Chapters 3 and 4 continued the question of “what would it be like to be in a new country with no understanding of the culture or societal norms that are apparent in every day living.” With that being said, as I read through the book I couldn’t help but remember when I lived outside of the country and had to assimilate into a new culture.
When I moved to England I had no idea that life would be so much different and the way to interact daily with individuals would be a lot different than how I would in America. This is where the “Developing Competence” slide in the chapter 3 lecture comes in. I remember first the “exposure” stage where I first had to just be submerged into the at school. I began to take hints and notice the behaviors and actions of people who would later become my friends. They were nice enough to give me “feedback” on what I should and shouldn’t do in certain situations.
At the same time however I had my bias’s about the culture and felt sometimes that my way would be better. This sort of behavior was touched on in part in chapter 4. There were times I would try and do things the “American way” because I felt it would be better then the “English way.” It was a very arrogant thing to do and sometimes I paid the price for it.
Ultimately what it comes down to and what both these chapters try to hash out is the fact that when learning about other cultures and also experiencing them, we must go in with an open mind rather than a closed on. Understand that we are guests and visitors and not “conquerors” there to teach them the “correct” way to live. Being mindful of other’s norms and values and attempting to show them is a lot more polite and respectful than trying to dominate and be better.
In chapters 1 and 2, common topics that were discussed were introductions to new cultures and understanding certain norms that are part of each culture. A big question that was explored in the chapters was “what would it be like to be thrown into an unknown culture and told to live in it.” I know that that question was actually stated but that’s what I was thinking of the entire time as I was reading.
As someone who has been to almost over 30 countries, I’ve been thrown into many cultural situations where I had to make swift adjustments to either actions or behavior in order to keep the peace. One such cultural experience I had was when I was in South Africa having dinner with a family. The first thing that I did was drink all of my juice before eating my food and then proceeded to pour myself more juice. In their culture this was very rude because you aren’t suppose to drink until you have eaten, let alone refill your drink immediately.
When I was in Egypt, I noticed a form of odd respect that was given towards me, but it felt like disrespect. When I asked Afsaar, my tour guide, why they were treating me this way, it was because normally when white people come into the town that I was in, the whites typically treated the natives with much disrespect. It turns out that this had been going on for a long time and therefore was rooted in their behavior and I had to adjust my behavior and the way that I acted.
The big thing that can be taken from all of this is that it is important to see things from other perspectives besides our own. When in another country I never have tried to assert my own cultural norms on others because I know how disrespectful that is.
This was basically the gist I got from the readings.
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