One of the signs of adjusting to a new culture is realizing how it differs from your own. I experienced this first-hand this weekend, and especially today. And, to be entirely honest, I rather enjoyed it.
In America, I live at a mile-a-minute sort of pace, jumping from one thing to the next, always in a rush. And when I am doing one thing, such as hanging out with my friends, I often do so in a pre-allotted amount of time before I have to go on the next item on my agenda. Even on Sundays. Especially on Sundays.
In Austria, people do things differently. Yesterday, I went to "Jugend" or youth group at the Evangelical Free Church I attended a few weeks ago. It started at 6:30 and lasted until about 8:45. There was singing, a lesson, a small meal and fellowship. Then afterward, a bunch of people went to the Austrian version of a bowling alley to play pool. I went along and--apart from my completely and epically failing at pool--I had a great time. They just enjoyed spending time with each other, and they didn't put a time limit on it.
Today at church was the same. Church service started at 9:30 and got done around 11. But people didn't leave. Instead, they stood around in the sanctuary until 12:30 talking. And not just a handful of people, either; almost everyone stayed. Then one of the girls invited me over to her house to cook and eat lunch with a couple of her friends. By the time we had finished eating, it was 3 p.m. After lunch, we did the most simple thing; we went for a walk along the river. And we weren't the only ones doing it; there were dozens of people there too, enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon together. Living simply. And simply living.
When the other girls decided to head home, it was 4:30. I started my walk back to my apartment, when I stopped to gaze at the river and ponder what had happened. Suddenly, I felt very convicted. How often do I rush through life without actually living? How often do I actually spend time with people without worrying about how long it takes or what else I have to do? Far too often. How often do I really and truly enjoy living simply and simply living? Not nearly enough.
Even today when I was spending time with the sweet church girls, I felt like I needed to leave, as though I had been there too long and I had things I needed to do. In reality, I had absolutely positively NOTHING that needed doing. So then why the feeling of anxiety? Why the need to hurry?
I think that people live in certain ways because they are familiar. Habits are comfortable and easy, and they require no thought. That's fine if you have good habits, but when you don't, it can become a problem. I think--rather, I KNOW--I am in the habit of hurrying. But maybe I'm not actually living.
Today I made a choice, and hopefully I can stick to it. I'm going to try to slow down, enjoying other people and enjoying my life. In short, I'm going to try living like an Austrian--on Sunday, and on every other day of the week.