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Intercultural Challenges
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Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse Occidentale
47.362533, 7.352284
Topic Cultural Differences

I decided to do the essay with two other exchange students as a final transfer task of Module 3: Living stay abroad as enrichment. I chose two exchange students from our class who are from Spain and Canada (Quebec).


I am doing my student exchange at university called HES-SO Valais-Wallis in Switzerland. The university is located in city named Sierre, in the South-West Switzerland. In our university there is only five to ten exchange students, so not many.


At first when I arrived to Switzerland I noticed that train tickets here usually are not for train at specific time, those are valid to use at any time of the day. That was the first positive thing that I noticed, already at the first train ride which I took from the airport to Sierre.


During these couple months that I have spent in Switzerland, I have noticed that in general Swiss people are very polite and hospitable. Example if I have seen some resident at the first time in the staircase of my resident building and said “Hello” or in French “Salut”, they say also hello and immediately come to shake hands and introduce themselves. Swiss people are also really curios about you and everything about Finland. When seeing how polite Swiss people are, I have also started to saying “Hello” to people who I don’t even know, example in my resident building’s staircase. In general, I also think that my behaviour is politer and hospitable than it was before in Finland.


There was couple negative things that I have noticed during these couple months. For example, I thought that the Sierre would be little bigger and more to do. Sierre is more of a village than city. During the weekends we usually travel around Switzerland with other exchange students. Also in Finland I have used to that stores are open late on weekdays and also open on Sundays. In Switzerland the all stores close not later than 18:30 and none of the stores is open on Sundays. This is one thing that was hard for me at the beginning. Like you can’t go do your grocery shopping late in the evening or on Sundays. After these couple months I have get used to the opening hours of shops, so that is not problem anymore.


I think the university itself is little harder than in Finland. Like when I compare the studies in here to studies at Haaga-Helia. There we have project on every course and even can be two exams per subject during the semester. At first when I heard about every project etc. it felt that I had really much to do during semester. After these couple months I realized that there is not so much to do, because many of the projects are group work, so the workload will divide equally between every member of the group.


I talked about these things what I mentioned with two exchange student from our class. These students were from Spain and Canada (Quebec). In some things we had different opinions and habitudes, but in some things we also agreed.


We talked about train tickets in Finland, Spain and Quebec. The thing that train tickets are available at any time of day was also positive surprise for both of them. Because they had used to it also that if you buy train ticket, then it is valid only for that train you selected when booking the ticket, which leaves at specific time. So with this thing we all agreed that it was positive surprise for all of us.


Next we talked about the politeness and hospitality of Swiss people. For me it was positive surprise, that Swiss people are so polite and hospitable, I expected them to be more like people in Finland. Both students from Spain and Canada, weren’t surprised about the politeness and hospitality. They both said that the people are kind of a same like in their home country. Like in Spain people speak louder than in Finland, and also in Switzerland the speak louder. Exchange student from Canada said that people are kind of same that in Canada, and also they speak French where she lives in Canada and also Sierre is French speaking area. With politeness and hospitality of Swiss people I had different opinion and habitudes with the others.


Next we talked about the opening hours of stores in Switzerland and specific in Sierre. I have used to that grocery stores are open late during weekdays and open in Sundays. Both exchange student from Spain and Canada told also that in their home country the stores are open late at night and also open on weekdays, especially on Sundays. We talked about it and for all of us at first it was little shock that you can’t do groceries late at night, or get something if you are missing it at night. After couple months we are all used to it that stores close early and are not open on Sundays. At this point it is normal for us and we adapted to it. With store openings we all had the same habitude that in our home country we can get, example soda in the middle of the night.


With the studies at the university we all had different habitudes and opinions. From my opinion we have little more work to do and couple more projects than we had during last semester in Finland. The exchange student from Spain said that school is harder here than in Spain and also so much more projects and assignments to do than they have in Spain. In Spain they have only couple hours of school and maybe just one test on one subject during semester and in here we have at least one project and one exam per subject during semester. The exchange student from Canada said that school in here is kind similar that they have in Canada. With studying in here comparing to studying at our home countries we all had different opinions. For me it was little harder, for the Spain exchange student it is totally different and harder and for the Canadian exchange student it is kind of same.



During this final transfer task, I learned a lot about the habitudes in Spain and Canada. I also learned how people from different cultures and countries sees different kind of things. In my opinion this assignment was really good to think about things in Finland and comparing them to Switzerland. It was also interesting to see how my own behaviour has changed little during my exchange. For the remaining time of my student exchange, my goal is to learn more about Switzerland and adapt more of the polite and hospitable culture of Swiss people.



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