“One, two, three, cossachok, let’s go!” These are the words we were taught to shout in Russian, prior to taking a shot of the good vodka that my colleague brought from Mother Russia. „раз, два, три, казачок, поехали!“
She also brought cans of caviar, dried meat and pickles, because she wanted original ingredients for the Russian dinner that she prepared for us. 15 people, almost everyone from a different country, coming together and enjoying the perks of an international environment: eating authentic food from different regions of the world, and learning about the respective cultures.
Liver salad, fermented cabbage with sausage, and jerky made from deer are just a few things that were on the menu that night. It took five assistants to prepare dinner for all of us. We pushed two tables together and dug out the old camping chairs so that everyone could sit. And before we took the first bite of the delicious dishes before us, of course we had our first shot of vodka.
This is just an example of the many amazing gatherings I experienced during my PhD period. As numerous nationalities come together in scientific teams, there are plenty of opportunities to get to know the world in a way that is even hard to do by traveling. I learn about developments in countries and conflicts between governments that are not talked about in the news, and in addition I heard the opinions of the people affected by them. I learn about their culture and way of life, as well as how they think about their country and the politics there.
But we talked about lighter topics too. I learned that it is quite common in Taiwan to ask strangers about their salary. This is not considered rude, but as a starting point for a conversation. I also learned how new characters are created in Mandarin. And of course, I got many nice recipes from my peers.
“One, two, three, cossachok, let’s go!” To all my international friends and the fun we have together.