First day in Argentina

So folks, I have FINALLY arrived in Buenos Aires!

So here is how the day went! After packing all 29Kg(63 lbs) of my things in my suitcase I headed to Berlin Tegel Airport. I had my flight booked with British Airways, so I was supposed to fly from Berlin to London then directly to Buenos Aires. I was a bit concerned when I saw that my connecting time in London was only 1 hour considering it’s the biggest airport in Europe! When I arrived, they told me the flight was delayed and there’s probably no chance I would make the connecting flight in London. I was instantly disappointed, but they assured they could book me onto a Lufthansa flight, which shocked me since they aren’t even in the same alliance! So that is what I did, they booked me over Frankfurt instead which gave me more time to make my flight, and Lufthansa is a great airlines so I can’t complain.

Once I got to Frankfurt I looked on the screen for my flight and saw a one hour delay. Damn. So I went to the desk anyhow and requested a window or aisle seat and got lucky with an aisle seat! I sat down in the gate area and almost everyone was speaking Spanish! There was even a sports team from Argentina sitting in a group laughing and drinking Mate(a very popular drink in South America). After waiting a while they assured us our plane from Hong Kong had arrived but that it was broken and would not fly! But the good news is that they had another plane for us, but our flight was delayed another hour! Finally around 1 AM we took off and headed out on our 11,200Km (ca. 7000 Miles) 13 hour journey! As we approached Buenos Aires I saw the beautiful Rio del Plata out of the window, and then the city. At that instant I had a culture shock, WOW this city is huge! It’s never ending and all close together, so intense I wish I had taken a picture!

After landing all the Argentinians clapped their hands, something I had never seen on a plane before, but I suppose it’s a cultural difference! As I walked off the plane I was reminded that its winter here now! It wasn’t too bad, but definitely a difference. We went to our passport check lines and there was a special one for Australians, Canadians and US-Americans. Unfortunately since we make it so hard for people to get into the US, they have set up a fee for us to pay when we enter Argentina! So I paid 140$ to get in, but the women told me it’s good for 10 years and was actually friendly about it.

Off to the baggage claim, it took a long time and it was a huge unorganized mess. Once I finally got my luggage I waited in a huge long unorganized line for an hour just to show that I don’t have anything to declare at customs. I met an American man from the bay area (what a coincidence) as a flight from San Francisco/D.C. had just arrived near ours. We talked in the line then immediately walked over to the Remise (private car taxi) desk. People from each stand were trying to get our attention “taxi?taxi?” . So we both booked a taxi and then looked for the ATM. A nice guy working for the company assisted us to the ATM and held our suitcases and then took us to our cars. I said bye to the American and got into my car. The driver was nice but crazy, after 10 seconds of driving we almost got into a car accident and he started making faces at the other driver! Then we waited probably 20 minutes to get out of the airport and off we went. He drove quickly and I looked out the window and texted my dad that I was alright. There were decayed buildings all over the place and old cars that looked like they shouldn’t be on the road. The apartments were so close to the freeway, literally 2 feet away. Once we got to the city center it started reminding me more of Spain but slightly dirtier.

I got to my hotel and the ladies at the front desk were very friendly to me. They gave me an adapter to keep for my plugs and offered me some of their pizza. It looked so delicious but I kindly declined. I got to my room and took a siesta, a shower and then watched some TV. In the evening I headed outside to get some food and bottled water and walked around the streets here. Mind you, the bread sticks I bought were probably the best bread sticks I’ve ever had in my life! A good word to describe this place would be “intense”. People are walking all over the streets, cars are driving crazy, alarms going off and sirens as well. Many of the sidewalks are broken and the buildings look old and falling apart. The market was small and things were displayed differently. It’s hard to explain but let’s just say it wasn’t as clean as any supermarket I am familiar with. None of these things are bad though, I find it very interesting and new. I am totally excited and motivated to see more.

When I returned to the hotel I rested and heard a weird sound so I looked out my window. There was a talking car driving by! It was literally a car with a speaker on top. I assume it had something to do with elections coming up and for somebody’s campaign. Later in the evening a woman my dad will potentially do business with gave me a call. She lives in Cordoba where I am headed later today to spend my first month in Argentina. It’s such a good timing coincidence that she contacted us right before I move to her city. She was so nice and said that she will come to the airport today to meet me even though I am already getting picked up by my agency. She wants to introduce herself and give me her contact information and show me around Cordoba this weekend and introduce me to all of her friends and nieces who are my age. I was shocked but flattered by this. I don’t think I have ever experienced such hospitality in my life! People are so nice here so far. I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of my time will go. Now I must prepare to head to Cordoba. That’s it for now!

A quick view out my hotel room window

Advertisements

CouchSurfing

For the past 2.5 years CouchSurfing has been a big part of my life. What is “CouchSurfing” you ask? It is a community with approximately 3 million members around the world from 246 different countries. The main concept is to meet people from all over the world and “surf” or rather sleep on their couch, mattress, or whatever they offer for no money. As a “host” you write a description about your couch, and your so to speak “rules”. But it is more than just sleeping somewhere for free; the best part is getting to know these amazing people and learning from them whether it be how to cook a new dish or say a few words in another language. I personally am not much of a host or surfer, but rather more of a “social CouchSurfer.” I attend and organize local events here in Berlin! A few memorable events I’ve attended were things such as watching the world cup in the park with 50 people, swimming in a lake after midnight, a pub-crawl to small local bars in dodgy part of Berlin with 100 people, a few fondue dinners, and many more! Also if I am traveling somewhere alone and don’t know anyone, I write a few people messages and ask if they would like to meet up for a drink and show me around the city. A city is much more enjoyable with a local point of view instead of the typical tourist route.  Everyone I have met from CouchSurfing has been very open minded and interested in traveling like me, so we have a lot in common. I consider many of these people close friends now, and if it weren’t for CouchSurfing I would have never met them. Many people think that it is crazy or risky, but on peoples profile pages there are references from other people writing about their personal experience with this person. There is also something called “vouching” which helps determine if the person is trustworthy. If you “vouch” for someone it means you confirm they are a real person and you trust them. The more vouches, the better. Now that I have made friends from all over the world, I would gladly offer them my couch if they pass through Berlin, and I believe they would do the same for me, which in the end is also another form of networking. I am proud to say that CouchSurfing was founded in San Francisco, California close to where I am from. Hopefully I have put some ideas into your head and inspired a few of you to register!! Help someone out, and benefit at the same time by getting to know an amazing interesting new person, who afterwards, would most likely offer you a place to stay in whatever interesting corner of the world they come from!

My profile

A Few memorable pictures with CouchSurfers

Fondue/Raclette Night

Exploring Copenhagen!

After nightswimming

Kopi, Berlin

Pub-Crawl through Berlin-Wedding with ca. 100 Couchsurfers

Germany vs. U.S.A.

I’ve spent the past two and a half years living in Germany and over time I have made many realizations and observations of some differences in our cultures.  I feel as if I have learned a lot more about the United States as soon as I moved away from there. None of what I am about to write are stereotypes, just personal experiences and things I have noticed. I do love living in Germany although I have had my obstacles at times. Here we go!

In the states we tend to only speak English OR Spanish, probably due to the fact that we only need 2 years of a foreign language in school. In Germany most people speak 2 or 3 languages which must be because they are required to learn English and another language for about 7 years in school.

In the U.S.A. we obviously don’t drink in public due to our strict drinking laws, but in Germany its completely accepted and normal to see men drinking a beer on the S-Bahn on the way home from a hard days work.

Here’s a funny one, in the US, Americans tend to dance with their lower halves of their body, most of the men don’t even really dance, however in Germany men and women dance, but more with their upper bodies and “party fingers in the air”. To add to this, clubs in the US tend to play mostly Hip-Hop and pop music, and in Germany (and Europe in general), more electronic music is played throughout the clubs.

Americans are not always on time, sometimes about 5-10 minutes late, which is OK in my book, but if you’re meeting a German or Germans, punctuality is very important, as they rarely are late!

Yes its true, in the USA we have much bigger streets, and big cars that guzzle gas. Germany and Europe have smaller streets and smaller more practical cars. I’m sure this has to do with the history and how long ago the streets and buildings around them were built.

In the United States we like our water cold, with ice and non-carbonated. In Germany if you ask for a water (Wasser), you will automatically be given/served carbonated water. I don’t understand why this is, but to this day I still stand with the Americans on this one!

In the U.S. Christmas Eve is celebrated on December 24th and Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December, also the day the gifts are opened. In Germany however, people celebrate Christmas and open gifts on the 24th of December. They do however also have a holiday called “Nikolaustag” on the 6th of December where children leave their shoes out and hope to find candy in them from the alleged St. Nikolaus!

Americans go to the supermarket probably about once a week. Germans go to the supermarket usually at least 3 times a week. I assume this has to do with the fact that Americans have big cars to transport the food. Germans also tend to eat healthier, fresher foods whereas Americans are no enemy to  processed, microwavable foods.

The well-traveled tourism student I am, I must mention that Americans travel a lot less than Germans. This must be partially due to the fact that the average American has 9 working days off a year, and the average German, 30 days off. The United States is also a huge country with many different climates and places to visit, also meaning that traveling outside of the country doesn’t come cheap. Germany is smaller in size, and located in central Europe. Europe is also fortunate enough to have budget airlines making traveling inner Europe easy, and to some extent cheap! Only 37% of Americans have passports, meaning 2 out of 3 Americans cant even fly into Canada or anywhere else for that matter.

Americans love their air conditioning. In cars, in schools, restaurants, etc. Sometimes its even TOO much that it makes people sick or get sore throats, however I have never had a problem with it. In Germany (and most of Europe) air conditioning isn’t as readily available even when its really needed in the summer! Some cars in Germany don’t even have AC built in them!

A silly one, but American men normally DON’T wear skinny jeans, unless they are hipster or gay. German and European men in general DO wear skinny jeans, I personally don’t see anything wrong with it!

In the U.S. waiters/waitresses bring you the bill BEFORE you even ask for it. I find it quite rude and that it initiates that they want you to leave. In Germany a waiter or waitress would never give you the check before asking, unless however the restaurant was closing for the night. I find this nice though, not having to be rushed out of a place just so other people can take a seat.

The last important point I am going to make is the fact that Americans tend to not be as direct and honest as the Germans. Americans don’t want to offend or hurt peoples feelings, even if they have to lie a little bit. Germans are very direct and honest. I think that both extremes are not very well, Americans should not lie, but at the same time Germans should not be so honest to the point of hurting someones feelings. Tough situation.

So, as you can see, the devil is in the details. The American and the European cultures might not seem much different at first glance. But due to those tiny little differences, adjusting to a culture takes more than just reading a Lonely Planet book.

24 Hours without Facebook

A few days ago I deactivated my Facebook for 24 hours. I did it because I was frustrated with all the errors Facebook has been having lately. I also spend a lot of time on Facebook so I decided it would be nice to take a break and make a little “experiment” out of it. After these 24 hours were up, I realized how much of a Facebook addict I really am. Of course I am not going to get rid of Facebook forever, its too much of a valuable network to just avoid. I was often wondering if people were trying to get a hold of me but then again I also have an Email address, Skype, and a telephone number, so it really shouldn’t be hard to reach me. I did however receive a few emails, and text messages from people asking me if “everything is alright” and “what happened to your Facebook?” I find it amusing and at the same time flattering that people seemed concerned because my Facebook was shut off.

What I noticed during these 24 hours is that I was still on the computer for a while. Just because I wasn’t on Facebook doesn’t mean that I wasn’t on Skype, MSN, Couchsurfing or checking my Gmail every few hours. I do realize though that today more people tend to check their Facebooks than their E-mail. I personally have nothing against E-mail, I find it good, private and professional, but people in this generation are easier to reach on Facebook.Luckily you and I are not the only ones addicted to Facebook.

Facebook is an amazing social network despite their frighteningly accurate advertisement placement. I love the fact that when I post photos my friends and family can see them and write comments, jokes or “like” it. Of course you can do that on other websites like Flickr, but not everyone has a Flickr account. Many people tend to complain about how Facebook has access to their photos, information etc. Well if you have private photos or information you don’t want to share, then DON’T POST IT ON FACEBOOK! Problem solved. I am also not so big on the news, but because of Facebook and what my fellow Facebook friends post on their walls, I never miss an important event or newsflash.

A few days before I deactivated my Facebook one of my friends accidentally broke my Smart-phone (Nokia N97). I realized also from this experience how dependent we are on our technology. Sure a smart-phone is unnecessary, but it makes life easier. Why have a normal phone when you can have a phone with E-mail, Skype, Facebook, a good quality camera, and even navigation on it. Its amazing how far we have come with Technology today. I even heard Nokia has released a phone that converts body heat into battery power. What will they think of next?!

So my last word. Never forget how lucky we are that we have the internet,Facebook,Smart-phones, etc. I cant even imagine what life was like when my parents were growing up. No internet, no cell phones, how could one survive? I challenge you, if you are a Facebook addict, try just to give it up for one day. Don’t just log out, deactivate it. It sounds easier than it is. You will be surprised how liberating it is to feel “disconnected” from the world for a few hours.


Why Buenos Aires?

Many of you are probably wondering why I chose Buenos Aires for my internship. So I have decided to make a list and explain why.

1) I want to improve and master my Spanish! Why not Spain? explanation below!

2) I want to get out of Europe, North America and see a new continent! This world is too big and beautiful to miss out on.

3)There are many Spanish speaking countries in South America, but I want to learn the Rioplatense dialect! I find that this dialect of Spanish is absolutely fantastic!

4) Buenos Aires is the Capital and largest Metropolitan in Argentina with about 13 million inhabitants. I love big cities, so much to see and do!

5) Ive heard that Buenos Aires is considered the “Paris of the south” or “the most European city in South America” and I feel like it would be a good idea to “ease into Latin America” instead of having a culture shock to death 😉

6) One last word: TANGO!!!

Thanks for reading ! xx

Taking an “Urlaubssemester”

What is an ‘Urlaubssemester’ you might ask?
Well in German, “Urlaub” means vacation;holiday, and “semester” is of course the same as in English.
So yes, I am taking a “vacation semester” off, although I’m not going ON vacation 🙂
As many of you know, Ive lived in Germany the past two and a half years,and the last year and a half I have been studying International Tourism here in Berlin, for my Bachelors degree.
Since i was crazy and decided to take the hard way out, by studying in another language, I have had some challenges. Ive done well but every semester so far I have had “Nachprüfungen”, better known as “make-up exams” in English. In the German school system if you fail an exam you have 2 more chances to take it and pass it. If you have to take the exam the third time, the highest grade you can get is a 4 (a D by American standards). If you fail your 3rd time you cant go on with your semester.. you have to go back to that semester and re-do JUST that class…which is nonsense..
But dont be scared for me, this DIDNT happen in my case 🙂
The 3rd semester was one of the hardest times of my life. It was winter, dark, cold, and we had about 17 different classes. A total of ca. 35 hours of class a week!! Pretty much a full time job. I had a few exams I had to make up from the 2nd semester..that continued with me during the whole 3rd semester. Luckily by the end of it I had passed everything (throughout the 4 months of the 3rd semester). Due to asthma,stress and other things, i didn’t do as well in the 3rd semester as I had hoped.
I came to a mature decision myself and decided I want to re-do my 3rd semester and take it slower. I mean after all, its crazy at all that I study 100% in German! Ive done well so far, but of course I run into obstacles. In the end of October I will begin my 3rd semester again,with a new group of people, a few months rest/internship experience, and a better grip of the subjects! I am motivated! 🙂 The professors also praised me on my “wise” decision, and I am thankful to have their support as well as from friends and family!
For the next few weeks I will be in Berlin, perhaps doing some side jobs for some extra cash. Then at the end of June or beginning of July I will be headed to SOUTH America! Buenos Aires, Argentina to be exact. For a few weeks I will take an intensive Spanish class then I will do a 12 week internship. I will be working for a Tour Operator called Say Hueque where I will be organizing personalized tours through Argentina and Chile for Independent travelers, handling English and German speaking customers, and helping write the travel blog for their website! This job sounds PERFECT for me I could not be happier that I got this position and I am very much looking forward to it. As I am not that much of an experienced blogger, this blog will be good practice for me, and also keep everyone whose interested, updated on what I am up to!
Thank you for reading
Nat