Globetrotting Virtually

It is March. Franziska Wick is exploring Sweden this month. She has just learnt about Smörgåstårta from a native. “This is something very Swedish and VERY delicious! A savoury cake made out of bread and a selection of creamy, yummy fillings. My favourite is this one, filled with salmon, eggs, mayonaise, caviar, lemon and veggies.”  Another Swedish is explaining how a hug is a very natural gesture there. “We hug! Indeed we do. People we know, people we don’t know so well, people we haven’t seen for a while even some colleagues when we haven’t met for some time… Later this month, Franziska will head to Nigeria after Sweden. But here’s the catch. Franziska is not in Sweden. Yet, she is exploring the world along with 1000 plus members at the last count- through her facebook page – ‘Around the world in a year’

A fulltime work from home mom of four and one year old girls- Franziska Wick is based in Switzerland. Growing up in Frauenfeld, a small town near Zurich, Franziska says she never felt particularly Swiss and has always been interested in other cultures and countries of the world. “I traveled around the world for 3 years combined (not all in one stretch) and lived and worked in London for 5 years.”

Just a week before January 2016, Franziska started a facebook page to follow her virtual globetrotting resolution for this year. The idea was very spontaneous she says.
“I wanted to teach my eldest about foreign cultures and had the idea to feature one particular country each month in 2016, to cook recipes for my family from that country, tell my girls how people live there.”
But soon she realized this would mean a lot of work – to do all the recipes and culture research if she was to do this alone. So she began by posting her idea in a multicultural FB forum that she is a member of asking whether 11 people from 11 countries wanted to take part in her virtual world travel project. “I created the group and posted the link, that’s all I did! I had no idea where this would lead to! After just five days we had over 100 members.”

How the group works

By the 7th week, the group had more than 800 members from all over the world. Franziska along with everyone began by exploring her home country Switzerland and Israel in the month of January. In February, it was China and France. And in March it is Sweden and then Nigeria. There’s a list of countries chalked out till the end of the year. Her idea is to have 24 countries host the group for 2 weeks each. The country’s hosts and everyone from the host country or living in the host country is welcome to contribute – photos, recipes, information about the daily life there and everything else! Franziska chose the countries randomly, making sure that each continent – its food, people and major religions, are well represented.

Each day the group sees at least 10 posts with people from the host countries. Each country hosts for two weeks and everyone from the host country or living in the host country is welcome to contribute – photos, recipes, information about the daily life there and everything else!telling about the culture and lifestyle there and others participate with their opinion.
“We talk about traditional foods (quite often we then find out that these dishes exist in other countries too or originated from other countries), recipes, about what school days look like (what time they have to get there, how long the days are, how much homework they have), the office hours and whether people go for lunch in restaurants or in front of the desk), what people do on the weekends, what they love about the country, things that are annoying in that particular country, about cool places to go, healthcare is always a big topic, the school system, holidays and traditions. “ She says
In the two plus months, Franziska has learnt many interesting facts from many cultures. And quite naturally, she found certain posts from a country more interesting than the other. Like the enormous shelves of hummous, readymade salads and dried fruit in the Israeli supermarket. But her favorite of all so far came from Taiwan. A Taiwanese lady documented her Chinese New Year Eve in Taiwan. She shared posts with food photos of what they ate, how they pray at home in front of their shrine, how they give the food to their ancestors first, the visit to the temple and burning the paper money.

A women’s group

There’s however one thing that comes to notice. The group sees more mums participating than dads. “It has to do with the Facebook groups where I recruited members from – the only international groups I’m in are parenting groups, and naturally parenting groups are attended by mothers, not dads. I’m trying to get more men but it’s difficult for me to recruit them.” She says.
Needless to say, Franziska is totally in love with this unplanned project. The rest of the year will see many hosts from more countries. The group members along with Franziska are sure to learn from each other as they discuss and share their thoughts.
“It’s so inspiring and heart-warming to see how people live in other countries, and to see how everyone gets on well in this group, even though we come from all corners of the world. I think how people really benefit though is that their borders are widened and they realize that there’s a whole lot more to a country than what we hear in the news.” She says.

You can join the group here (Franziska has recently opened an online shop for British kids things Goose and Parrot. She also runs a local forest playgroup for children and their parents. You can read more about her experiences on her blog. She plans to publish her experiences (of Around the world in a year project) as an e-book with insights into countries and recipes. You can book your copy by reaching Franziska at [email protected])

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