On the first day of class, my students asked about my accent and once they knew I was born and raised in Austria asked which country I like better – Austria or the U.S. The question seems simple and straightforward and its answer is most likely not even that interesting to my students, but it is a difficult one to answer for me. One of the problems is that I have lived in more than just these two countries, so it seems odd to me to choose between these two options only. Another issue is that I have realized that no place is truly perfect but every place is memorable in its own way.
So after giving the question more thought than I am sure my students ever intended, I replied that at the moment the best match for me is the U.S. I doubt I would fit in better anywhere else. My recent trip to Austria, the month-long visit of my Austrian cousin who has never been to the U.S. before, and my students’ question have shown me that I have become quite Americanized:
- I automatically assume service personnel is going to be friendly and talkative and am not surprised if they are not grumpy.
- I tip often and generously and I do not mind it.
- I dress according to the weather and activity with emphasis on practicality/comfort but still style and not on whether it would fit on the pages of a fashion magazine, which seems to be the worry of European tourists in miniskirts and high heels in Death Valley in the middle of summer.
- I understand what hot temperatures are and how they can affect one [yes, this is still about the tourists in Death Valley on an August afternoon].
- I realize that there are plenty of places where there is nothing – no building or cross-street – for many miles.
- I am much more talkative with strangers and servers than I have ever been.
American friends still point to odd Austrian habits and more American traits recently acquired could be listed, but it is clear that I am a hybrid affected by my environment and still changing.