Cultural Competence Across Europe

In the past two weeks, I have more than doubled the number of countries I have visited in my life. Coming to Germany and setting foot in Europe for the first time was and still is incredible. I can not believe it almost been a month already! Last week I wrote about my long weekend adventure across Italy, and this week’s blog post will have a similar theme.

Monday was another public holiday in Germany, which meant another long weekend for us. I had a great time last weekend in Italy, and I did not mind traveling by myself. However, this weekend I had so much fun traveling with my classmates to Czechia to explore Prague! The actual traveling part (as in getting from point A to point B) was easier when I was alone, but it was absolutely incredible to be able to experience one of the most beautiful cities in Europe with so many of the friends I have made on this program.

One four hour bus ride later, and we were all very excited to look around the city. We spent the following couple of days walking and Ubering to the many sites Prague has to offer. Some of my favorites included the Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock and tower that we stopped to climb to the top, the John Lennon Wall, and the iconic Charles Bridge. I think the most amazing thing we had the opportunity to visit Prague Castle. After a bit of confusion after getting separated from each other, we were amazed by the incredible architecture of the castle and surrounding palace as well as the breathtaking view of the city.

While traveling alone can be fun and certainly has its benefits, there is no other way I would have liked to experience Prague. It was loud, difficult to plan, and some things did not turn out the way we had hoped, but, looking back, I can tell that this will be one of the highlights of this summer for me.

I mentioned that I have now more than doubled the number of countries I have had the opportunity to visit. This means the number of different cultures I have been exposed to has also more than doubled this month. Germany, Italy, and Czechia are all very different nations but still have their similarities. I will shift my focus back to the German culture for now as it is my host country, but I hope I will continue this learning experience throughout Europe for the remainder of the program.

When we first arrived here almost a month ago now, I did not think Germany (well, Berlin anyway) was incredibly different from the United States, but there were certainly many small things that took a while to get used to. Honestly, I was not sure that I ever would really adapt to them, but after the last two weekends in other European countries, I realized that I have slowly but surely gotten used to the German culture and way of life. I am not sure exactly when Berlin became “home,” but I caught myself referring to the city as such over the last couple of weeks.

This is not to say I am now free of any struggles abroad. It is the obvious answer, but I am still having trouble simply due to the fact that I do not speak German. Berlin is a very international city, and I have not really run into any trouble while lacking this skill. However, the common language is obviously German, and it has felt almost isolating this past month not being able to communicate with everyone around me in a casual fashion.

Unless I am part of the conversation, I usually have no idea what anyone around me is saying. This is true both at my internship and while I am just walking around Berlin. I am sure I am not missing anything that concerns me, but I have never been in this type of situation before. I guess I am just used to always having an idea of everything that is happening around me and have taken that feeling for granted up until now.

Sometimes, I almost feel like I am inconveniencing people when I speak to them in English. I am trying my best to pick up as much of the German language I possibly can while I am here, but two months is not a lot of time as I am quickly learning.