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by George Millo

pulp-fiction-4

“They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder?”

We’ve all seen that scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent (John Travolta) schools Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) on the “little differences” between Europe and the United States. In Paris you can buy a beer in McDonald’s. In Amsterdam people put mayonnaise on their french fries. And the French, of course, “don’t know what the *f* a Quarter Pounder is”.

I’m European — British, to be precise — and I recently made Vincent’s trip in the other direction, visiting the U.S.A. for the first time in my adult life. I now realise that Pulp Fiction didn’t nearly go far enough. The U.S. and Europe are very different places — far more than I think we Brits tend to assume. I’ve been all over the world, and I can’t recall a single Western country I’ve visited where I felt a stronger sense of “away from home” than the U.S. of A..

Note that I really enjoyed my time in the U.S., and I look forward to going back — and not just because of the British Privilege I benefit from while there. (By the way, to my fellow Englishmen — visit the U.S.A.. The rumours you have heard about your accent are true.) But I have a few observations:

1: Border Control

border-control-line

The first uniquely American experience comes before you’ve even technically entered the country. Unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been to, in American airports (if you’re arriving internationally) you have to go through security after getting off the plane… even though you already went through it before getting on. Apparently the U.S. doesn’t trust other countries to do a good job. Maybe they’re right, but the plane has already landed safely, so if there were are terrorists on board they clearly weren’t good at their jobs.

But beware: even if your nefarious plan to sneak toenail clippers past the TSA succeeds, you can still expect a thorough interrogation from an underpaid border guard before being officially allowed entry to the country. I’ve crossed many a border in my life, and I’ve never received a grilling like the one I got on arriving in the U.S.A., all for the sake of a three-week visit on a tourist visa.

I can’t complain — I’m a guest, and they don’t have to let me in—but what amuses me is that, according to many American friends, the U.S. Border Patrol often gives the same interrogative treatment to American citizens who are arriving home, even though they can’t be denied entry to the country anyway. (For the record, every time I enter the U.K., they just scan my passport and let me straight in without saying a word.) “What were you doing in [country you visited years ago for which you still have the passport stamp]??” is a typical question, I’m told, spoken in an accusatory tone as if that business trip you made to China in 2009 is a dead giveaway that you’re a dirty Commie bent on destroying the Land of the Free.

Speaking of catching bad guys, when you’re filling in the “ESTA” form before entering the U.S., you have to tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ next to a whole plethora of interesting questions, including “are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?”, and the following:

Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?

I bet they catch a lot of people that way.

2: Guns

I’ll save the exhausting debate about gun politics for another day. (Is there any other issue which causes such division in the U.S. and such widespread agreement everywhere else?) All I’ll say is that, within twenty minutes of making it past the aforementioned border guard, I had another moment which confirmed that I had very, very definitely arrived in America. As I sat in the departure lounge waiting for my connection, a man walked past me with his phone pressed to his head, and I caught the following snippet of his conversation:

You have the guns, right? Make sure you keep one with you at all times!

God bless America!

And to the annals of “things that are amusing to a foreigner but totally mundane to a local”, I add the following sign:

texas penal code 30.06 and 30.07 sign

You’ll find the above notice by the entrance to every public building in Texas. “What’s so interesting about that?” I hear every Texan say… I’m not even going to bother trying to explain.

3: Everything is bigger (and not just in Texas)

Something that travel has made me appreciate is this: if two places are both in the U.K., they are close to each other. We are a tiny country, as exemplified by a conversation I once had with a Canadian friend:

Me: Where in Canada are you from?
Him: It’s called (name of town). It’s not well-known.
Me: Yeah, I haven’t heard of it. What part of Canada is that in?
Him: It’s close to Calgary, just a six-hour drive away.
Me: That’s not at all close!!

The U.S. is only slightly smaller than Canada, which is another way of saying that it’s massive. Really bloody big. To quote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy talking about outer space, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts compared to the States.

I tell people I’m from a small town, but “small town” means something different in a British (or European) context. My small town of ~11,000 people is just a 15-minute drive from a city of 150,000 people — and during those 15 minutes you’ll pass multiple other towns, villages, and hamlets. (And in the other direction, I’m only an hour from London.) It’s rare to drive for more than 10 minutes through the British countryside, especially in the south, without seeing some evidence of human habitation. Even between towns, just about every square inch of land is being used by humans for something, usually farming. The U.K. hardly has any of what you might call “wilderness”.

middle of nowhere usa

Not pictured: the middle of nowhere

In the U.S., on the other hand, if you live in a “small town”, there’s a good chance that you live in a remote settlement in the middle of the desert and have to drive for two hours just to find an attractive member of the opposite sex who isn’t also your second cousin. And in America (like in most of the world outside densely populated countries like England), unkempt wilderness is the norm, not the exception — and the beauty and diversity of the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

Travelling in the U.S., I really get the sense of being on the “frontier” — vast, virgin land that humans have yet to conquer, full of possibility and adventure. If that’s what it feels like to a newcomer in 2016, I can only imagine what it felt like in 1620. It must have been, in the original sense of the word, awesome — which brings me to my next point:

4: America is so, like, totally awesome dude, literally!

I’m not the first person to make this observation, but omigawd dude, the way Americans, like, talk, is like, kinda literally totally dripping with excessive positivity and, like, totally unnecessary filler words, dude, literally.

Nowhere is this more prominent than with the word “awesome”, which in olden days meant “awe-inspiring”, before taking on the colloquial meaning of “good” or “cool”, and these days has become watered-down to the point where it can mean anything (“okay”, “yes”, “um”, “please”, “go for it”), while simultaneously meaning nothing whatsoever. “Awesome” is the Polyfilla (read: spackle) of American vocabulary, used indiscriminately to fill empty space, and it’s as overused in American English as ignorance of science is pervasive in the American South. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard an American say the word “awesome”, I’d have a totally awesome amount of money.

When I remarked on this in a text message to a friend, she replied tongue in cheek, with the following:

Dude totally, like seriously!! Don’t worry, everything is rad and super chill here and everyone is stoked on life and pumped about everything.

To which I said this:

S’alright mate, if we ever meet in Blighty (even if that’s yonks away) we can have a right bloody chin-wag down the local, I’d be chuffed.

I offer the above as evidence for the quote of unknown origin (dubiously attributed to George Bernard Shaw) that America and Britain are “two countries divided by a common language”.

Incidentally, I once read an archived newspaper that used the phrase “an awesome event” to describe the previous day’s atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I think it’s safe to say that the meaning of the word “awesome” was different back in 1945. Literally.

5: Residential Sprawl, and the Necessity of the Automobile

recurring-suburban-dream

The U.K. has the population of California plus Texas in an area the size of Michigan… meaning there’s not much space, so we have to cram our buildings together tightly, or vertically. In the U.S. such pressures don’t exist, so in many neighbourhoods you’ll see that practically every house is detached, with barely a terraced house in sight. (And to prove my point, most Americans reading this will have no idea what the terms “detached house” and “terraced house” even mean.) Wandering around American suburbia, I’m struck by the sheer amount of empty space everywhere.

But the more foreign thing about American residential areas is that they are just that — residential, in their entirety, over vast, vast swathes of land with nary a commercial building in sight. The concept of a “corner shop” apparently never made it across the Atlantic. If you need to buy anything in America — even just to pop out to buy a loaf of bread — your destination is probably far, far out of walking distance, and don’t expect to be able to get there via public transport. If you want to survive just about anywhere in the U.S., you need access to a car.

Luckily for me, Uber and Lyft exist, and I was able to rely on Uber (and on lifts from friends) for most of my trip — but if they hadn’t been available, I don’t know what I would have done. It’s a minor frustration, but the second-order effect is worse — since everyone is driving, no-one is walking, which means that most of the time when you do go for a walk, no-one else is around, even in the middle of the day on a weekday in a huge city.

To be a pedestrian in the U.S. is to inhabit an eerie, surreal ghost town, inhabited only by cars and the homeless (of which there are an alarmingly huge number, but that’s another story.)

6: Credit cards

Bizarrely, the U.S. still barely uses the EMV (“chip and PIN”) system for credit/debit card payments — despite this being the standard just about everywhere else in the world. So if you want to pay by card in the U.S., in many places you still have to do the primitive, Stone Age thing where you swipe the magnetic strip then sign your name on a piece of paper. Really? This is still a thing? Chip and PIN has been not just the default but the only way to pay by card in the U.K. for ten years, and they have it all over the rest of Europe too. How is it that the world’s richest country hasn’t caught up with this technology yet?

To add to the confusion, every time I went into a bar (where I would always get asked for I.D.; I’m 25, and the U.S. and U.K. are the only two places in the world where I consistently get I.D.’ed when buying alcohol), if I paid for my drinks by card then the bartender would usually ask me if I wanted to “close it up”. I had no idea what this meant, and it took me a while to figure it out… but I’m not going to explain it here, just so that the next Brit who tries to buy a drink in the U.S.A. can experience the same confusion that I did. Ha!

tipping-etiquette-around-the-world

7: Tipping

When I wasn’t being confused by bartenders, I was forgetting to pay their wages. In the U.S., you’re expected to tip bartenders, and also people in a whole plethora of other professions, applied in a seemingly random fashion. Taxi drivers, but not bus drivers. Hairdressers, but not tailors. People who deliver pizza, but not people who deliver the mail. It makes no sense, and it left me constantly worried that I was paying too much or too little.

What’s the point? One article on American tipping etiquette make the unusual move of stating the facts plainly: “We tip waiters and waitresses because they don’t make a livable (sic) wage. Our tips are helping to subsidize substandard wages.” Wait, what? Why not just pay service staff a livable wage in the first place and get rid of all this theatre? The end result is still the same anyway — I get a meal, you get my money. Why does it have to be so complicated? (Note: in the U.K. you’re generally expected to tip in restaurants, but rarely anywhere else — and waiters here don’t rely on tips to survive like they do in the U.S.A.).

It’s argued that when service staff are working for tips, they’re incentivised to provide better service. This is true, and in some countries which don’t have tipping cultures, the service is universally terrible. (No Spanish waiter could hold down a job in the U.S. — they’d all be fired on the first day.) But I’d like to propose an alternate system to holding your staff hostage to starvation wages: pay them a reasonable price for their work, and if they don’t do a good job — such as if they don’t provide good service to customers — fire them. This system is also known as “how it works in every other industry, everywhere,” it’s all the rage.

With all that being said, it’s not my fault that American service staff get paid next to nothing, so I tried my hardest to get things right and tip as expected (or more.) And I’m always amused by the flip-side of this, when I’m out with American friends who have newly arrived in Europe and often can’t wrap their heads around the concept of not tipping:

Them: “How much should we tip?”
Me: “You don’t have to leave anything. It’s not expected.”
Them: “What?? You can’t not tip!”
Me: “Yes you can, trust me.”
Them: “I’ll just leave this money on the table.”

If I was a waiter in a country like Spain, I’d pray for more American customers. They leave all this extra money lying around all over the place unnecessarily! What strange folk.

8: Sales Tax

I can’t complain about tipping without also making the obligatory jab at the way sales tax (“VAT” to Brits) is charged in the U.S.. It’s absurd. The price printed on the label is not the price you actually pay; it doesn’t include the tax. They don’t add the tax on until you bring the item to the checkout and scan it. Let me repeat that: the price printed on the label is not the price you actually pay. Do I even need to explain why this is ridiculous? Judging by the conversations I’ve had with many Americans (and Canadians — they do this too), the answer is “yes”. I don’t even know what to say.

Even weirder, some stores in the U.S. don’t display any prices for some or all items — to find out how much something costs, you have to take it up to the counter and ask (or just plonk down some cash and hope you have enough). I don’t think I’ve ever seen this practice in the U.K. — in fact I’m pretty sure businesses have to display all prices, legally.

I did get a taste of home though in Santa Monica, California, where I stumbled across an establishment called the “British Store” whose shelves are stocked with all kinds of British goodies that I’d never before seen sold outside the U.K., such as Jaffa Cakes, HP Sauce, and, just to please the Scots, Irn Bru. The only problem is that all self-respecting Brits (there’s dozens of us!) are wincing at the establishment’s name — if it had actually been British it would have been called the British Shop! At least they win points for effort.

9: Sports!

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By complete accident, my visit to the U.S. overlapped Superbowl Sunday, meaning I got to experience this time-honoured American tradition for the first (and probably only) time in my life. I didn’t get to go tailgating (I still don’t really get what this activity actually is unless you’re talking about the dangerous driving practice), but I did watch the game at a friend’s house.

I have vague memories of getting trounced at Madden NFL on the Playstation 2 by a friend when I was 12, but other than that, I’ve never played American football and had no idea how the game was played, how points are scored, or what the rules are. By the end, though, I think I’d got it figured out:

  • 6 points for advertising a car.
  • 3 points for advertising a new brand of phone or TV or similar overpriced gadget that no-one really needs.
  • 3 points for advertising a medicine for an embarrassing condition like erectile dysfunction (points are nullified unless one team member concludes the ad by reeling off a long list of the drug’s scary-sounding side-effects.)
  • Extra point for backing up your advertisement with an endorsement from a fatuous celebrity.
  • Penalty awarded for every woman during the half-time show whose clothes leave anything to the imagination.

The only thing I couldn’t figure out was how they’d occasionally interrupt the four hours of solid advertising to show a thirty-second clip of armoured men throwing a funny-shaped ball around. What was all that about?

10: Patriotism

i'm sorry i can't hear you over the sound of my freedom meme

I like the U.K., and I like being British. Despite our tendency (and this isn’t unique to Brits) to complain incessantly about our country and government, only a fool could deny that, all things considered, the United Kingdom is a pretty good place to live and to be from. Yet, unless there’s currently a football (the other kind of football) world cup taking place, overt displays of patriotism in the U.K. are exceedingly rare. However patriotic Brits might feel, we generally keep it to ourselves.

The U.S. is the polar opposite. Americans, in general, love America, but you didn’t need to be told that – they’ve already told you themselves. Repeatedly. On a typical day in the U.S.A., you’ll see more people flying the Stars and Stripes than you’ll see Union Jacks in an entire year in the U.K.. The national anthem of the U.S. is also sung before every sporting event (not just international games… do Americans even play any international sports?), whereas I can’t even remember the last time I heard anyone in the U.K. singing God Save the Queen in any context. Even if all the other differences I’ve described didn’t exist, you can’t spend any length of time in the U.S. without being repeatedly reminded what country you’re in.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing — I think patriotism is fine, just as long as it’s not mindless tribalism and you actually have valid reasons for liking your country. And there are many valid reasons to like the U.S., which is probably why people from all over the world have been flocking there for centuries seeking liberty, opportunity, or just a plain old good time. I had a great time in ‘Murica, and I know that I’ve still only scratched the surface – there’s so much to do and see there and I’ve still only experienced the tiniest fraction of it.

So like a two-term governor of California, I’ll be back… and it will be totally awesome. Like, literally. Dude, seriously. Omigawd, I can’t stop talking like this!

September 22, 2016
How To Persuade Your Kid To Study Abroad

by Danielle DeSimonetravel-map-of-europe

Hey parents – it might be hard to believe that there are kids out there who are reluctant to study abroad, but they do exist. If your child is one of them, but you’d like them to experience the wonders of study abroad, we have a few tips for you to convince them that yes, they should absolutely take that chance, get out of their comfort zone, and study abroad.

World Explorer

What young person hasn’t dreamed of exploring the world, Carmen Sandiego-style? When talking to your child about studying abroad, be sure to remind them that studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get out of their home culture and explore a culture entirely different than their own. Travel is one of the grandest adventures anyone can have, and experiencing a global learning environment at such a young age is a major opportunity.

Academic Advantage

Explain to your kid that studying abroad will set them apart from all of their fellow classmates. Are they studying French? Obsessed with marine biology? Studying abroad immerses any student completely in the subjects they are studying, so that their textbooks come to life. Speaking French every day in (and out of) the classroom in France or monitoring sea turtle nests as a volunteer in Costa Rica will give your student incomparable academic experiences that aren’t possible if they stay at home.

Hiking-Couple-Through-Forest

Independence Day

Have a teenager at home? They are probably vying for their independence from you on a daily basis anyway. When discussing study abroad with your child, be sure to point out that going to another country will give them the ultimate sense of independence and seriously develop their confidence.

Of course, as their parents, you’ll always be just one Skype call away. But, a summer or year abroad will give your child the skills and experiences they need to become truly independent and capable of handling themselves not just in day-to-day life at home, but in a foreign country.


Listening Is Key

In your enthusiasm to convince your child to study abroad, be sure to listen to them as well; tune into their interests and their goals. Although your support is obviously crucial to your child being able to study abroad, and opinions matter, remember that this is their adventure. Their interests are what are important, and they won’t have a rewarding study abroad experience if it isn’t the right program or country for them.

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Financial Concerns

You and your child might have concerns about the price tag of going abroad, but studying abroad can be affordable. GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory is an excellent start to learning about financial aid that is available to students. The Traveler’s Mindset guide to funding opportunities like grants, fellowships, and scholarships is also a great resource.

Your student you could also explore crowdfunding options such as Fund My Travel, which would allow your student to tell their story to the world on why they want to study abroad, and accept donations from people in your community and from kind strangers to help them get there.

Summer Camp, but Better

Summer camp friendships are legendary, bonds forged over s’mores and archery contests… Now imagine these kind of friendships built while teaching English to children in Peru, navigating the busy streets of Hong Kong, or learning to speak Italian in Italy by deciphering the restaurant menu together.

Remind your kid that these sorts of experiences will bring incredible people into their lives, not just through their fellow students, but their host families who welcome them into their country simply by opening their home to your child.

Call In The Professionals

Despite your enthusiasm for study abroad, sometimes it’s helpful to bring in the professionals. Speak to your child’s high school counselors or with a representative of a study abroad program, as many of them will know how to answer questions better than you can on how this decision will affect your child, both academically and personally.

Telling Their Story

Does your kid have a fierce creative streak running through them? Explore the endless opportunities for personal expression that travel allows: photography, creative writing, video-blogging, musical inspiration, even an Instagram-blog! Travel and studying abroad are experiences that can help your child to explore new artistic ventures and express themselves in ways they never before thought possible. Plus they’ll get, like, at least 100 more followers on Insta.

girl-fence-looking-over-the-land

Flying The Coop

Although many students are ready to jump blindly into a study abroad program, some might have a few more reservations about the idea of going to a foreign country by themselves. It can be a scary thing for first-time solo travelers, no matter how old they are!

When discussing study abroad with your child, highlight the support systems that exist within many study abroad programs, like on-site staff to assist with emergencies and transitioning into a new culture, pre-arranged housing, or host families who look forward to welcoming your child into their home.

Celebrity Inspiration

High school students are inspired by their peers and the celebrities they admire. Google celebrities or role models that your kid admires and see how many of them have studied or lived abroad. When having a conversation with your child about study abroad, mentioning “You know who else studied abroad and lived in other countries? Gandhi and JK Rowling!” might just be your ticket in.

Resume Booster

With college admissions being so competitive, study abroad experience is becoming an increasingly valued resume bullet point. Very few high school students study abroad, which will make your child’s college application (or job application) stand out from the crowd.

Explain that by studying abroad, they will gain invaluable skills, a more globalized view of the world, and will demonstrate to future colleges that they are valuable potential candidates that should be accepted. Plus, study abroad revelations make a killer topic for application essays!

Solo-Traveler-In-Front-Of-Sunset

Cultural Crash Course

Express to your child the amazing cultural education they’ll receive while abroad. Being in another country will open their minds to entirely new way of living, and can completely change their perspective of the world. This might seem scary, but the payoffs are worth it, and this adventure will probably lead to even more travel in their future!

Although all of these tips might help you “sell” your kid on studying abroad, it’s important to remember that they are your child and you know them best. Be open and honest about why you think studying abroad would be such an amazing opportunity for them. They’ll catch that travel bug and will be boarding a plane in no time!

About Danielle

After graduating from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in English, creative writing, and Italian, Danielle decided to leap across the Atlantic and move to southern Italy! Five years have passed and Danielle has traveled to over a dozen countries since making the big move abroad, and she doesn’t have plans of stopping anytime soon. Danielle currently works for the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) as a social media manager and assistant editor, and also works as a freelance travel writer for GoAbroad.com.

July 1, 2016
Fika: A Delicious Swedish Tradition

Traditionally, fika is similar to the English afternoon tea, but with a Scandinavian ‘working class simplicity’.

My grandparents would brew a big pot of black coffee and serve a tray of seven or more different homemade biscuits and cakes. The fika happened anytime a neighbor decided to pop over after dinner, or at least once or twice a day in the garden during the summer. In this case the children, too young to have coffee, would drink my grandma’s homemade raspberry juice.

These days, fika happens much more in cafes than in houses, and has lost its original spontaneous culture (and the home baked cookies)! Today, fika is a socializing event, with an agreement of place and time, of girlfriends catching up, of groups of friends getting together, or of casual dates. Sweden, ever fast to pick up trends, has definitely taken coffee snobbery to the next level. Hipster barista bars are found everywhere in the big cities, especially in Stockholm.

In fact, the latest trend is back-to-basic fika with black brewed coffee (although without grandma’s coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup), and traditional biscuits and bread. Swedes love to be ahead of things, so whenever something becomes too mainstream, there will surely be a counter-movement.

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Cardamom Bun Recipe from Kokblog

The cinnamon bun, or kanelbullen, is a traditional fika treat. Swedes call these types of buns Vetebullar, or wheat buns, which refers to the sweet yeast dough that can be baked plain or filled with different types of fillings such as cinnamon, almond paste, vanilla, or cardamom.

This cardamom bun, or kardemummabullen, recipe includes ground almonds in the filling. The buns are topped with cardamom sugar to make them super cardamom rich. To minimize the sugar intake, top the buns with slivered almonds instead.

Kardemummbullar (Cardamom Buns)
Adapted from the recipe in the book Fika – The Art of Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall.

Ingredients
(Makes 30 buns)
Dough
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup natural cane sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed with mortar & pestle
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Filling
  • ½ cup blanched almonds
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup natural cane sugar
  • 4 teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed with mortar & pestle
Topping
  • 4½ teaspoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cardamom powder (for cardamom sugar)
  • Or slivered almonds
  • 1 egg, beaten
Directions

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the milk. Heat until it’s warm to the touch (about 110°F). In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 3 tablespoons of the butter and milk mixture. Mix and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles form.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt. Add the yeast along with the remaining butter and milk. Work together with a dough whisk or with your hands until you can shape the dough into a ball. Transfer dough to your countertop and knead for about 3–5 minutes until smooth and elastic. The dough should feel moist. If the dough feels sticky, add a little bit more flour.

You can check if you are done kneading by making a slice into the dough with a sharp knife. If you see even small air bubbles throughout, you are done. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm and draft-free place until almost double in size, about 1 hour.

Grease a baking sheet or place medium paper liners on the sheet. For the filling, grind the blanched almonds in a food processor together with the sugar until just slightly coarse. Add the butter in small portions at the time. Lastly, add the crushed cardamom. Mix until an even spreadable paste.

When the dough has finished rising, take half of the dough and place it on a flat surface. Roll it out with a rolling pin to an 11 x 17 inch (28 x 43 cm) rectangle. Spread half of the filling on top of the rolled-out dough so that it covers the whole area (see diagram). Grab one of the edges of one of the long sides, fold it over so it meets the other side (like folding a paper on the middle, see illustrated diagram above).

Slice the folded dough into 15 equal stripes. Stretch & twist every stripe and swirl them up to a nice bun. Place each of them on a greased baking sheet or in a paper liner. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Cover the buns with a clean tea towel and let rise for about 45–60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 435°F. When the buns have risen and you are ready to bake the buns, brush every bun with beaten egg and sprinkle each with cardamom sugar.

Bake for 8–10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with a tea towel to cool. Serve freshly baked or freeze when they are completely cooled.

 

About Johanna

d77646_7869ede55edf4771a6909c8c7604d134Johanna is an illustrator who divides her time between Brooklyn and south Sweden. In 2005, she started her illustrated cooking blog kokblog where she shares her own recipes that are mostly inspired by the Nordic cuisine. Her first cookbook, Fika – The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, is a collaboration with Anna Brones and published by Ten Speed Press, 2015. Johanna has illustrated articles in magazines (e.g. Art of Eating) and several books (“The Fabulous Baker Brothers” by Tom & Henry Herbert, Headline UK, 2012). She just finished animating 60 wildlife stories for Walczak & Heiss public art installation at the Berry Biodiversity Center in Laramie, Wyoming.

 

 

About Helen

d77646_e82d2c55463e435b83b64dfcf84665d6

Helen Light is a Holistic Health & Happiness Coach who inspires people to live with more Lightness, Ease and Trust. She has created a life that allows her to travel and make amazing connections all over the world, by keeping a flexible and open mindset, seeing and seizing opportunities. Her travel blog, dating back to 2008 with more than 1000 posts on subjects like happiness, letting go and courage, echoes the feeling that it really is about the journey, not the destination.

March 1, 2016
10 Reasons Why You Should Live, Work, or Study in Barcelona, Spain

1) SIESTA.

Are you tired of the daily grind of life back in the USA? Get up, eat quickly, go to work, come home at 5 or 6pm, make dinner, go to bed and begin again? In Spain, people have a similar schedule, but for about two hours in the middle of the day, you can leave work to go out to eat, relax in a plaza and listen to local musicians playing, take care of things that you normally don’t have time to do during the day, or go home and take a nap!

 

2) Cheap, high-quality wine.  

If you are a wine lover, the Mediterrannean region is the place to be. You can go to your local grocery store, pick up any bottle of wine for less than $5 USD and be confident that the wine you chose will at least be decent, and  probably very good. I found an organic wine that I love for about 3 American dollars! As soon as you SEE the word organic in the states, you are sure to shell out a bit extra than you would for your typical bottle of wine. The Catalans are also famous for their cava, which is their version of champagne, a sweet and refreshing beverage to enjoy at dessert if you aren’t having coffee.

 

 3) The nightlife.

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People finish working around 7 or 8 pm here, so the typical dinnertime is around 9 or 10. The Spanish are very social people. By 9:00 pm the streets and restaurants are full of people relaxing over a meal of tapas, then proceeding to a nearby bar for gin and tonics (Barcelona is known for these!), and then going out dancing or watching a football (soccer) match on the local bar’s tv.
It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, although more people go out on the weekends, you can always find plenty to do after hours. The best thing about this is that, even late at night, I feel safe. Unlike being in a small, dark street in New York or Baltimore at night, which can fill me with apprehension and make me clutch my bag a bit tighter, here I find walking through the streets of Barcelona at night to be either incredibly exciting or incredibly peaceful, and I’ve never felt threatened. (Note: It is still important to keep an eye on your belongings in a crowded area, especially tourist areas, as it is a city and robberies are possible.)

 

4) The tasty tapas and traditional dishes.

If you haven’t tried tapas, you are missing out! The Spanish like to sit down at a restaurant, choose a variety of small plates and share.
Tortilla de patatas is a Spanish omelette with potato and onions layered inside (similar to a quiche) and served on the traditional bread rubbed with tomato, olive oil, and salt. There are varieties of seafood on the Mediterranean coast, from calamari to a huge pan (to share) of paella, the famous rice cooked with saffron and shellfish, or with meats such as rabbit and chicken. You’ll also want to try the savory delicacy, shaved Iberian ham, for which Spain is famous. Speaking of bread, Spain has the crustiest, most flavorful breads you will ever eat, and you’ll eat a lot of it. No more soggy white bread sandwiches! If you are hungry, you can walk into almost any restaurant and be guaranteed a satisfying meal. I especially love the bars where you can order a drink and they bring you a tapa to try for free!

 

5) The geography.

Do you prefer the mountains or the ocean? Well, no need to choose.
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Here, you can go hiking in the mountains in the morning and finish your dance relaxing on the beach! The Mediterranean
Sea is a gorgeous shade of blue, and you can enjoy swimming, sailing, jet-skiing, sun-bathing, or even a massage at one of the many beaches along the coast, both within the city and just outside (if you are looking for a less crowded option). The mountains are equally gorgeous. You can hike up to Tibidabo, an old monastery with an amusement park overlooking the entire city, or travel an hour or two outside of the city by train to hike, rock climb, or camp among some stunningly beautiful peaks. It’s the best of both worlds!

 

6) The colorful history and architecture.

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If you’ve ever seen a post card from  Barcelona, you know what I’m talking about! This city may be one of the most beautiful in Europe, and possibly the world (in my humble opinion). There are centuries-old cathedrals, including the most famous landmark, Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Only 12 euros to enter, this masterpiece may bring you to tears. If you go on a sunny day, the light streaming through the stained glass windows throws color along the columns (made to represent trees) and it is simply breathtaking. The size and incredibly nature-like  designs are unlike any church you have ever seen before.
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You can see more of famous architect Gaudi’s work at Park Guell, where you can go for a walk, enjoy a coffee, or relax and listen to local musicians in the shade of impressive columns and
plants. You can also take in a view of the city and the sea from this park. There are several buildings designed by Gaudi in Barcelona, and every single one is colorful, unique, and worth a trip. Everywhere you go, you will admire the iron balconies, beautiful stone architecture, and colorful mosaics for which Barcelona is known. Every time friends come to visit me, I show them the same sites in Barcelona, and I never get tired of taking in the beauty, and I learn something new each time!

 

7) The talent.

What drew me to Barcelona, originally, was the sheer amount of creativity and talent that exists in this city. It is brimming over with artists, musicians, dancers, and actors. Everyone I meet seems to enjoy some creative outlet, and everywhere I go I can appreciate artwork and music, whether it is the beautiful mural painted on the metal doors when a store is closed, a local guitarist strumming some tunes for tips in the plaza, the singers belting out well-known pop songs for your enjoyment in the metro, or a large group of swing dancers filling a plaza to dance to their hearts’ content for a few hours, sometimes with a local swing band.
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One of my best moments here was coming home at 3:00 AM and finding one of my friends singing around a grand piano the a music conservatory installed there, and joining in as people stopped by to play the piano, brought their own instruments, danced (that was me!), sang along, or just watched and enjoyed. I went home with a whole Whatsapp group of new music-loving friends! This creative energy that pervades the city is amazing and you can feel it everywhere you go, and meet incredibly interesting, passionate people along the way.

 

8) The people.

The Catalan people, although they may be politically divided about the issue of independence, are generally sociable, warm, and helpful. I came to this city knowing only two people, and after a year I have more friends than I can count. The people of Barcelona are proud of their language and culture, so making an attempt at their language, which is similar but distinct from Spanish, can make you an instant friend.
It is easy to make friends over a beer, coffee, or a meal, as the people will be excited to tell you anything you want to know about Catalan history, culture, and daily life. When I first arrived, I commonly found myself invited to have lunch with new friends’ families, where I learned so much about the city, culture, and food. The people were also curious about me. People here are open-minded, spontaneous, and fun, and appreciate the small things in life, like a good cup of espresso and an enjoyable conversation.

 

9) Public transportation.

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The public transportation system in Barcelona is outstanding. It is easy to use, even if you don’t speak the language. The city is relatively small, and very well connected by different colored metro lines which go either east and west (mountains to sea) or north and south. For areas that aren’t very close to a metro stop, which means more than 10 minutes walking, there are usually several bus lines available. The T-10 ticket is the cheapest option, as you have 10 rides which can be used any time by any amount of people, and can be used on the metro, bus, or train within the city, and includes transfers during trips up to 1 hour and 45 minutes. Basically, you can reach just about any point in the city in 30 to 40 minutes maximum. I, personally, have a terrible
sense of direction, and I’ve never gotten lost here!

 

10) The climate.

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Barcelona has four seasons, but because it is in the south of Europe, the climate is much warmer. Barcelona’s climate is tempered by being near the sea, and it rarely rains due to the protection of the mountains, which seem to ward off many storms. In Barcelona, you can enjoy being outside any time of the year, and can comfortably enjoy a day at the beach for 9 or 10 months of the year.
Barcelona is a city brimming with history and culture, it’s aesthetically beautiful, there is plenty to do for city lovers and nature lovers, it’s full of warm, passionate, creative people, and life is generally relaxed and socially-centered. If you haven’t been, you’ll fall in love as soon as you step off of the plane; and if you have, you know why it’s a city that keeps people coming back, or even keeps you here forever (as it did in my case)!

 

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Have you ever said, “I don’t have the money to travel”? Problem solved! Check out the Traveler’s Mindset guide to over $50,000 in funding for travel/work/life abroad.
November 5, 2015
Creating New Possibilities Through Travel

Tonya Tbird Luv Ridgely brings out the artist in all of us and empowers the lives of others through playful and artistic intervention. Her musical genius is about taking risks and creating beauty all at the same time while promoting our own subjective beauty to “make the world a better place” from our unique point of view. Hear her music at tbirdluvmusic.com

Tbird Luv, aka Tonya Ridgely, professional musician and renaissance woman, was born in Philadelphia, grew up in Pittsburgh, and currently resides in Oakland. She strongly believes in following your bliss and curiosity, and creating new possibilities through travel.

Tbird has been an artist since she was a child, claiming music and the creative arts as her “doorways to the world.” Her music is unique, etherial, eclectic, and addictive. She started out as a classical musician (playing the flute) and has used her gift as a means to travel first around her immediate surroundings and later, around the world.

As T puts it, travel inspires the beauty of being in the moment and “not being able to worry.”

Her creative pursuits have taken her from the US to Mexico, Bali, Thailand, and many other destinations. Listen to her story and learn how her journey of inspiration and creative expression led her to another journey of travel, exploration, and learning.

 

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Have you ever said, “I don’t have the money to travel”? Problem solved! Check out The Traveler’s Mindset guide to over $50,000 in funding for travel/work/life abroad.

April 28, 2015
Challenges & Adventures – An Expat in Japan

When she was just a kid, Lauren Zelek’s life was transformed by a move across the globe… After 8 years of life in Japan, she returned to the United States with a new perspectives and a lot of insights to share with us in this interview. Lauren also dishes out the real deal on difficulties living abroad and on being a “TCK”, or “third culture kid”. Though it’s easy to think that living and traveling abroad will be wonderful, it’s not always sunshine and butterflies…

“Looking different, becoming a minority, having people act distant because you’re different… when you look like you don’t fit in, you feel like you don’t fit in and you become shy, like a hermit. You close off. You feel like you have no community.”

But the times aren’t always tough and moving abroad is worth it, according to Lauren…

“When something in your heart or in your gut says, ‘Yes, I must do this!’ go and DO IT! Don’t question what other people say. Take the risk and put yourself out there. That’s how you learn.”

Make sure to watch to the end, when Lauren amps up the inspiration and shares tips to help YOU feel great making the leap to live in another country too.

Links
UYD Magazine

National Culture Comparison Tool

Millennial Train Project

As Told By Nomads Podcast

The Crossroads of “Should” and “Must”

About Lauren

Lauren is the CMO of UYD Media and Co-Founder of UYD University. She is a marketer, film writer & producer, and a cross- and inter-cultural expert. After living and traveling 7+ years internationally as a ‘third culture kid’, Lauren shares how to navigate diverse, multicultural environments, people and ideas with ease, both socially and in the workplace. She is also working with the Millennial Train Project/NBC to produce a documentary on international students at six colleges/universities across the United States. Contact: lauren@uydmag.com

 

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Have you ever said, “I don’t have the money to travel”? Problem solved! Check out The Traveler’s Mindset guide to over $50,000 in funding for travel/work/life abroad.
April 1, 2015