me her stereotypes about Europe and the very first impressions she gained.
I took an interview with Maria Koehnen. She spent a semester in Belgium where she met a number of international students from all over the world. She explained to me how to get an ERASMUS scholarship and stressed the advantages of a semester abroad. So, how can one semester abroad change you so much?
A couple of weeks ago I created my own challenge. I took part on an intensive Turkish language course at Netzwerk Deutsch in Cologne for one week. Many friends and colleagues asked me “Why Turkish?” and it is true that as I have learned English, Latin, French and Italian at school and at university, it would have been a little more plausible to learn Spanish for example. And clearly this would have been a lot easier for me! However, in our private and professional lives we are surrounded by people from all over the world, with different languages and different cultures. On my way to our supermarket I actually meet more people who can speak Turkish than people who can speak English as I live very close to a Turkish community in Cologne. So my aim was to learn more about this culture and now I am proud to say, that when I went to my Turkish corner shop last week, I managed to do the small talk in Turkish. I am amazed at the reactions, shop keepers immediately turn into friends. It is almost as if I was the first person they have met who has learned a little bit of Turkish just for my social life. I must admit though that learning Turkish was the hardest thing I have ever learned in my whole life and in our third and last category I talked with participants and the teacher of my Turkish course, and we tried to find out, why people choose or reject the challenge of learning Turkish.
Enjoy listening to our show no. 119
Our next show will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 15.October
Let us take you on a culinary audio-trip to China and Belgium. Yes, let us talk about food! In previous shows we’ve talked about going abroad, about culture shocks and the different habits in foreign countries. But apart from the language and the attitudes of the other culture, what about the local cuisine? What happens if you travel to a country in which you don’t know anything about the food culture? Can you prepare yourself for such a situation before you leave?
I am not sure whether you have seen the film Julie and Julia which is all about food and preparing food and eating food and cultural differences between food in America and food in France. If you have not seen the film, please put it at the top of your list of films to see because it is full of little intercultural gems and Meryl Streep is just incredible in it. In the film Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, an American who is the wife of a diplomat in Paris and falls in love with the French way of cooking. She decides to introduce the French cuisine to the American housewife of the fifties by writing the book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”
Now, what about you? What are you like? When you travel to a foreign country, where you have a totally different cuisine from home? I asked Mingxia, one of my business students from China, if the food offered in Chinese restaurants in Europe is the same as food offered in China.
When we talk about countries like China we expect a big difference in food habits, but how about our European neighbors – for example the Belgians? Normally we would think that we have a lot in common, but Filip Dedeurwaerder told me that even the time we spend eating our food is very different. For example, while in Germany we often only take half an hour to eat during our lunch break, the Belgians take much more time to celebrate their food and are allowed to have a glass of wine with their lunch. So, eating and drinking habits seem to be very different even with our closest neighbors.
Carina Mayer, a student from the RheinAhrCampus in Remagen, did an internship in Hong Kong, searching for a cultural change and new experiences. She gives us some insights into her experiences with the Chinese cuisine. It seems that she was eager to try everything that the Chinese put on her plate. She often went out to try out and enjoy the variety of the Chinese cuisine with her colleagues. Carina is really adventurous and was looking for a totally new experience and that was exactly what she got.
Our next show will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 18.September