May, 2019 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Howdy!

 

It feels like just yesterday I was writing about my initial impressions of Strasbourg.  This semester has been one filled with growth and experiences that I remember for the rest of my life.

 

While in Strasbourg, I learned many of the nuances of doing business in France as compared to the United States.  For example, many of the French people can speak English, but if you begin conversations in French, they will treat you much nicer.  As I learned in one of my classes, this comes from the pride the French have in their language.  Even if you cannot speak fluently, communicating in the native language goes a long way.  Another thing is that the French take their work breaks very seriously.  This applies to vacation time, lunch breaks, weekends, or even breaks from class.  At EM Strasbourg, classes were three hours long.  This is a long time to listen to a lecture and many times we would be given a couple breaks throughout class.  During this time, professors encouraged the students to use the break to walk around, grab coffee, whatever we needed in order to be more engaged with the lecture.  This applies to businesses around France as well.  Businesses in France are closed or close very early on Sundays.  In America, we would view this as an inconvenience since our culture is one of satisfying demands immediately.  Additionally, many businesses that are not restaurants close during the work week by 6.  The French make sure workers are resting from their job and get breaks in order to work more efficiently and productively.  One thing that stood out to me in my finance class was the fact that French students were learning about what was happening economically in France, the EU, and the United States.  The students are aware of world economics as opposed to focusing solely on what was going on in their own country.

 

I learned so much during my time in Strasbourg.  Everyday activities, interactions in the classroom, and just talking to my international friends opened my eyes to how different cultures are from one another.  My time throughout my study abroad was filled with countless interactions and experiences that taught me so much.  The four months abroad flew by and I can’t wait for my next international experience.

Categories: 2019, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Hey! I just finished up my semester in France and am now back in Houston.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have spent the past 4 months in Europe.  It opened my eyes to new ideas and ways of life that at first seemed “weird” but soon became the norm.

Doing business in France differs from the way we do business in the states in several aspects.  One of the biggest differences is the length of the workweek.  France established a 35-hour workweek in 2000 for two reasons.  First, to lower the unemployment rate by allowing job sharing, and second, to decrease the amount of time French citizens spend at work.  This five-hour difference was definitely noticeable.

The French take longer lunch breaks.  In fact, some stores will even close for a few hours in the middle of the day to give the owners/employees time to rest.  On top of that, it was common for shops and even grocery stores to close early in the evening.  The grocery store by my dorm closed at 8:30pm.  In addition, most stores in Strasbourg were either closed all day Sunday or Monday.  At first, this was difficult to get used to and sometimes frustrating, especially when we’d get home from traveling and not be able to get food at the store.  But, this concept grew on me and I now see the benefits of this shorter workweek.

The French seemed much more relaxed than Americans.  Sundays in Strasbourg were packed with families walking around town and spending time outdoors.  People took full advantage of nice weather and filled the parks with picnicking or sunbathing.  And almost everyone bikes or walks everywhere.  It’s not uncommon for people to not own a car.  Having to walk everywhere definitely slowed my pace down, and allowed me to appreciate the little things.  I learned my way around much quicker and tried to spend most of the sunny days outside.

Another difference relating to business between France and the United States is the power distance.  France has a high degree of power distance, meaning there’s a large hierarchal gap between people.  Children are raised to be dependent on their parents which later shifts to dependency on teachers and then superiors.  There’s an acceptable level of inequality within their society.  Power is very centralized within businesses and the government.  For example, in school, teachers and students have a very distant, unequal, formal relationship.  Communication between the two should solely be about classroom content.  Contrast to the US, where most teachers do not view themselves as superior, and some even become mentors to their students.  In US companies, power is usually more distributed rather than centralized.

Overall, learning about the French culture helped me better appreciate our culture here in the US, but also showed me where we can improve.  I don’t know if a shorter workweek would be a good solution, but I do think there’s a better way to balance work and personal life.  The French lifestyle moves at a slower pace.  Long meals along with quiet Sundays allows them to spend quality time with family and friends without feeling rushed.  Often times, I get caught up in my responsibilities that I rarely push them aside to spend uninterrupted time with people I love.  I think it’s important to take time off to appreciate what’s around us.

I wouldn’t trade these past four months for anything, I was able to learn so much through the people I met and the places we visited.  This experience gave me memories that will last a lifetime!

– Jordan

Feel free to contact me: jordanbounds@tamu.edu if you have any questions about study abroad in Strasbourg 🙂

Categories: 2019, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy all,

The semester has finally come to a close and while all feel relieved to be done with finals, the handful of us on exchange are struck with the realization that we are about to go home. It’s such an odd feeling of excitement and sadness all at once. I am thrilled to be going home but I know I am also going to quickly miss being in Ireland not too long after my return. Luckily, however, I will be taking back with me many memories, souvenirs and more importantly new knowledge gained from my time studying at the University of Limerick.

Business in Ireland is a bit different than what we are used to in the United States. Things are much more relaxed and informal than what we typically expect in a professional setting back home. Correspondence with superiors and colleagues is much like how you would address a friend or close work acquaintance. Language towards one another is always quite unique in terms of the informality, slang, and even profanity used when addressing one another. I had previously mentioned the concept of Irish time in my first post, the idea that typically things run a few minutes behind schedule. This lax take on time schedule applies to even the most professional of entities in Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish people are fairly focused on social issues such as the status of workers’ rights or income inequality. The society as a whole favors more welfare based governmental systems in order to provide a more equal system of living for its citizens. In classes over organizational behavior and business statistics, examples and concepts were often looked at from a more progressive and social aspect such as emotional work, inequality statistics, and other similar ideas. These instances reinforced the social ideology that I had been exposed to all semester long. To some, I suppose, that can be seen as a good thing but from what I noticed, this definitely comes at a fairly high cost for the quality of life of Ireland as a whole. Relatively high prices for everyday items and poor infrastructure are two of the biggest things that come to my mind. Regardless of this fact, however, the Irish are still quite positive people who are proud of their heritage and live a comfortable life style. I, personally, do not think I could work in Ireland simply because of their interpretation of how things are supposed to be run, but I do appreciate the exposure and experience to life in a system like the one in Ireland. If anyone reading this does appreciate a more relaxed and unstructured form of business, maybe Ireland is a place for you!

Anyways, today is my last day in Europe. I am currently in London where I await my morning flight tomorrow out of London Gatwick airport flying into Austin. I left Ireland this past Saturday right after my final and I can honestly say I already miss it. Maybe that has to do with my distaste for London but I think it’s because, to me, Ireland truly became my home away from home and now I’m moving away for good. The people and culture there is so inviting and fun. Though hard to meet with Irish students who tended to stick with just their Irish friends, I made plenty of international friends who I will miss dearly. The last picture is a group photo of a Gaelic Games class I took with all international students where we were taught how to play Hurling and Gaelic football. I hope to stay in contact with the lot of them and perhaps even run into them again somewhere down the road. I will not soon forget my amazing experience at UL and I will always cherish the memories and life lessons learned on the Emerald Isle!

Categories: 2019, Ireland, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy! Now that my semester has come to an end, I have noticed many trends in the way the French interact as opposed to us Americans. Through my classes, outings in Strasbourg, and many other experiences in Europe I have learned a few things. First of all, in both school and work the women have a slightly different dress code. They wear less makeup and usually don’t wear heels. This is because all of the walking that they have to do, whereas we use cars more to get around every day. Wearing uncomfortable shoes is simply impractical and too much make up is unreasonable to them. I also noticed that the French take more time for their meals. A meal is something to be enjoyed and not rushed like us Americans do on our 20 minute lunch breaks. Because of this, they are given very lenient lunch break times. Adding on to the subject of breaks, most people here smoke and take cigarette breaks as opposed to our quick coffee breaks for that much needed mid-day energy. And when the French need more than just a small break, they are offered an abundance more of vacation time. They believe that it is important to balance life and relaxation with work because it makes for a more happy and productive workforce. Even on Sundays everything is shut down, from restaurants to banks, making it very inconvenient if you haven’t done your grocery shopping yet for the week. On more of a business note, the French tend to have a strict hierarchy between coworkers and their employers. It is very evident how formal they can be with their work and it is essential that it is taken seriously. Despite learning all of these differences between American business practices and those of France, all of the friends I have made have showed me many other valuable skills for doing business with those across the world. I learned that Germans are very strong willed and don’t run away from a heated argument about politics like we often try to avoid. Those in the Netherlands believe in having a large amount of trust with their business partners as well as relationships. The Australians have a very laid back culture and do business somewhat like we do. It was all of the wonderful people I have met and amazing experiences I have encountered on my exchange that has given me the intercultural knowledge that I now possess. With this, I will continue to move forward and expand my knowledge in the business world now that I know how valuable it is to have this cultural awareness and know the ins and outs of others in different parts of the world.

Categories: 2019, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy,

My name is Parker and I have just finished my second month of exchange in Milan, Italy.  I know my first impression blog post is a little bit past due, but it seems fitting to me as after two months of living here I finally feel like I am settled in and can call this place home.

Milan, at first glance, isn’t how I imagined a typical Italian would look.  With busy streets, big buildings and cars honking on every block, Milan seemed to have more a New York or San Francisco feel.  While the big city atmosphere was initially intimidating after a week of exploring the streets I found that the city is far more enriched in Italian culture than I initially thought.  With small, family owned shops on every corner you can learn a lot about the local cuisine as well as the social atmosphere.

I knew coming into Milan that many people consider it to be a fashion capital.  However, I could not have been more surprised with how much fashion plays a role in the every day lives of the people that live here.  Wearing T-shirts to class is not an option here.  Sometimes it feels like even my nice clothes don’t cut it.  You can see designer brands as you walk through the hallways, ride on the subway, or even work out in the gym.  Fashion is such an important part of not just the Italian culture but especially the Milan culture and that has taken some time (and shopping) to get used to.

After two months I can honestly say that I finally feel like I have settled into the lifestyle here.  There are still mild differences that throw me off every once in a while, but for the most part I don’t feel like my life is all that different from my life back home.  It has been a great start to my time abroad and I am so excited to see what the net couple of months have in store.

 

-Parker

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange