Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Different country, different lifestyle

One of the things that always strikes me when spending some extended period in another country is how quickly one’s lifestyle changes and adapts to the local environment. Interestingly this includes many areas of life such as sleep patterns, nutrition, communication, etc. which are normally seen as being very ingrained and hard to change.

Anyway, below is a list of areas where I consider my Vienna and Kathmandu lives to be (radically) different.

Sleep: Back home I generally average between 4.5 and 6 hours of sleep per night during the week. Here in Nepal I normally manage to get 6 to 7 hours of sleep which really does make quite a difference in terms of how quickly I manage to get out of bed in the morning.

Food: While I could write a whole weekly column just on the topic of food I’m going to keep it short by saying that my diet here is radically different. Instead of starting into my day with a huge cup of black tea, bread with whatever the fridge offers and yoghurt my Nepali breakfast consists of bottled water and some crackers, a chocolate bar or (if we’ve been to the awesome local German bakery down the street the day before) some croissants or something. Lunch at the office is always daal bhaat (Nepali national meal which consists of rice with various vegetables with quite a bit of curry and chilies) which is served at 11:30AM. In Vienna on the other hand I tend to go out for lunch at 12:30PM or 1PM. Sometimes I buy a snack at the supermarket but most often I eat at university or one of the many eateries close to home or work. In the evenings I almost always eat at home whereas here we always go out to eat something.

Caffeine: I don’t think my caffeine intake has ever been this low in the past 6 years or so. While I’m not much of a coffee drinker - I normally might have 3 or 4 cups a week (and twice that during crunch-periods) - I do drink quite a lot of black tea, ice tea and Coca Cola back home. Around here I only drink two small cups of Chya (tea with milk and some sort of spices) a day and the occasional glass of Coca Cola. I guess it’s really the increased amount of sleep that allows me to stay productive without my regular caffeine fix.

Mobile phone: While I’m not reachable on my mobile phone 24/7 (I turn it off when I sleep) it certainly is a key communication tool for me to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues. I also use it extensively to check my e-mails when I’m out and about and to manage my schedule, to-do lists and notes. However since my Austrian phone doesn’t work here I bought a cheap €20 Nokia phone (which comes with a very useful flashlight!) and got a local SIM last week. Now except for my daily use of that flashlight and the alarm clock I’ve maybe made and received less than half a dozen short phone calls. Which is interesting because that’s also the way I used my first mobile phone (in late 2001) before these things became mandatory and ubiquitous.

iPod touch: There’s hardly a waking hour in Austria when I don’t have my iPod touch on me or at least within an arm’s length of wherever I’m sitting. I use it to listen to podcasts from/to work or when riding the metro, check  my e-mails and tweets all throughout the day, surf the Web while sitting in lectures or cafés, etc. So I definitely use it *a lot*. In Nepal on the other hand I’ve yet to use the iPod even once. The walk to work is too short to merit listening to a podcast, when I’m out in the evenings or on weekends I prefer to take in the environment around me rather than listen to music and at home I now actually spend more time reading books and articles instead of keeping constant tabs on what’s going on in the depths of the Internet.

Books: As mentioned both above and in a previously blog entry I tend to be quite bad when it comes to reading books while I’m Vienna. However here I’ve already read two books in the 3 weeks since I arrived.

Language: Even when I’m in Austria I tend to spend a lot of time reading, writing and listening to things in English which naturally also leads to quite  a bit of my thinking seemingly being in English. However since I got here I’ve barely written a dozen German e-mails and, what’s more important, have maybe spent a total of 30min talking in German with various people. This is certainly quite an interesting experience which I haven’t really had since my exchange year in Peru in 2000-2001.

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