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.

One thought on “Past and Future: Culture Shocks

  1. I agree with your experiences. You think that you do not have culture shock until you reflect back upon it. I really like how you mention the other culture in comparison to what you always are used to, which is the American culture. i often reflectt on what I do in other countries and think that it’s so different to what i would to in america.

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