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By: Patrick Horstmeier

When psychologists mix cultural differences and fruits

When you tell your family and friends that you will leave the old continent to visit the United States for a year, you are covered with more or less fruitful advice. Some seem coherent, others demonstrate more goodwill than real help. Still others surprise us in their originality...

A friend who had undertaken the opposite journey: from the West Atlantic to the East Atlantic, shared with me a metaphor that a trainer had suggested to her during a preparatory class for her departure. This metaphor compared Americans to mangoes, and Europeans to coconuts. Surprised?

No European visiting the United States can remain indifferent to the friendliness of the Americans. From the very first exchanges everyone is enthusiastic, everyone is adorable. Those who are not used to it will feel like they are best friends with the person they just met after only a few minutes.

This is where mangoes come into play: meeting someone in the United States is like eating a mango. Let me explain. Eat a mango and you will have immediate access to the best side of the fruit. However, you will quickly come across a very hard core. Few people continue to explore this fruit further than this core. Conversely, enjoy a coconut and you will come across an undesirable, dry and hard exterior. Drilling this first layer will not be easy, but once you have passed it, then the whole fruit will offer itself to you.

While as a European I have been used all my life to confronting people who were very hard at first, but whose confidence is quickly earned, the challenge has been reversed here. In comparison, people are much more accessible, but it is perfectly possible to stay in a cordial relationship under a friendly appearance for a long time. During my first few weeks, that surprised me: You may feel like you're dealing with dishonest relationships. However, the more time goes by, the more I think it may be the right way to proceed: Let's be nice to everyone, but let's only trust those who really deserve it.

Be warned American reader! If you were to travel to Europe, don't be surprised to suddenly be confronted with coconuts rather than mangoes...



That's how my first semester in the United States is slowly coming to an end. I will have already spent half of my time on the other side of the Atlantic. The previous story is no exception: I get used to - and enjoy - American culture. It's true: in my country of origin I could probably be accused of cultural violation for eating bacon and eggs for breakfast!

The icing on the cake of the American cultural experience? Thanksgiving. One more celebration I've never experienced combined with a long weekend? What more could you ask for...

I wish you all a great Thanksgiving break!


By: Muzna Hatmi

Brace yourselves, because this post is about to get a little emotional (as I can’t think of happy times without filling myself up with a whole lot of nostalgia, duh). Ok so, here I take a deep breath. I don’t know where to begin.

It only feels like yesterday that I got here, after what seemed like forever (yes, months of planning, working, applying, accepting, and not to forget the 24 hours of travelling). After all that, it’s almost uncomfortable to think that there is only less than a month left of my time at GW. And I’m probably not ready for this to end so soon.

I don’t know when blazing hot summers days turned into winter cold evenings, and when Peet’s iced latte’s turned into peppermint hot mochas (extra hot, please). It’s funny to think that American students I have met here dream of going to Europe for their semester abroad, whereas I, a European student, dreamt all this time to come to the US – to Washington DC. And I’m so lucky to have had that experience. I have to say, I worked hard for it, which is why I wanted to make sure to enjoy each moment.

As I have said before, I’m originally a Pakistani citizen studying in the Netherlands, and so obviously, Urdu and English being my first and second languages, Dutch posed to be an automatic barrier when I first moved abroad for university. And it’s safe to say that some of that still exists. So, when I came here, I felt thrilled that everyone around me spoke English and every website ever didn’t require me to fight my computer for the translation widget to literally do its job (study abroad 101). I’ll probably miss everyone understanding everything I ever said without asking me to wait while they got someone else who knew the word “drain opener,” only that they didn’t know and handed me dishwashing soap instead (student sharing problems 101). Trader Joe’s didn’t play me like that. Also, while we’re speaking of the best grocery store in the world, let’s take a moment to appreciate Trader Joe’s dried mangoes. And also thank America for flaming hot Cheetos; which I have totally not stocked up on to take back home (I should probably do a post on my favorite American junk food because that list is worthwhile, trust me).

Oh America, how I love you. As I’m writing this on a road trip to Chicago, passing by Pennsylvania, glaring at fall trees around me; red, yellow, orange, I’m thinking of the opportunities this place has given me. Studying and courses have been somewhat of a challenge because of differences in education systems, but I have truly learnt from a diversity of professors, students, and teaching styles. DC as a city and GW prides itself for its diverseness, which I admire so much as an international student. From offering prayer rooms on the 4thfloor in Marvin Centre, to hosting thanksgiving dinners in dorms of our orientation-week leaders, I have always felt incredibly welcomed and right at home. Not to forget the incredible shopping and black Friday sales for my shopaholic soul, also the perfect time to buy presents for friends, family and let’s not forget yourself – so that you can tell them you got something for them from the greatest cities in the world, Washington DC.


To be continued…

By: Patrick Horstmeier

The discovery of a new country implies the discovery of cultural differences. As a Frenchman, this starts as soon as I want to say "hello" to someone...

France, like any country, has its own cultural specificities. However, France being "the land of love" (from what I've heard here), the French have a very special way of greeting each other. While in the United States a simple "Hey" is enough when joining a group, it is considered rude not to say hello individually to all the people in France. The situation becomes more complex when it comes to…

la bise!

French President Macron doing "La bise"

France is world famous for the French kiss, but most of the time, French people kiss in a more friendly way. In France, to greet someone, you quickly kiss both of his or her cheeks. But even French people do not agree on how to do la bise… As Youtube-star Paul Taylor likes to say it: “What the f*** France?!”

Here is a quick guide on how to greet French people without upsetting everyone:

1/ Make sure you are not in a formal meeting. If you are, just shake hands like you would in the US.
2/ If you are a girl: you greet everyone by having la bise.
3/ If you are a guy: you greet only girls by having la bise.
3.1/ Exceptions to this rule are:
- You greet good friend -even boys- by having la bise.
- If you are in the south of France, you do la bise with everyone.

4/ In most parts of the France (including Paris, because let’s be honest, if you visit France, you are most likely to start with Paris), you do two kisses when having la bise. One on each cheek (starting on the left one). But depending on where you are in France, the number of required kisses can be somewhere between one and four. Locals will have great fun correcting you… Alternatively, If you don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of the locals, some French geniuses have developed a site that will allow you to determine how many kisses you will need to make depending on where you are in France (no joke). To give you an overview, these data are summarized in the following map:

4.1/ With some good friends, especially if you are a boy and your friend is a boy too, you can do more kisses to express your affection.
5/ If you leave, remember to say goodbye to everyone by following the same rules.

Now you know the basics. Kind off.

Obviously, some American friends warned me that I should not attempt, IN ANY CASE, to kiss a stranger here. And obviously, I forgot.

Before you file a complaint against me, let me tell you the details of the story. I obviously didn't forget that I shouldn't kiss Americans on my first day. It was only when the atmosphere became more friendly that my habits resurfaced. I didn't kiss a stranger either, I just looked stupid by tilting my head towards someone who did not know the 5 rules of la bise (you would have known!). We had a good laugh and now, thanks to this incident, some of the students on campus know the five rules of la bise…

By: Muzna Hatmi

While this blog post is titled a good old ‘A Day at the Museum,’ (for the catchy Night at the Museum vibe, which by the way, was also filmed in DC), it can also be read as ‘a day (or days) at the most underrated museums in DC.’

I’m saying this now, I’m a great big art lover. I studied history of art in high school, and I can spend entire days at art exhibitions, yes, even the boring ones. So, disclaimer: this post is mainly about where to see underrated art in Washington DC.  However, if you're an insta-freak like me, stay tuned, I got you.

To get the most important information out of the way, all Smithsonian museums in Washington DC are absolutely free! And that is just one of the many things I love about living here and probably the only reason why I leave my warm bed on weekends.

Freer and Sackler Gallery – Where Asia Meets America

Or should I say, where America meets Asia? Because that is technically the case, Freer Sackler.

Anyway, while Freer and Sackler is not exactly a museum, it is still somewhere in that category for its wonderful collection from the beautiful and diverse region of… you guessed it! Asia!

The first time that I visited the gallery was with my South Asian Art class from GWU. Fun fact (and to be more specific): I had always been interested in western European art, so automatically, I never even considered learning about art from my own region (reminder: I’m Pakistani) because I think I did not value it enough until I enrolled in this class and really understood the meaning behind some of its symbols and all that (not getting too technical, y’alls).

My favorite area in Freer and Sackler Gallery is The Peacock Room, and also the nature-filled courtyard to just sit and chill, and take it all in. If you go, a must see is the current exhibition called]My Iran: Six Women Photographers. Not giving much away, but the exhibition deals with a picture beyond what we know about the beautiful country of Iran – both moving and powerful!

National Portrait Gallery

The name says it. This was one of the first I visited in DC and I was in awe! Another fun fact: I’m a portrait photographer, and so I was obviously and extremely excited to see all the great works of art on display here. The museum offers a wide range of collections in sculpture form, photography, and painting. It also hosts portraits of some of the most iconic figures of all times like Charlie Chaplin, George Washington (because that's important for obvious reasons) and even Bill Gates. Speaking of which, the must see and my favorite part of the gallery is the Hall of President’s which contains portraits of nearly all-American presidents, the largest collection after the White House itself. The museum has other cool stuff as well, like portraits of Barbie. Yes, Barbie.


You can still catch 29Rooms in New York, LA, or even Tokyo. Perhaps again in DC? Because it is literally the Instagram museums of your dreams! Not free unlike the other two, 29Rooms is the brainchild of Refinery 29 which features 29 different art exhibits, visually appealing and creative rooms, like a ‘teenager bedroom,’ and interactive spaces so you can dance, paint, sing, selfie. I covered the event a few days ago on Instagram, so if you’re looking to see what I mean when I say it is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, check it out!


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