From Austria to Colorado*

Guest Blog from Mark Laurencik

America, the land of opportunity and where dreams come true. Now ask yourself, what is it like for an Austrian citizen to pursue the “American dream”? Coming from Austria there are many cultural differences you may face but the similarities are maybe more present than you might expect. Throughout this blog I will be focusing more on the state of Colorado since this is where I spent some time recently.

Never-ending landscape

To start off with, I would like to share some general facts about North America. The United States has a population of 328.2 million citizens, making it one of the biggest countries in the world (compared to 446 million in the European Union). The United States spans 2,800 miles (~4,506 km) from east to west. Measuring from Maine to Hawaii, it’ a distance of 5,100 miles (~8,207 km). The US has 12,383 miles (~19,928 km) of coastline. Therefore, be prepared for long-distance drives through various landscapes such as deserts, mountains, forests and coastline in case you want to do a road trip.

Nutrition/Gastronomy in the United States

Furthermore, food is a big dissimilarity. One thing to expect is to be served large portions which will not always be finished. For example, a medium sized soda is mostly comparable to a large one in the USA. In fact, the amount of sugar and fat per capita consumed in America is almost three times more as compared to Austria. Nevertheless, the United States is moving more and more towards organic nutrition, Organic food sales in the United States rose 5.9% in 2018 to reach $47.9 billion according to the 2019 Organic Industry Survey done by the Organic Trade Association. Organic food sales made up 5.7% of overall U.S. food sales, which rose 2.3% in 2018. Additionally, due to the fact that the US is closer to South America it is far more common to get exotic foods in comparison to e.g. Austria. When it comes to grocery shopping in the States, don’t be surprised if an employee walks up to you and asks how you are. For a European this might be a little surprising since there is no strong customer – employee relationship in Austria. However, conducting small talk in the grocery store becomes a regularity in the United States. This is a common part in the everyday life in the US which proves the kindness and generosity of the people living in smaller cities in the United States. Tips are taken very seriously in the States since waiters are depended of them. In Europe, a decent tip is considered about 5%, whereas in the States they expect a minimum of 15% to 20%, depending on the restaurant.

 

Mountains and Temperature in Colorado

Colorado is known for its beautiful landscape of mountains, canyons, plateaus and rivers. Furthermore, it has the highest elevation of any states in the US. With more than 1000 Rocky Mountain peaks over 10,000 ft high it offers various outdoor activities. Many argue that Colorado has the best suited snow for winter sports. In fact, Colorado’s snow is one of the best I have ever experienced. Given this, an Austrian citizen traveling through the city of Denver looking at the Rocky Mountains could very well feel like home. The highest mountain in Colorado is Mount Elbert and it’s about 14,440 feet high, whereas the highest peak in Austria the (Großglockner) is 1246,63 feet high. In fact, Colorado has 58 mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet (known as “fourteeners” or “14ers” locally) — the most of any state.

Another interesting fact about Colorado is its weather circumstances. You never know what to expect. One could be lucky and enjoy a 70-degree sunny day, and this could turn into a 30-degree nightmare in the afternoon with snow flakes and unpleasant winds. but truth be told, Colorado has almost as many sunny days as Miami, Florida! No matter what season, be prepared since living in Colorado requires all kinds clothing!

Mountains and Temperature in Colorado

Colorado is known for its beautiful landscape of mountains, canyons, plateaus and rivers. Furthermore, it has the highest elevation of any states in the US. With more than 1000 Rocky Mountain peaks over 10,000 ft high it offers various outdoor activities. Many argue that Colorado has the best suited snow for winter sports. In fact, Colorado’s snow is one of the best I have ever experienced. Given this, an Austrian citizen traveling through the city of Denver looking at the Rocky Mountains could very well feel like home. The highest mountain in Colorado is Mount Elbert and it’s about 14,440 feet high, whereas the highest peak in Austria the (Großglockner) is 1246,63 feet high. In fact, Colorado has 58 mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet (known as “fourteeners” or “14ers” locally) — the most of any state.

Another interesting fact about Colorado is its weather circumstances. You never know what to expect. One could be lucky and enjoy a 70-degree sunny day, and this could turn into a 30-degree nightmare in the afternoon with snow flakes and unpleasant winds. but truth be told, Colorado has almost as many sunny days as Miami, Florida! No matter what season, be prepared since living in Colorado requires all kinds clothing!

Public Transportation

Compared to Europe, the United States are not known well for their public transportation. Outside of the big cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C and San Francisco there are not many available Subway infrastructures. If we take Denver as an example, there has been some improvements. The light rail which is a suburban train has 8 rails with 53 stations around the city of Denver. However, in comparison with most cities in Austria this is a tiny number.

In conclusion, when looking at Austria and Colorado from a big picture standpoint, it is safe to say that there are many differences that could cause a cultural shock at first. But after living in Colorado for longer than a month, I highly recommend visiting this beautiful place.

-Mark Laurencik

*This is a guest blog provided by Mark Laurencik, a business student visiting Colorado for a month in 2019.

Image credits: Matt Inden/Miles, Denise Chambers/Miles