Like many other Pacific University students in their Junior year, I studied abroad last semester. My country of choice was Germany which led to not only language differences, but cultural ones. However, it was always the little things that surprised me — things I was not expecting.
One of those things was ice in drinks. I never realized how much Americans love ice in their drinks. I once picked up my drink at a movie theater in Germany and did not feel the familiar clinging of ice in the cup because there was no ice at all in the drink.
Speaking of drinks, water is not complimentary at restaurants and it is expensive. Bottled or not, water was always about two to three euros. And, the default water in Germany is usually sparkling water so you always have to specify.
Two perplexing differences abroad were language related. In German, the word for “ice” (eis) actually means “ice cream” most of the time and it is used for most kinds of frozen treats. There was no differentiation between ice cream and gelato which made it difficult at times to find traditional ice cream.
The second language difference was “You’re welcome.” The word for “please” and “you’re welcome” is the same in German (bitte) but Germans do not wait to say “you’re welcome” after you have said thank you. They are often saying “you’re welcome” right as they hand you food or drink or whatever it may be.
But, not everything I noticed abroad were differences, some things were weirdly similar. A key example is ethnic food. Just how Americans love Mexican food and the British love Indian food, Germans love Turkish food. Before going to Germany, I was unaware how big the Turkish population was and was not at all familiar with Turkish food. After going to Germany, I can see why Germans love it.
Another thing was pizza — mathematics is often said to be the universal language but the true universal language is pizza. There are just as many pizza shops in Germany as in the United States, and people from all over the world love it just as much.
Being abroad is amazing, but sometimes you just want something familiar.