Monthly Archives: October 2015

Cultural Shock

Transitioning to a new country or having to learn a new culture is definitely a difficult process. As Janet Bennett explains, the fears that we think about are “excessive concern over cleanliness and health; feeling of helplessness and withdrawal, fear of being cheated, robbed, or being injured, and making friends”. Coming to the states when I was seven years old was probably the hardest process of my life. I had to overcome the circumstance and fight to make new friends, and adjust to the American culture that I wasn’t used to. At first, I couldn’t really make any friends because my English was very poor. I felt alienated and was really not motivated to making any. “Transition shock” often leads to communication problems though, making us feel anxious, lonely, and disoriented”. Bennett explains how we “block out the new forms and styles of communication available to us”, and during that time of my life, that’s exactly what I did, block out everything that was coming towards me. As the years went by, I started to accept the fact that I was no longer living in Korea. The culture transition immediately started right when my mentality altered. Started to pay attention in class more, talk to people, and just had fun playing basketball with the other kids.

 

Honestly, the only thing that I learned from transitioning to another country is about mentality. According to a study at the University of Alberta, culturally insensitive individual, contrary to a persuasive myth, was revealed as the individual who believed that” people are about the same everywhere”. This statement is so true as every year, the transition to a new culture got better and better. Going to my first American friends house was a big step for me seeing the way people in another country lived for the very first time. The food that the family gave us, the amount of freedom I had in the house, it was like being the king of the house, very similar to the Korean culture. Through moments like these, my “culture shock” wasn’t a shock anymore. Of course at first it was very nerve racking and scary but, that is just a natural reaction for everyone no matter what age you’re.

 

All in all, adjusting to a new culture wasn’t easy for myself, and for most people in general. We always think about the negative effects rather then the positive ones and it blocks out being opened up to the countries new culture. Hopefully when I go to Korea or New Zealand for my abroad program, I will be able to open up and become positive. Overcoming something in general is always a hard task and Janet Bennett really explains in her article “Transition Shock” about basically all the reasons on why going somewhere else is a difficult process. I was reminiscing about my past when I read her article because the information was spot on. Now that I’m older, I can confidentially say that learning about a new culture will be interesting and fun rather then intimidating and lonely.

Bennett, Janet. “Transition Shock.” N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

 

Cultural Shock

As I have gotten older, I have experienced many instances of cultural shock. Some have been smaller such as meeting my friend’s Filipino family for the first time. Some have been much greater such as the first time I went to Europe.  In “Transistion Shock: Putting Culture Shock in Perspective”, Janet Bennet talks about all the different types of culture shock that people can experience. Much of what he said brought me back to my first time to Europe.

I traveled to several countries in Europe last summer; Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. By far, the country where I experienced the most culture shock was France. Maybe this was just because it was the first country I traveled to or it was the extreme difference in language, but it was a very hard adjustment to make. Like Bennett said in his article, many people often feel hopeless when they travel to a different country. That’s exactly how I felt for most of my trip. I had trouble communicating with the natives so I couldn’t ask for directions to the bathroom and I didn’t know some words on menus or signs on the wall. Luckily I was with my family who helped me find my way around. We also had access to a tour guide who spoke basic Italian so he was able to help us around. As the weeks went on, I felt a lot more comfortable in my surroundings and was able to order basic drinks and food off a menu. I learned how to say basic sayings like “Thank You” and “Wheres the bathroom?”

According to Bennet, there are three stages that occur to you when you experience culture shock. Fight,flight and filter. The fight stage is what happened to me when I first arrived in France. It is when the traveler’s guard is up and they are very shy of their surroundings. The next stage, flight is what happened to me about 24 hours after I arrived in France. It is when the traveler is so overwhelmed with what they got themselves into and they often feel very lost. For a moment, I felt as if I wanted to go back home to America becuase I thought there was no way that I was going to be able to feel comfortable. The last stage, filter, is when the person finally starts to adjust to their new surroundings. This actually happened to me the last couple days of my trip. I was finally starting to feel like I was grasping the culture and language differences.

My First Cultural Shock

Throughout my life I have experienced many different “culture shocks” or changes that I was not expecting. One example of this shock is when I went to Guatemala to study Spanish over the summer, and was thrown into a culture I had never seen or even read about. While I was reading the article, “Transition Shock: Putting Culture Shock in Perspective” by James Bennett, the author explained how individuals experience culture shock, which resonated with how I dealt with my first “culture shock” when I went to Guatemala.

When I first arrived in Guatemala, I was very confused as to what was happening, since everyone around me was speaking Spanish, which I knew known of at the time. I had a difficult time communicating and felt hopeless for the upcoming weeks I would be there, which Bennett explains as a normal symptom many people face when they enter a new place they aren’t familiar with. Thankfully when I was in Guatemala, I had traveled with a group, so it made experiencing these shocks somewhat easier, but still required me to overcome them and immerse myself within the new culture I was living in. In response to my feeling of hopelessness, I talked to some of my group mates, who helped me learn some basic Spanish for the first day, so I could understand and ask for simple things. As the first week continued, I began to  become more comfortable in the new culture by saying hello to people on the street and even ordering food and drinks for my self at the local restaurant, but not without asking my group mates first if what I was saying was correct. Though I had begun to adapt to the new culture, I was still very hesitant and reluctant to fully immerse into the new culture.

When reading the article by Bennett, the author explains how individuals have to “flex” in their new culture to adapt to it. Bennett suggests that a person who “flex” properly uses a “variety of adaptations which may be employed to reduce the dissonance in the new culture” and it will “lead us to either ‘go native’ and to submerge ourselves in the host culture, or cause us to retreat to the safety of our fellow countrymen in residence”. Many individuals when they travel abroad, usually do not “flex” well and as a result do not submerge themselves in the new culture. While I was in Guatemala though, I did submerge myself in the new culture by living with a Guatemalan family, speaking Spanish everyday, and walking around the city to meet new people. By the end of the trip I was able to go to the local bakery and order food for all my friends without needing any help.

Seeing that I was able to “flex” into the new Guatemalan culture, I was able to understand a new perspective of living that influences me even today.  One example of this is how relaxed people are on a daily basis, not being stressed over meeting times or normal stress of life that the American culture has. Since I immersed myself in the culture, I try to implement this into my life today and not to get stressed over little things in life. The experience from Guatemala has changed the way I see the world and other cultures, and I can not wait to be immersed in more cultures and countries in the future!

Transitional Shock

Janet Bennett states in her article that “culture shock” can exist in transitional experience. Once experience where I first had trouble adapting an environment was when I started my freshmen year at Pacific. Although, I was born and raised in Stockton, attending Pacific seems as if it were an entirely different world. Many students at Pacific, especially those from Stockton, say the UOP is its own bubble in Stockton. The culture and the social life was quite different from what I was accustomed to in high school. I was used to knowing everyone, being in the same social groups as athletes and student government was normal. Here, I found that Pacific had quite a few cliques. Greek life only associated with Greek life or athletes only associating with fellow athletes, so on and forth. I found myself feeling alone and I feared that I was missing out on the whole college experience. Bennett described loneliness as one of the symptoms of culture shock. Loneliness was definitely what I felt during this time. Granted, I came in with an amazing group of people in my scholarship program. However, I felt as if I wasn’t involved enough or doing things everyone else was doing. The four stages, according to Bennett, that represents the process during a transitional experience. The first being fight, during this stage, the person’s guard is usually up. At this moment, the person has high expectations of the experience or place. This sort of relates to my experience transitioning from high school to college. I had extremely high expectations of college and how I planned to make a change in my life. Unfortunately, that mindset was torn down after the first month of the semester. The next stage is “flight”. Flight occurs when the situation is overwhelming and the person becomes discouraged and withdrawn. Relating back to my experience, I thought about leaving Pacific. I was envious of what my friends had at other college campuses. I felt that I was again missing out. My friends also made me feel as if staying in Stockton for college was an indicator that I would be “stuck” here for the rest of my life. That was until I started to see the positive aspects of attending Pacific. The third phase is “filter”. Filter occurs when the person starts to adjust to their environment and lower their defenses. During this stage of my transitional experience, I started to realize that I had a pretty good thing at Pacific. The small classes, the personal interaction with professors, and how easy it was to register in comparison to other public universities. The last stage was flex. Flex is when defenses are dropped and perspectives are changed in order to adapt to our new surroundings. Finally, once I began my sophomore year. I became more involved and started to appreciate the opportunity I was given.

Past and Future: Culture Shocks

Having only been to foreign countries a few times in my life, all when I was young, I cannot explicitly recall a feeling of shock from being in a new culture. In addition, I was never in a foreign country or city for more than a few weeks at most, and I was also usually in a group (family or friends). As a result, I did not have the time to notice these cultural differences, nor did I feel the effects immediately as I had my group to fall back on.

My first venture into a foreign country took me to Vietnam in the fifth grade. As my family is Vietnamese the culture was more or less very familiar to me, the shocks came from aspects much more visual. The vast amount of motorbikes filling the road in a seemingly chaotic fashion was quite a sight to see. Stop signs and stop lights were also fairly rare from what I remember, causing me to wonder just how anyone was able to get anywhere on the road. However, the act of simply crossing the street required the very young me to change my way of thinking. In America one would go to a crosswalk and wait for the lights to signal them to cross, here in Vietnam one just needs to cross the street when it seems clear. I remember that just taking those steps onto the road was nerve-wracking for me. I eventually learned that the key was to cross with confidence, as in do not try to dodge the incoming bikes. If one just walks across the bikes will avoid you, but if one tries to move out of their way they are much more likely to be hit. When I was in New York recently over the summer, the people there had a similar habit (ignoring stop lights and crossing the street whenever its clear) and I was able to quickly emulate their behavior. Overall a very small and simple culture shock in my eyes, but one none the less.

Looking ahead, if I am able to do my co-op abroad in Japan, the culture shock would be much more apparent. Specifically due to the fact that I will have to live there for about six months while also working there. I will need to adjust to both the general culture as well as the workplace culture. I believe the hardest aspect for to adapt to would be the way in which I communicate with the people and present my ideas. The people generally try to preserve the harmony of the group, looking to avoid conflicts. While I tend to do this at times, when I feel the need to present an idea or argue against one I generally will do so without hesitation. This will be something that I will simply need to adjust to in order to communicate more effectively. With the transition itself, I think that I am likely to at first avoid aspects of the culture that I find uncomfortable and then gradually adapt to this new way of life. Also, I feel that I am fairly stubborn, so I am likely to mix in this new culture with my own, keeping the old aspects of my culture alive.

Culture Shock

I believe that culture shock can often be mentally draining. For me, it happened when I went to go visit Tijuana, Mexico for the first time. I had the impression that although I was Mexican, everything would be the same and I would not be viewed as an outsider or tourist. I agree with Bennett’s when she says that culture shock occurs when you feel threatened or even out of place.

Upon checking into the hotel, the receptionist at the front desk automatically believed we were American. Of course, I viewed myself as a Mexican-American, but I believed it would have been the same as being a Mexican in Mexico. However, it was different. People viewed us as being rich, snobby people, but that was not the case. We were not even in Mexico to visit tourist attractions or anything in that matter. My dad, even being from Mexico, was constantly mistaken for an American. That’s when I came to the conclusion that although you may be from a certain place, you can often be regarded based on one’s culture. In Mexico, their culture is different from ours; so people can often pick out people who do not blend in with the rest of the people.

Every day that we spent in Tijuana, we often tried to “blend in” with the crowd and not appear as tourists. It shocked me how we had to pretend to fit in, even though I assumed because we were Mexican it would be the same. It was nerve-wrecking having to pretend to fit in because I thought I already did. As Bennett mentions with culture shock, one does become nervous and wanting to leave the place that you are not accustomed to. Every single day that I was there, I was in panic, in fear, that people would recognize that I was not who I was. I wanted to leave two days into our trip, but we were not able to. As Bennett mentions in her article, communication was a key factor in the culture shock. Even though I was fluent in Spanish, I often felt as if I could not communicate with the people there. I often felt I was not proficient or I did not know any Spanish although it was my native tongue. It was hard for me because I always assumed I spoke it well, but there, I felt out of place.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that there was no alternative. I had to suck up to the idea of being a “Foreigner.” I ended up taking advantage of my status and doing silly things as a tourist, and did not have a shame in it. That was when I started to become more relaxed and at ease with myself. Bennett’s also argues after the initial moments of culture shock, you then sense familiarity and become used to your surroundings even though they may be new.

As Bennett’s provides examples of submerging oneself to the culture as a way to overcome culture shock, I had done that. My parents and I traveled like a typical Mexican, we would jam-pack ourselves into taxis, take the autobus, go to the pulga, and enjoy other things that natural residents do in Mexico. We ended up overcoming the initial culture shock by submerging ourselves into the Mexican culture although we assumed that we already had the culture in the United State.

As a result of reading the Bennett’s article, I realized that I had overcome and experiences culture shock. I know now that although you may think you have not, you most likely have. It could be with somewhere you think is familiar or similar to you, but it happens all the time, unknowing to you.

Individualism

Ever since I have grown up, choices have always been made for me. In my household, every single decision has been made upon my parents. According to the readings, Americans tend to be more individualistic. My raising has taught me to realize that not all decisions will be up to your own discretion.

 

However, I do agree that once you reach a point in your life- you are given the autonomy to make your own decisions. Once I became eighteen, that is when I started to see the freedom. Although my parents are seen to be a “strict” pair l, once I turned legal in terms of the law, I started to be less restricted. With my license, I was given more leeway into my own decisions. I knew that with “great power, came great responsibility.” I knew my actions would be accounted for and I had no one to fall back on. Becoming an adult meant that my indiidualism would become fully intact.

I Did not mind however, because I learned to really recognize who I am. I learned how to “grow up” and it prepared me for the real world. Knowing that in a few years from now, I will be moved out completely I will understand that I no longer are under my parents and all my actions reflect me. I cannot be under my parents rule nor be able to fall back on my actions an blame them.

It would be easier if I lived in a society where you didn’t need to be individualistic cause it is much more harder.

Growing up with the Gerbericks

Individualism has been a big part of my life growing up. Since I was little, my parents always gave me the opportunity to voice my opinion; whether it be where we go on vacation, or what Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor I wanted. When you’re an only child, this trait can be taken to the extreme and turned into a sense of entitlement, but I like to think that having these options since an early age made me respect my parents that much more. In American societies, respect is earned more than it is inherent, so when someone shows you respect, you typically return the favor. My parents tried to prepare me for the adult world by giving me this little freedom early on, and even treated me as a “mini adult” so to speak- helping me grow up a little faster.

In America, the elderly, especially when they are family, are given respect right off the bat, for we call them “Grandma” or “Nana” or whatever version your family might have, but rarely is the title skipped completely causing us to settle on solely their name. I call my step grandpa “Grandpa Wayne”, and my grandma “Mimmie” which is a tradition in my family. I would never consider using the informality of “Wayne” or “Barbara”. Even adults who are my parents’ friend, or my friend’s parents are addressed as Mr. or Mrs. As I get to know them better, it sometime may turn into Mr. or Mrs. followed by their first name, but this is pretty rare. We do have really close family friends, who are like an aunt and uncle to me, and I refer to them by their first names, but they are the only adults I do that with.

My Reflection of the American Culture

I have grown up in California my whole life, so many of America’s core values such as hospitality and informality have been engraved in my mind since birth. I find it strange when I hear my friends who grew up with different cultures speak about the negative aspects of American Culture.

One aspect of American culture that I grew up with is the type of hospitality that is custom to Americans. When family members stop by unexpectedly, it is considered rude to Americans because they weren’t given forewarning. This is happened multiple times in my family. My uncle stops by for dinner and my mom will often get upset because she did not make enough food, and she obviously wants to have enough food for herself and her family. Peerdina mentions that to Americans, their home is their private space, but to foreigners, it is simply a visiting site. This is proven true in my family. My parents consider our home to be OUR home for our immediate family, and guests can stay, but they need to know their place.  Similarly, when people stop by for a short time, Americans don’t necessarily feel the need to clean up. For example, one time freshman year, my friend from down the hall came over to my room to get homework help. Since I was in a college dorm and she my friend, I didn’t feel the need to clean up. However, when she got to my room, she was really  offended that my room was so messy. That’s when I realized how other cultures viewed hospitality.

Another aspect of American culture is the informality that is given off especially from young people to older people. At my high school, I had many teachers who went by nickname or simply their last name with no “Mr. or Mrs.”  title. Again, I never found this strange until am exchange student from Korea came to our school and was very disturbed when he heard students saying this. When I look back at that event, and when I look at American culture in general, I do think that it should be more formal and elders should be treated with more respect.

When Peerdina compared the American and the Indian households, and their informal ways of living, it took me back to several instances where that culture divide was extremely relevant. Reading what Althen and Peerdina thought of American Cor e Values was very interesting, because these are values that I see being acted out almost every single day with hospitality and informality being so present in our society.

A Few Core Values

Throughout this semester, we have read many reading that compare the American culture, to that of other cultures around the world. In one of the articles that we have read this semester is about the American culture and the assumptions that are being made about it. The author Atheln, discusses many different aspects of the American culture, and the first one discussed, is something I definitely have as a part of my culture, which is individualism. As Athlen wrote, from a very early age the American child is taught to be individualistic, and “consider themselves as separate individuals who are responsible for their own situations in life and their own decisions”, which is a common value not shared around the world. Many cultures, consider themselves a family unit with a hierarchy system from oldest to youngest, but in the American culture, you are accountable for your decisions and you make them on your own. I certainly follow this American value, since my early age I have always been able to decide for myself what I want to eat, what to watch for TV, and many other decisions, that normally my parents would have made for me as a young child. Individualism in America, is a value that is embodied in the culture, with kids today dying their hair in elementary school to, playing or dressing however you want. Our culture has come to the point, where not being an individual is frowned upon, and being individualistic and independent is seen as the best way to be yourself in our own culture.

Another value that many Americans embrace, including myself is, privacy. Athlen writes that, “Americans assume that people “need some time to themselves” or “some time alone” to think things or recover their spent psychological logical energy”, which I feel holds true for me. In my life, I plan time in my day to spend by myself so that I can recover from the daily stress that life brings. In the American household, privacy is a huge importance as well, where children are allowed to have their own bedrooms as their private space, which parents usually knock before going in, or don’t go in at all to keep their child’s privacy.  Another author, Peeradina, compares the American culture, to Indian culture and how they are different, with privacy in the household. The Indian household s almost the opposite of the type of household I grew up in. They welcomed random guest to their homes and treated them as honored guest, the American culture, including my family, don’t enjoy surprised guest to our homes. The Indian household also let’s guest stay in their home, in their bed, invading privacy while in the United States, we don’t let people stay in our home, and very rarely let guest go into our private areas, like our bedrooms. Privacy in the American culture is a very strong value that many share, with times to themselves on a daily basis.

The final value I will focus on is Athlen’s point of “directness”.  Athlen makes the point that it is very common in the American culture to express your displeasure of something among the people it involves openly. For myself I definitely consider this true, one conversation I have regularly while talking with close friends is “something is wrong, I should tell them so we can talk about it”, with the objective of resolving the conflicts. Speaking as an American I can say I adhere to the American ideal of directness because it seems to be the way, we as a society have found to resolve some conflicts and save those precious human relationships. However reading Ahlen’s next point of how “Asians feel embarrassed around Americans who are exhibiting a strong emotional response to something.” This brings the realization that the American idea of directness or assertiveness is not global. Realizing this brought to the forefront cultural advice I did not have, and encouraged me to become a bit more culturally aware of this particular value, because I have been subjected to only the American ideal.