Sunday, September 28, 2008

After 6 Weeks

So I have been in Slovakia since August 17th and it is September 28th, 6 weeks to this day. I am pleased to say that I have officially settled in. The strangness has worn off and I have settled into a routine. Now that the first shock of being thrown into this culture has worn off I am starting to see the little differences, rather than just the big ones.

Of coarse the really big differences are there, the different language, food, and clothing. But after I have met many people and have been in different situations, I can start to see the little things. Like the way people greet each other. Often within families when 2 women meet they hug. Not here. The Slovaks do not hug, at all. I actually have not seen any type of hugging since I have been here. Instead they do a kiss on each cheek and a handshake. Shaking hands is very important here, and everyone does it. Also when shaking hands you must remove any glove that you might be wearing (hint hint Mr. President!) otherwise it is considered very rude.

Most travel books that I have read tell in some way how the Slovaks will not start random conversations while waiting in line or at the bus stop. But I have found this not to be true at all. Almost every day I am approached by a stranger either asking directions or wanting to talk. One day while waiting for the tram a lady approached me and started in on a conversation. When I asked her to please speak slowly, for my slovak is still not that good, she was very interested in who I was and what I was doing here. A very nice lady, though I did not catch her name, and after wishing me luck in Bratislava, and commenting on my good slovak, she boarded her train and I haven´t seen her since. I can´t decide if itÅ› just my approachable nature or if these people just are more open than most, but I can almost always count on some conversation on my way home from school.

These 6 weeks have not proven easy, and there have been homesick times but the overall feeling has been good. I feel more settled in now like I actually live here rather than just visiting. I´m glad the feeling of complete tourist has worn off, and I blend in better. That does not mean that it will be all out smooth sailing from here but the first big hump is over and now I can sit back and relax for the time being.

1 comment:

janna said...

Allie, great post! I love your insights. Please continue to share them.
Learning the proper way to greet is so important, and it's funny how much this simple gesture differs among ppl all over the world. It's something I enjoy very much among latinos, the warm and formal greeting of a handshake that moves into a hug, and kiss on the cheek (sometimes twice!). There's something about it that makes me feel immediately welcome. But I can see where it would be unnerving to a European who is totally unaccustomed to such a close greeting.
Those random meetings on the street will do wonders for your grasp of the language, and I'm sure it feels good to be mistaken for a local (like in KW :) !
You seem to have inherited whatever it is that makes ppl come up and start conversations w you. I don't know what it is, either, but I think it's a good quality to have. It certainly makes life more interesting everywhere you go!