What a day for two young girls from Czechoslovakia and Germany: Last weekend, they left the airplane to live in Baku for a whole year. The two students will stay with an Azerbaijan host family, will go to school and get to know everyday life in a culture, that is quite different from those in Europe.
And what a day for two host families, who will host a new family member they have never seen before, from a European culture they hardly know, in a country that is quite far away and quite different from Europe.
The Eurovision Song contest, that was hosted by Azerbaijan in May 2012 brought a wave of new influences from Europe to the young Caucasian country. Also, the internet, that is freely accessible all over the Azerbaijan, transports a lot of new ideas, fashion, lifestyle and American movies. But at the same time, you find traditional life styles: The shepard and his sheep – carrying a mobile phone, though, maybe to talk to his brother in Germany. You find backyards where sheep wool is transformed into most comfortable matreses and pillows, all hand-made by women, who know how to use computers and Facebook.
The range of different lifestyles is much wider than any European country, the speed of change is much faster than any other European country I can think of, the range of different cultures from old-time until today is much more diverse than most other countries I know. There are modern men and women who at the same time enjoy traditional ways, to be protected or accompanied. There are many people so eager to learn more languages and other countries.
There are high Caucasian mountains and wide beaches at the Caspian Sea, green valleys and salt deserts. There is a majority of Moslems, but also christians and jews, all peacefully living together. Families are big families, they are the most important ties in a society that is changing so rapidly, and nobody knows where this is leading to. There are not many newspapers, but there is a lot of internet and mobile communication. There is not much money in most parts of the country, but there is a lot of open-hearted hospitality and friendship.
There will be a lot to discover for these two exchange students.
If you want to learn more, look at www.yfu.az and www.yfu.de