A Muslim, a Christian, Jew, an atheist and a gay enter in a bar

brandWhat sounds like the start of a standard joke, it’s actually the start of an amazing night that broke stereotypes once again. With the girls who I am volunteering with in Varna, we decided to go to our favorite bar, bar Brand, to see a live concert. We are seven girls from Georgia, Jordan, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia and Romania organizing events, working in schools and having a great time together. This night was no exception, but besides hanging around with the Erasmus students and meeting locals, we also met some cool travelers, who joined our group.

I arrived before the girls, so I just took a beer and went outside for a cigarette while waiting for them to arrive. I heard three people talking in English, so I decided to join them. It turned out that two of them were a married couple from Israel and the third guy was Bulgarian. I realized that they were pretty cool as soon as I joined them, and when the girls came, we were all sitting outside, together with the bartender, talking and laughing. They were the first Israelis our Jordanian friend met, and what you would expect to be an awkward encounter,  was actually a night of discussions, laughter, dance and the beginning of a great friendship. Once again, we realized how stupid hatred and war is, and how amazing and similar human beings are.

Meanwhile, the Erasmus students arrived, who you would think to be the soul of the party. Instead, imagine this: while a Jordanian, an Iraqi, two Jews, an Armenian and a Romanian were dancing, the Portuguese guys were playing chess. And the other Erasmus students were watching.

We continued dancing with our new friends, including a Czech and an English traveler. Our Bulgarian friend joined us, and it was actually his first time dancing in the bar. The bartender was trying to teach me a traditional Bulgarian dance, I clearly failed, but it was fun.

A night we will all remember.

Олександр’s first euphoria in a hostel

There is this special drug. You can only find it in certain places. Some people do not like it for the first time, and in most of the cases, they will not take it again (some get caught up eventually). But those who do…will become addicted. And boy, they love it! That’s what happened to me. I became so addicted I decided to become a dealer and mediate this experience for people for the rest of my life as a job. And I was happy to witness the euphoria of a random Ukrainian guy during his first encounter with this drug in a hostel in Marrakech.

My first encounter was when I was an organizer, then coordinator on AIESEC volunteering projects, and I was hanging around with amazing people from different corners of the world, learning about their cultures, helping them get trough the cultural shocks and intercultural misunderstandings. My work in a hostel was the best place to get this drug. So many interesting people and discussions feeding the addiction all the time. Making me do one Erasmus, then another one and making sure that I have new supplies the next year during my EVS in Bulgaria.

You are probably wondering by now what is this magical drug I keep talking about? Well, it is the encounter with people from all over the world, those discussions and moments that make you feel so amazed by the world we live in, by the people, by the different cultures, all the things that you learn about others and yourself and that make you realize that we are not that different after all. The consequence – or let’s call it side effect – is a constant wanderlust, that may last for life.

So what’s the story of Alexander? He was a guest in the hostel where I spent a few days in Marrakech, who ended up randomly in this place. He and his friend Oleg came in Morocco for a guided hiking tour in the Atlas mountains, and their guide happened to be staying in this hostel. They were supposed to stay in a hotel with the other hikers but arrived one day earlier, so Vitali, their guide, took them to the hostel. I remember them arriving, cheerful and talkative, in the best moment in the evening, when the common room was full with people from all over the world: Germany, Spain, France, Netherlands, Morocco, Congo, Sweden, Turkey, Tunisia, Brazil, Chile, Austria, me from Romania, and many others. You could hear in corners German, Spanish, French, Darija (Moroccan Arabic), Ukrainian, with everyone talking to everyone in English.

Alexander was sitting next to me and we started to chat about different things, involving others in the conversation. Since the common room was huge, we were discussing in groups, with people shifting from place to place, talking to others as well or saying something while passing by. That night many new people were arriving, so there were far more people than could fit in the common room, some staying in the hallways and terrace. Alexander was very happy about this, and at some point, he told me:

This hostel is great! I wish we could have this in Ukraine.

But you have it. It is the same in Romania. Hostels are like this. Especially in Eastern Europe.

Really? With so many people from different countries like this? Sitting and talking to each other?

Exactly!

This is amazing! From now on I will only stay in hostels!

Let’s taste that vodka Oleg gave me! I said.

We opened that horilka, as it is called in Ukrainian, his friend, Oleg, gave me earlier, and Alain, from Congo, Felipe from Brazil and Gwen from France joined us. I taught them the Ukrainian cheers ritual that I knew before, which sounds very funny, and it goes like this:

Bud’ma hey!

Bud’ma hey!

Bud’ma hey hey hey!

Also, you should say Slava Ukrayini! (Glory to Ukraine!) in the end! – Alexander said.

He made a video of us doing the cheers and drinking the horilka, and he was looking at the video amazed and amused that people from different countries are drinking the traditional Ukrainian drink and saying Glory to Ukraine.

I can’t really describe in words his feelings. He was surprised, amazed, excited and happy. He was keep looking around, couldn’t believe what he is witnessing, and he got an instant curiosity about the other people, trying to engage in conversations. Maybe you can understand better if I tell you what happened the next day.

The other member of the hiking tour arrived and they had to move out in a hotel since the last guy didn’t want to stay in a hostel. If they wouldn’t have arrived one day earlier, they would have all stay in a hotel. They packed their things, said goodbye, and they were very sad about having to leave. After only one day in the hostel, they felt like home, and this is the tricky, dirty secret of good hostels. They provide a temporary home and family for travelers.

We are very sorry we have to leave, we had a great time in the hostel. I wish we wouldn’t have to go. But that guy didn’t want to come here.

Yes, I feel the same, I like it here, this place is funny. Hotels are not funny, Oleg completed.

Did the fever get him? Did he become addicted? Who knows. All I know is that he has the symptoms of a future addict and I can anytime stalk his Facebook profile to confirm my suspicions.

20160306_225422

The random guy in the night, who turned out to be an Afghan refugee in Ljubljana

It was around 5-6 am when I left the club and I was waiting alone for the bus in Ljubljana. A guy, who I previously saw in the club was in the bus station, too, when he approached me:

Hey, they bus will come in a while, do you want to talk?

I was happy to have some company, and we started talking about random things. At some point, I asked him where is he from. He answered Guess! He looked Asian so he could have been from anywhere, so I avoided to guess. I asked him to tell me, and after a period of hesitating, he told me he is from Afghanistan. I could see on his face that he was waiting for my reaction. Well, my reaction was this:

Cool, I’ve never met an Afghan before. So what are you doing in Slovenia?

I came here 5 years ago as a refugee.

How old are you?

24.

I was eager to hear his story, and he seemed happy to share it with me. He told me about how he had part of the best treatment since he arrived in Slovenia. An organization helped him to get a passport, find a job and a house, so now he is working in McDonald’s, rents a nice apartment and keeps in touch with the organization.

Can you imagine that they sent me a brand new fridge last week? I told them, don’t worry, I have a salary now. They are very nice people. By the way, do you want a kebab? I am hungry.

The bus was already gone, but I stayed to talk with him. He told me about his family being in Iran and how much he misses them.

You know, in Slovenia, there are nice people, but fucked up system. In Iran, it is a good system, but fucked up people. I wouldn’t go back to Iran, but my family is there. And I miss them a lot. I am alone here. But at the same time, my family wants to marry me if I go back in Iran. Marrying the girl, you know, our religion sucks. 

He told me that his biggest problem now is that his passport expired and he is waiting for the court’s decision, which takes ages.

I want to go to Austria, my cousin is there. but I am stuck here. Don’t misunderstand me, I really love Slovenia, and I am really grateful for everything it has offered to me. I also have friends from all over the world, especially trough projects, I am happy for that. I’ve met some amazing people. and I have a good job, a good life. But it is not home. I miss my family. I love it here, but at the same time, I don’t want to be here. 

I asked him how does he speak such a good English.

I am going to school. I couldn’t go to school back home, so when I arrived, they sent me to a special school here. In 4 years I manage to get in the 9th grade. I learned a lot, I am happy to have this opportunity. And I like English, it is very useful.

Sorry for keeping you here with my stories, you can go if you want.

No, don’t worry, I am happy to meet you.

We were talking for a little longer, and after 1 and a half hour, I decided to take the bus, because I was freezing. He was waiting for another one, so we sad goodbye, and I left. For some reason, I was crying all the way on the bus. I wonder if he got his passport already.

Moroccans – horrible people

I was going home from the faculty when at some point I was trying to cross a large road with many cars passing by – in the Moroccan way (I can say that my biggest cultural shock in Morocco was the traffic, the way people drive, the nonexistent traffic rules and people crossing everywhere, despite the cars going fast and chaotic). I think that people can tell that I am a foreigner just by the fact that I wait for a while when I want to cross. Today, a cute girl smiled at me, grabbed my hand and we crossed together.

After, I asked a couple which way is the center, since in my attempt to take the shorter way I got a bit lost at some point. They have shown me the way, we said goodbye, but while I was waiting again to cross the road, I saw them behind me and they said that they will join me. We were talking the whole time, they were very very nice and cute.

Related to this, I just remembered the professor (he is teaching French to Erasmus students) who took the three of us home by car yesterday evening. Like the other professors, he gave us his phone number and also wrote down ours. It is new to me that here, all the professors give their phone number, and they prefer texts and calls over emails. I always set my appointments with my responsible professor via SMS. They like to keep in touch and to have a strong relationship with their students.

So don’t be afraid to ask people on the street in Morocco. For me, thanks to my very bad territorial sense, it is not the first time when I meet amazing people in this way. These are the people that I’ve met just before while coming back home from the university.

I dare you to try a social experiment in your own country: pretend that you are a foreigner and try to ask people on the street. I am waiting to read what happened.

To end, here is what Bill Murray says about Morocco and Moroccans:

“I recommend Morocco to anyone. I really do. It is really wonderful. Not just cause they are fun, but it’s funny. It’s a nice – for the cowards in the audience – it is an entry level Africa and an entry level Muslim world, and they are the most generous, normal, kind, nice people and it’s beautiful. You know, they are just really sweet, really gentle people, it is a nice place to be. I’d go back anytime.”

My relationship with my Moroccan classmates (and the meeting with 20 American retired)

I arrived in Fes, set up a meeting with my professor, searched for one hour for the faculty and the room, then ended up by being led by one of the students.

First, I thought that this will be an individual meeting with the professor, but I ended up being one hour late to the Research class. My fellows were already gone, and I ended up listening to the Ph.D. students presenting their research projects. I presented myself, we talked about Romania and previous Eastern European exchange students they had, and after the class, I had the chance to talk to my professor. Before that, we had a small conversation with of the Ph.D. students and she gave me her contact and told me to contact her, whenever I need something. I did not imagine this would happen quite often from now on.

The professors are very nice and flexible and thanks to a student strike that was going on, I found a conflict to analyze for my research paper (not happy about the conflict). He gave my contact to one of the students to help me with information regarding my research, with who we had a great conversation later on. I was very excited that he was planning to apply for an exchange at my University!

During the next class, I’ve met my classmates. It was the same room, same professor, but this time with the master students. Everyone was so helpful with my research, and I was never bored during the breaks. They are talkative, smiley and nice people. They invited me to a meeting with some American students, where we would talk about our cultures. This is not the first time they organize this kind of meetings since the university and the professors have partnerships and contacts in the US. I, of course, said yes, and we’ve met later to go in the Riad, a beautiful building in the Old Medina. We were 24 students, including me (I was happy to be believed to be a Moroccan student by the professor), and we were waiting for the Americans to arrive. I was talking with many people, and as usual around Moroccans, I was not bored for a second. After half an hour, the Americans arrive. We were expecting for students, as usual, so it was surprising and funny to see 20 retired professors walking in. We were split into small groups, and we had a long and great conversation about culture, politics, religion, practices, beliefs, news and many many other things.

After the meeting, I exchanged contact with many people. Now that I remember, I still have some people to contact. I talked with the guys and after headed home with the girls. We were like 7 girls, walking in a group, and two of them walked with me very close to where I live. One of the girls who I went on the way to the Riad with, sent me a message to make sure that I arrived safe.

After, we continued meeting during classes. They are all very nice, helpful and funny people. I feel more adapted and part of this class that I felt after 3 years during my bachelor (different story during master, would it be thanks to the small number of students?). The professor said something about being happy to see such a strong unity in this class. I can also feel it. When we are not in class, I chat and sometimes meet with them.

So long story short, I am happy to have such nice and awesome classmates in Morocco!

classmates

No, I am not a Romanian, I am Roma!

This post is about a nice girl’s frustration, who I’ve met while traveling to Sarajevo.

Thanks to failing our hitchhiking attempt, we ended up taking a bus from Novi Sad to Sarajevo. Since the driver was not speaking English, a very nice girl helped us. After arriving in Sarajevo at 5 or 6 am, we asked her how can we take a taxi. She said we can join her since she is going in the center. We realized that we have no cash in the local currency, but she offered to pay for the taxi, and she also invited us for a tea after. She was a young diplomat, just returning from one of her work related journeys. We exchanged Facebook contacts and kept in touch after.

One day, I saw one of her Facebook posts, which got my attention. I wrote her a message to talk about this. She was pretty pissed about the fact, that after meeting a woman, who she told about her Roma origins, the women was calling her “cute Romanian girl”. She explained that no, I was talking about Roma (gypsy) and not Romanian origins. Then the women told her that she would have never thought that about her.

When I asked her about this, she told me:

Well, people usually don’t perceive me as Roma due to the widely accepted and promoted image of Roma: dark-skinned, poor education, lazy, jobless, etc. So… they would rather think about me as a Romanian, Serb, Albanian… Whatever comes first.

I was happy to see her being proud of her origins, breaking stereotypes and defending her culture. Because not all Romas are dark skinned and uneducated, not all Romanians are gypsies, not all Muslims are terrorists, not all black people are drug dealers, and not everyone defines themselves by appearance.

You arrive in Morocco. Your future Spanish roommate’s Moroccan friend is calling you that he will wait for you in the train station, to spend the night at his place. What do you do?

I was happy to be selected for an Erasmus Mundus scholarship in Fes, Morocco. I choose to do this, because I wanted to live in a totally different country, culture, and to experience the cultural shock I could not experience in European countries since they are not that different from Romania. I knew many things about the culture before, but I was very excited to discover and learn as much as I can.

Sara, my future Spanish roommate recommended me to spend the night in Rabat together, at her friend’s place, and we agree that they will wait for me in a train station in Casablanca. I was very happy to hear that she has Moroccan friends. The thing I enjoy to do the most in a new country is to hang around with locals. I sent a message to Sara with the time of arrival, and her friend calls me that they will wait for me.

In the airport, I was amazed to see that people were helping me with the luggage every time I needed, they are very nice. But also, the guy working at the information desk in the airport ask for my phone number.

I arrived at the train station from the airport, where Sara and her Moroccan friend were waiting for me. He was a very cool guy, we were talking and laughing the whole way to Rabat. Then I met his mother, a very nice lady, with who I was surprised to see that I can talk in French. In Morocco, I understand people way better when they speak French than in France. Lucky me, I was planning to learn French during my stay in Morocco.

After, we arrived in Fes, and Sara’s friends from Fes were waiting for us in the train station. We went for a coffee later, where I met the rest of the guys, who ended up being our close friends during our staying in Morocco. I absolutely loved them from the first moment: they are very funny, cool, nice, open minded guys, who by the way all speak a perfect English. The next morning we did a road trip to Ifrane, visited some places, fed the monkeys in the forest, and had a lot of fun. I consider myself lucky to have the guys as friends, because in my first 3 days in Morocco, I already learned many words in Darija, French, and a lot about their country, culture, way of thinking, history, social and political situation in Morocco, conflicts, people, religion, and so on. I sometimes feel like we are hanging around with the coolest and most open-minded guys in Morocco.

So don’t be afraid to meet locals, and to go out with Moroccan guys: if you start to talk with them, you can know from the first moments if they are nice, funny guys, who want to be your friends, or not. Of course, there are some social and religious boundaries for them, and for you, but don’t let that in the way of making amazing friends in a new country.

dsc00323

Do you think about the importance of intercultural mediation when managing international volunteering projects?

Imagine four people, one from Taiwan, two from Indonesia and one from Mexico, volunteering abroad and working in a team. One of their tasks was to make a promotional video for my faculty. They were all participants of an AIESEC project (international youth organization) called ReBranders, among two other volunteers from Spain and Hungary, who were working for another faculty in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I was part of the organizing committee, and together with my colleagues we selected participants, searched for partners and sponsors, and contacted faculties, who needed help in promoting their international programs. So the two international teams had different tasks according to the needs of the faculties. They eventually ended up creating a whole campaign for one of the faculties, and new booklets and posters for the other one.

While the image of what these volunteers were doing (hopefully) became clear, let’s get back to imagine the first team, the most culturally diverse one, having to work together. This time, on making two videos, that is supposed to convince students from their countries to apply for this faculty. During the project I was more than an organizer, I was kind of part of their group, we became close friends. I thought that the work, under my coordination, will go well, since they were getting along so well. But when they were presenting me their ideas related to the videos, I realized that they were all Hector’s and he was the one who was planning to film, edit, cut, the others just being actors in the video. So while Hector was presenting the whole project, the others were just agreeing. According to them, his ideas were amazing. According to me, they were just good. You could see there was no brainstorming. And since I talked with Difa, one of the Indonesians before, I knew that she has good ideas and editing skills. But I did not hear any of those ideas after Hector presented his. I knew their cultures have one common point, the high power distance, but the Asian culture is reactive (amiable, compromiser, courteous, good listener, the message is what is actually not said), different from the multi-active Mexicans (warm, emotional, impulsive, doing more things at once).

I mentioned some of the ideas Difa presented me before and I suggested for her to be in charge with one of the videos. I also encouraged the others to present some ideas, so I gave them a new deadline. But this time, I first talked with each one of them individually, and after we all brainstormed together. I was very happy to see that the others were more outspoken and that Hector became a better listener. But of course, there were many times when I had to bring up some suggestions they told me in the individual conversations.

Result? One brainstorming, many very good ideas, efficient teamwork and two successful videos. But what amazed me the most was the impact this experience had on them, revealed during the interviews for my graduation thesis (the topic was their adaptation process, and personal and professional development during the 6-week project). Also, by my surprise, I discovered that the three Asians were delighted to have a charismatic and strong leader, which could be explained by their need and respect for authority and leadership printed in their mental software.

Difa: He could delegate tasks very well. Without Hector we would have been very lost and didn’t know what to do.

John: Hector is a talented man, he had many great ideas during the work, I received much information from him. I also have friends who entertain me at the dorm, my roommates, so everything becomes fun.

Hector: Difa is patient, open minded, like a student, absorbing all the knowledge, Thomas the same. Professionally I got more values in working in a team because I was always working alone, it was hard for me to work in a group. I always wanted to do all of the jobs in my way, because I was always thinking that I am the best on doing that job, but actually, I am not, and with the help of the others in the team you can improve your project. I really learned this, working in a team, and even in an international team, which is much more difficult, because they have another culture, way to see the world. It was really awesome because even if I was the leader, they wanted someone to be the leader. I helped them and they helped me to make a good, good project.

At this time I was studying Communication and PR. But this experience totally changed my outlook on what I want to do in the future. I knew that I want to become an intercultural mediator. I knew that I want to help people with different cultural backgrounds to adapt in a new culture, live and work together efficiently, and not just to sell something to them. What convinced me the most was when I realized the importance of cross-cultural mediation: I saw the participants of another project facing difficulties in working together because of cultural differences. Their organizing committee was focusing on organizational details and not paying attention to the personal and interpersonal challenges the volunteers were facing. I was only sorry that I’ve realized this only when interviewing them for my thesis. For example, this is what a German participant, who was making training for high school students together with a Chinese volunteer, confess:

Two cultures clashing, because we had different opinions or images about how youth is in our country because it is really different. I am so German, that means really direct, but she couldn’t handle the directness. It was hard for us to actually get along because I usually told her my feelings…For example, I wanted to make some really cool energizers, but she wouldn’t want to, and her energizers were so boring to the kids.

This experience ended up to be life changing for all of us. We all, participants and organizers, learned a lot. I could talk a lot about this, but I would rather open a conversation with my readers.

So if you have any questions or similar experiences, I am eager to read them in the comments below.

Good luck 😀

Romanian vs. French dining etiquette in family – the art of cooking vs. the art of eating

I spent more than one month in France during this summer and believe it or not, my biggest cultural shock was the way people eat. Cultural shock does not necessarily mean a bad thing (in this category I could put the fact that they cross the road everywhere and the relationship with the police, but after living in Morocco, it doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore). Cultural shock can be anything you notice is different from your culture, and it makes you realize many things about yours, even things that you weren’t even thinking about before. For example, the way people eat. I realized so many tiny differences. And talking again about collective mental programming in childhood, we can see the differences in how parents educate their children, which reflects in the eating habits (and the way to cross the road – I remembered that for example in Romania we have little poems and drawings about crossing only on green light, while in France they teach their children to look on both sides before crossing).

I had the pleasure to live with French people and to dine in several families. So to start with, an interesting thing I remembered: cliché or not, there is always wine on the French table. In Romania, wine does not make part of the everyday dinner (or even lunch). Also, I was surprised to see that the French cuisine is actually not as complex as I thought. The meals are simple, and it takes less time to cook than in a Romanian household. I am talking again about a regular meal in a family, because of course there are many complex French dishes, and every family is different. In Romania cooking is kind of a ritual: there are certain ways to make specific dishes, food is a lot more complex, spicy, sometimes greasy, and it is actually cooked food. The French meal is more simple, random and in pieces, while a meal in the Romanian family consists as a whole. And they eat a lot more processed food. We can barely cook together with my boyfriend because he can cook a meal by putting random things that he finds in the kitchen altogether, or mix pasta with cooked food, while I cannot accept this. He can easily cook by putting together random things he finds in the kitchen, while I prefer to go to the store, if an ingredient is missing in what I would like to cook. For me, if I decide to cook something, there are certain ingredients and ways to make it. For us, cooking is an art.

But as I noticed, eating is the art in the French culture. First, the table is arranged. Plate, knife and fork, and two glasses: one for water and one for wine. The big common dish, with the food and salad, comes in the middle. At a Romanian table, you usually put the food directly in the plate, from the pot, as much as you like, then take your plate to the table. Except for celebrations or when you are having guests (again, I am talking about the general practice). And we don’t always use fork and knife. At the French table it’s a must. They always use both when eating, while I was using the knife only when I really had to.

Related to the common dish, they are used differently. In the French families everyone puts first a little, and then again and again, until the food is over. In Romania we put on the plate as much as we think that we can eat, and if we want, we can put more after. This reflects the mental programming in childhood I was talking about, that shapes the culture: in French families they teach the children to put a little, so everyone has even and enough food. The Romanian child is taught to put in the plate as much as he can eat (we love to eat), and he can eat more, but as long as he doesn’t leave anything in the plate. Also, in Romania, we usually don’t use the common dish for food, but for salad. The salad is not a first dish, but a side dish, and everyone takes from the same salad dish while eating the main course. As my boyfriend noticed, while we were traveling, this is an eastern European practice.

The thing I missed the most while spending more than a month in France was soup. A month without soup in Romania is suicide. For us, it is an everyday meal, and we usually eat it as a first dish for lunch. Soups are also complex and based on certain recipes. But in France first dish is mostly salad, and tomatoes – separately. So you first eat just tomatoes, then just salad, then you can get some food. When I told this to my father, he called them rabbits. As I said, for us, salad is a side dish, and not an appetizer or main course. Unless you are on a diet. In France you put two-tree tomatoes on your plate, same with salad, until the bowl finishes. After, they bring the bowls with the main course, which can vary. If it is not processed food, I can say that it is healthier than the Romanian one, but I did not considered it many times as cooked food.

The bread is never ate by itself. If you eat bread, you usually put the food on bread, eat with some butter or clean your plate at the end. In Romania, we take some food on the fork, we take a piece of our slice of bread, after we put some salad on the fork and so on. Also, we eat way more bread. While living there, I was eating most of it. And they clean the plate with bread a lot more than we do. I sometimes do that too, but I felt like a weirdo, when after eating the salad, everyone was cleaning the vinegar left in the plate with bread, while I was doing it with a tissue, because for me it was disgusting to eat bread with vinegar.

After, especially in a meal with a large number of people, there is the cheese plate, with different types of cheese and wine, of course. I love wine and cheese, so I was pretty happy about it. And some desert, if you can still eat something.

In the end, all the dishes go in the dishwasher. I don’t know about you, but in Romania we wash the dishes after every meal, and a dishwasher is considered as luxury. Not because we are so poor, but because it is not considered as a necessity. In French households it is. Every time I told this to French people, they were telling me that it is more economic and necessary.

So by conclusion, it is not 100% accurate, but I consider it the art of cooking vs. the art of eating. For Romanians cooking is more like a ritual than eating, while French are the opposite with the dining etiquette. I was very excited to notice such differences, and to experience the French way of dining and cuisine.

But after returning home, the first thing I did was to eat a soup. And I still don’t use a knife, except when I really need it. I eat the main course with salad and bread. And I put as much as I think I will eat in the plate at once, then more if I am still hungry.

You know what my father said, when he met my boyfriend? “I like this guy. He filled his plate twice! He likes my food!”

11855568_10207578998333976_1689911264_n

What do you consider me?

I’ve met so may great people and had amazing experiences while working in Transylvania Hostel.

One of them is Mike, a retired police officer, senior patrol officer and trainer at Montgomery police department, who is now traveling all over the world. He is an amazing person: intelligent, nice and extremely polite. I still remember the day I was working on something and having a long conversation downstairs with my boss Brian (with who if you start talking you don’t finish soon, a great guy, boss and conversation partner), when at some point he told me:

I think I saw someone going upstairs with a backpack. Well, Bobo

Well, Bobo (our colleague), is upstairs, I reply. Okay then,

Okay then, he said, and we continue talking.

When I went upstairs Margareta, the cleaning lady, told me: Oh, you should see, we have a very handsome, nice and polite guest. Indeed, he was.

The next day we went for dinner, then for a couple of drinks with the guests. Another great day out! At some point I joined a conversation in the corner where Mike was sitting when he ask me:

What do you consider me?

Well, American!

You see what am I talking about? This is amazing! he told Brian.

Why is it amazing? I asked.

Because in the US everyone would reply black. But this never happens to me in Europe.

Because we don’t share the same history. For us, you are American, not just black. And being black is part of our image of Americans.

After, we started to talk about history, racism, America, European culture and people, and many other things. Including the fact that in Europe being black is actually a good thing: many times man and women find black people attractive. I never heard anyone complaining about this so far.