How to overcome cultural differences?
While taking a course abroad
will most definitely meet a lot of people from all over the world. Some of them will become great friends of yours, with some you will not find a connection. And that is natural – studying in a foreign country is as much about understanding different people as about overcoming cultural differences. It is very important that you try not to judge – celebrate the differences, and remember that there is no “right” way to do things - different countries have different traditions and habits, and that is a natural part of the world – it makes it even more exciting. So what you should do in order to become a person who is accepting all the wonders of the world? What you can do to overcome cultural differences?
See a person, not a stereotype
For a couple of minutes, please watch a bit of this video:
Even though it is a very ironic depiction of nowadays world, it shows how many stereotypes people have about each other. Do you see the world through the prism of stereotypes? Have you ever thought that maybe people from your country also are seen as a stereotype? Do you sometimes feel that you are exception of the rule?
When meeting new people in your university, try to forget that some of them are from different country or continent. Everyone is unique and special in their own way. Only thing that you got to remember is that you have to treat every person equally – just be kind and open with everyone. That does not mean that you should forget who you are and what are your values – if you meet someone who is just too far away from the way you think, it is normal not to communicate further. But the most important idea here is as old as a saying “Do not judge a book by its cover”. Give everyone a chance – that will change your life!
Watch your language
Humor is a very subtle way of communication, which may lead into you becoming the most funny person of the group. Also, it can be a reason why everyone is suddenly silent and staring at you. Before saying anything, try to think if it – would be insulting for you? Would it be inappropriate in a culture where you are now? Try to adjust your language and your sense of humor to the environment you are in now. Different cultures laugh at a very varied themes, but a thing which is funny for one, can be truly hurting for the other. Be considerate and do not go over the top.
Of course, once you know the people around you, their cultural context, and they know yours, the only right thing is to make fun of everything together. Once you know what kind of humor is typical in a certain country or culture, you can say that you already overcame cultural differences – and now you can laugh at them together.
Get out there and participate
Have you ever been in a situation, when everybody starts to talk about a movie you haven’t seen, and you start to feel awkward because you also want to contribute, but do not understand what’s up? We assume you have, because everyone does. It is not necessarily about a movie – it can be any topic you do not know about, any piece of knowledge you do not have, but everyone around does. That is going to happen a lot when you are studying in a different culture. Even if you are with people who are very considerate and who try to speak with you with a language both of you understand – yet for instance, sometimes your local friend may meet an old classmate, and start to talk in their native language, and you will just stand there smiling.
It is not the end of the world, of course, but the point here is – the more you know, the more you can get. If you become a part of some local community, you will get a lot of new insights about the country in which you study. If you know more than one language, especially if you have a chance to practice it while studying abroad, you will face endless opportunities just because you can understand people around you. Try to explore the new culture, and you will understand, that it is, even if different, yet still truly exciting!
Are there any cultural differences you faced and had difficulty to overcome in your life? Let us know in the comments!