Getting familiar with the US
by Markus Winkler
When I was in the US eleven years ago, we regularly met in a small group for lunch in the little garden of the local snack bar right next to the company building. There, we had our “German table”. Of course it was about providing a couple of words in German, but even bigger was the interest in the small things regarding the way of living differs between the US and Austria. Once I brought Euros to the “German table” just to show them to my colleagues. The result was a very entertaining talk for more than one hour where we discussed how to tip a waiter in each country, how to pay for your groceries and why you have to pay for a bag in order to finally put your stuff into your just bought bag and why it is common in Austria to pay your fee cash immediately to the police after you got pulled over and why this would not be smart to be done in the US.
Due to the great interest, the HR department in the US organized a couple of meetings regarding “Dos and don’ts” for US colleagues traveling to Austria for the first time. There, I told them about the daily life in Europe and Austria and made them aware of the differences to expect – so to say, I was a living FAQ travel guide! For me it was not a big effort but it was warmly welcomed by the colleagues who were also thankful that I had answers to their questions about the strange Austrians. Therefore, I also know that thanks to the movie “The Sound of Music” Austrians have their image of running around in Dirndl and Lederhosen in daily life. Everyone who does not know the answer, please ask Google and you will immediately be surprised by the great success of this movie – but only outside of Austria – and you will be able to answer yourself.
But there are also a number of very personal memories from my time in the US. Such as my first Thanksgiving with Pete Hansen and his family. It might not look like it is something very special, but knowing that Thanksgiving in the US is the family celebration number one, even more important than Christmas, and that the entire family comes together from all parts of the world, it gets a much different value. Especially being invited as a person outside the family. Or has anyone of us Europeans invited a TGW colleague from another country to their family Christmas celebration? It was a great feeling to be integrated in the social and private life of a family far away from home – and years after that, I am still thankful for this experience.
Looking back, there have been loads of experiences that enriched my life during my stay in the US and that offered me new insights into a culture that I benefit from in my daily deeds. Maybe it was the view from afar onto my usual environment which let me think sometimes and let me laugh out loud, which fascinated me in a way that still makes me feel like an ambassador ten years after my return. I am still happy about every call of visit of a US colleague. And the story continues.