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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.

 

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.

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.

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.

American “Core Values”

Living in a home with both American and Cambodian values has put me in a position where I can draw experiences from both aspects. In Peeradina’s article, he mentions that for most Americans the home is a private sanctity whereas for foreigners it is more of a place for visitors. Growing up, my home was just that. I lived in a house with ten people and  my uncles also lived a few houses away; we pretty much had a whole neighborhood filled with people we knew. It was a very close knit community almost like the one Peeradina described.

However, as I got older, our families moved out of that neighborhood; we became private and only had guests over for specific occasions. When I visited my family in Cambodia, it was a lot of different. Guests came over constantly and if someone walked by, they would be invited in for dinner. If we had older guests come over, the children would have to properly greet them, for Cambodians this means the hands are in “prayer” form  and the words “Chum Reap Sou ” , the proper way to say hello, are spoken.

Even though our family doesn’t have guests over as often, we interact with our neighbors often, something our family members don’t do. Our families would host joint barbecues and invite each other over during football games or birthday parties. Although Peeradina talked about the American home being more private, for our family, it’s a bit half and half. Growing up with both values isn’t too bad.

Reflection Blog Post Althen and Peeradina

Peeradina offers us the examination of two unique and different cultures, and how they intertwine with each other at times. After reading Peeradina I came to the conclusion that I witness two cultures that mesh together in many everyday situations. When I finished the  Peeradina reading, my mother popped in my head, as she is a perfect example when two cultures are embodied together at the same given time. There is always relatives showing up at my house uninvited or at times unexpected by my mother. So every time a relative comes over, my mother will have a short panic attack, as she is worried about what the guest will drink, eat, or stay during their time of visit. According to the Peeradina reading that “panic attack” is a sign of American culture, and I could not agree more. Yet, my mother is also from a Middle Eastern heritage, thus when people come over to visit, she will treat them as if they were royal guests. My mother would start to make feast of food, as she comforts the guest in the living room that is prohibited for everyday use. This example can be seen at numerous times in my household, but it will never change, because both American culture and Middle Eastern culture have intertwined in the everyday actions of my mother.

Althen discussion about American “core values” was outrageously funny, because as an American I can either see these core values done by other Americans or see my self at times fall into these core values. There are three core values that I want to dress from the Althen reading, the first would be equality, then work ethic, and finally directness.

When Althen addressed the issue of equality as an American core value, I felt like Althen had done a superb job in giving a description of equality. When the issue of equality is brought up by Althen, is explained that it is a core value that is held high by Americans and their constitution. Furthermore Althen adds that equality is not what it seems to be and is violated in ways such as sex, income, race and many other factors. Althen description on equality is true, by the means of law all men and women are created equal, but in the current American society that we live in, it is hard to find to be true. Work ethic is something that is also talked about by Althen and is talked about with such ease. Althen describes Americans as time oriented, and in many ways as regulated machines when they work. Ultimately meaning that Americans value hard work ethic and at times work much more harder than they are supposed to. Althen evaluation on work ethic has a lot to do with not only completion in American work force, but also the free market principle in American economy. I feel like Americans need to work hard, because any position can be refilled easily, and thus Americans feel that they are always in a competition for their field of profession. Directness is a big American core value and in the current time it is applied in normal day conversations, over the phone, through social media, and even family households. Althen describes Americans as being direct when communicating with each other, but the value of directness is halted when talking about certain issues. Issues that can make one person feel uncomfortable or awkward when talking about, these issues include sex functioning, personal problems or simple things like “mouth odor.” Althen describes that Americans are scared about hurting other people’s feelings when talking about such issues and are better off not addressed. I find this to be true, as at times it is always best to not say anything even when its better that you are upfront with someone.

Reflection of My Culture

When someone first looks at me, not much of ethnic diversity usually comes to mind. Instead, most just file me under the tag of “white girl American”. While I am a proud American, there is another part of my culture that often goes unnoticed even though it is very important in who I am today. My grandparents are from Italy, so for every Christmas, Birthday and Thanksgiving, there was some kind of Italian tradition that came along with it. When my grandparents would come over to my house, they would often talk about how things were like in Italy and similarly to Ojeda in “Growing Up American: Doing The Right Thing,” it made me question what the Italian people were like. One act that always makes me feel connected to my Italian culture is listening to, or playing the accordion. It was the first instrument that I ever learned how to play. When I was only seven or eight years old, my grandpa bought me a child’s accordion and he would try to teach me all the classic Italian songs that he learned in Italy from his father. Though I don’t play it now, every time I hear an accordion playing, I think of my grandpa and it brings me closer to the Italian culture. Another large aspect of Italian culture that I feel particularly connected to is Religion. Italy, especially Rome, is largely known for it’s religion. Being Catholic, I’ve been going to Mass pretty much every Sunday since I was old enough to remember. Though the Italian culture is not the only culture that is strongly Catholic, the history of the country still relates back to many scenes in the bible. This is shown in many classic museums in Italy like the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Religion has had a huge part in shaping me into the person that I am by making me a more grounded, humble and forgiving person. As well as being strongly religious, Italians are known for being very expressive, when it comes to their affection for people. Growing up, my grandparents always greeted anyone they  met with a kiss on the cheek. I didn’t think it was strange until I had a friend from school come over and she became frightened that my grandparents were so affectionate towards her. I am very much like that with my friends. Of course I don’t kiss them on the cheek, but I do greet them and leave them with a hug. There are several other  things about my personality that I notice that are derived from the huge impact Italian culture had on my life growing up. Small things such as using my hands whenever I’m talking in a conversation with someone,  No matter what that conversation is about. Similarly, my taste in food choices is very limited and is often something that is comparable to the authentic Italian food that my grandparents would make me while I was growing up. Whenever I am at a restaurant, the first thing that I look for is a pasta or pizza dish of some type, because that is my comfort zone when it comes to food. It’s what I grew up and it’s what I still choose to eat most days today now that I’m older. Though I’ve only been to Italy one time, there are still several characteristics of my culture practices that are straight from Italy.

Culture Conflict

Culture at times can be used to diverse people in many ways, yet is that always the best method to divide people? Cultural conflict is a conflict that occurs when two or more different cultures come into clash. The basis of cultural conflict can be explained, when two or more cultures clash in values and beliefs. Usually anthropologists try to explain cultural conflict, as two or more people having different beliefs and values. But what about the explanation of a single person having a cultural conflict from within? Amparo B. Oejeda, scholar in the department of Anthropology and Linguistics has open a new idea of thinking in term of cultural conflict. An idea that caught my eye, yet along with opening a new way thinking about my inner cultural conflict.

Being born in the United States always opens a door for one to allow American values to become a big part of a person’s life. Not only being born, but also raised in the United States has opened a door for my cultural conflict to exist. The reason being that my parents were not “Americans”, nor they did value American culture, or attempt to incorporate Middle Eastern culture with American culture. This method of keeping cultures divided and diverse is a good way of valuing the different cultures that the world brings. Despite that, it opens a door for people to have an inner conflict when born into two different sets of values and beliefs. As a being an example of having an inner cultural conflict, I can give an ideal example to justify my way of thinking.

The example is when I was growing up and being taught to be independent based on different definitions from two completely different cultures. Independence is different when described in the American culture and in the Middle Eastern culture. I was faced with this dilemma everyday day, especially in my late teenage years. Where I was given independence to get my own job, my own car, and to make other important decisions. A foundation that can be seen in the American culture, regardless of who it may be. My independence was always halted in some way, and thanks to the reading by Oejeda I finally understand why. I always got into arguments with my parents and simultaneously I misunderstood why. I always felt my parents never trusted me or trusted my independence when growing up.

Yet after reading this piece by Oejeda, I came to the conclusion that is was because of my Middle Eastern culture coming into conflict with my American culture. As a man who had bought a new car, had a nice job and able to make to financial decisions. It was hard to understand why I wasn’t able to move out and acquire my own place. In the Middle Eastern culture, it is wise, smart, and traditional for the man not to leave his family home until he reaches an ideal age of 28.(Approximated Age) Whereas, the American culture a person can leave their home, usually at the age of 18.

This inner culture conflict is something that can explain what most bi-cultural people go through. The term cultural conflict is something that should be addressed and taught in America. Especially where many bi-cultural people live and face problems that stem from an inner cultural conflict. Oejeda was faced with a cultural conflict, when deciding what culture to emphasis or teach to her daughter in America. This explanation gives me an insight of the tough decision that my parents were going through. But also the reasoning why I never fully understood the institutions that my parents had set upon me while growing up in America.