by Feng Shuangqing
A month has passed by since the Lufthansa flight LH723 brought us to Munich on September 20, the starting point of the 141-day exotic journey. How time slips away! The scene that Austrian buddies picked us up at the main station of Salzburg in a rainy night is so fresh as it happened yesterday.
After the first jet-lagged and exhausted night, a sunny and serene Sunday morning makes up my first impression of Salzburg, where carriages go neck in neck with automobiles, the house of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart stands side by side with the multinational retailer Spar, a city interweaving history with modernity.
I find Austria a very friendly country. People here are always so nice and ready to help those in need. Take my buddy Bianca as an example. She not only waited for our arrival and drove us to hotel at late night, but also offered to lend me cookers and even quilt. Extending my deeply gratitude to dear Bianca here!
As I have little knowledge of Germany, buying necessities marked with Germany in the supermarket becomes a big trouble. Thanks to those warm-hearted staff and customers. They help me telling the difference between body milk and washing gel, and between laundry detergent and comfort.
Rambling around the city, everyone you meet on the road says hello to you; whenever you come across a car, it will let you go first; a pram button is set on every bus, by pushing which the bus will tilts to make it easier for baby carriages to get on; all dogs are led and some even muzzled. As the idiom goes, the “devil” is in the details.
What surprises me is that most shops and supermarkets suspend business on Sunday, which is unbelievable in China. As working people can only spare time to do shopping on the weekend, it is when the shopping malls are crowded with people on Saturdays and Sundays. My intuition tells me it has something to do with religion or labor rights. Bearing the question in mind, I collect some online information, and find out that Sunday shopping has been a controversial and complicated issue! It is generally known that Sunday is a day that Christian tradition typically recognizes as the Sabbath, a “day of rest”. As wikipedia suggests, EU law allows each Member State to set its own policy concerning work on Sundays, and “the choice of a closing day of shopping involves historical, cultural, touristic, social and religious considerations within the discretion of each Member State”. In contrast, very little regulation is applied to Sunday trading in China. The majority of stores maintain similar opening hours as on a normal business day, while others have extended hours to accommodate the weekend shopping wave.
The other thing which does catch my attention is that Austrian pays great attention to waste sorting. According to the European Environment Agency, Austria tops EU with a municipal waste recycling rate of 63% in 2013. Wherever there is residential buildings, there are dustbins in different colors. The gray one is for household garbage, brown one for biological trash, green ones with red lid are specialized for waste paper, etc. I have to confess that I haven’t strictly stuck to the rules, although I got four dustbins in the room. The OeAD housing agency even wrote an email to complain that some international students haven’t done trash sorting very well. Now I’m more aware that much of the waste we throw away can be recycled. Recycling benefits the environment by diverting waste away from landfills and by providing raw materials for new products.
Now it comes to a major difference between people in Austria and China that i’ve observed during the first weeks—diet, not only in terms of the type of food but also the time for dieting. In China, three meals a day is an unshakable rule. Although those who get up late may skip breakfast, and those who struggle to lose weight might go without supper, lunch is always considered the most important and hearty meal in a day. That’s why till today some Chinese greet each other by asking “do you have your lunch/supper?” However, an Austrian buddy tells us that people here could skip lunch when in a hurry.
On the other hand, the time for eating could be very different. When I cooked in the kitchen, I seldom see other foreign neighours. Isn’t it strange? Later it dawned on me that people here usually eat one or two hours later than Chinese students. In China, lunch usually comes around 12:00 while supper 6:00. It’s really a great fun to experience and observe those differences in daily life.
How can I forget the tradition of “Chinese travel agency”? Now it’s time to talk about traveling! During the first month in Europe, I’ve visited Hallstatt and Prague. Natural scenery of the former is so breathtaking! I’ve never seen such a blue and clear lake ever before.
In Prague, it’s my first time to live in a hostel. Living with five friends in a Chinese-dormitory-like room in bunk bed is an amazing experience. We even came across a fire alarm in the second night. Girls ran with pajamas to the hostel lobby, booking tickets for future travels while waiting. What a memorable night!
As Alain de Botton says in his best seller the Art of Travel, perhaps the source of unhappiness is our single visual angle to look at the world. Spending my best age to experience the world behind my wall is such a precious opportunity.