Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Are Erasmus-Students only stupid tourists?

There's no need to tell you that being a tourist is awesome. You can explore a city free of home-bound worries, judge its beauty and people without self being at question. Mostly, touristic holiday is a time of fear-free spending and giving in to temptations of all sorts.

Being an Erasmus student is pretty cool, too. You get to know a whole bunch of people from a whole bunch of countries, even from all over the world. Your English becomes more and more fluent on a daily basis, without any hard work. You can explore a city and actually live in it, which means that as soon as you've found awesome places, you can keep visiting them.

Now that my semester is over and I passed my last exam (High-five to myself!), I told many people how much I am looking forward to being “a real tourist” in Budapest. Wasn't I a tourist before? I don't think so. Erasmus students are, once again, sitting between the chairs. We're not really tourists, but we're not really locals either.

Just another Erasmus-Tourist?

After some time, I started approaching people on the streets who seemed to be lost, and asked if I could help them. In some cases I could, in many cases I didn't make the impression of a experienced local guide, because I had to double check the maps to find out where to send people. But I loved the feeling of finding my way around more easily every day, and especially the feeling that tourist agency employees, trying to sell tickets for hop-on-hop-off-tours, were not approaching me anymore. Something about me changed. I started blending in.

Anyhow, I have not become a local. One reason is that I spent so much time with other Erasmus people, and they tend to go to the same places again and again and again. Not much mingling. Also, as I have mentioned before, it was difficult to get in touch with Hungarians. After 5 months in this beautiful city, I haven't that often left the common paths between university campi, supermarkets and most popular pubs.

Do you know what it even means to be a local? To me it seems to be more than a question of residence. I can't tell you how long such form of acculturation takes. But it might be about a feeling of settlement. In the first days, I confess, I was scared. Upon my arrival I was mucked about by the cab driver who took me to the hostel for 50 Euro (try dividing by 290 when he really pressures you to pay him!), homeless and drug addicts seemed to follow me around... but now I have a routine and can enjoy all the tourist attractions with a big advantage: I am not visibly a tourist (anymore), I don't need to carry a map around and I don't get lost! Big plus: I am not scared at all, as Budapest quickly proved to be just another city after all. Yet I can apply all the touristic stupidity like ignoring rules because I still can't speak Hungarian. That is pretty useful, really!

I am home here, sort of, and I want to explore my home. I am sad already to leave it behind so soon. On the other hand, I already look forward to exploring my other home, Frankfurt, like a tourists. Like I have never been there. With open eyes and an open heart. 

What do you think? Are Erasmus-Students just some other type of stupid tourist? Let me know your opinion in an email or comment! :)

Picture credit: PublicDomainPictures on pixabay.com

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