Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash
By Rebecca Isjwara
Upon arrival to your new university, you might encounter the infamous culture shock: facing the new local culture that is jarringly different from your own. However, the world is evolving to be more global and it is likely that you would have to face not just one new culture, but numerous other cultures from people who come from different countries, just like how you landed in Europe! It can be tricky to handle dealing with multiple cultures at once, but it does get easier with time and experience. Here are a few sure-fire tips to help you out with the process:
1. Have an open mind
Enter the situation with an open mindset. It is easier said than done to come to the understanding that some cultures would operate differently from yours, while others might have more similarities than you first thought. Once you have accepted the fact that every culture you encounter would be unique, it becomes easier to digest everyone’s different actions and reactions to matters that happen around you. Having an open mind would also allow you to correct any preconceptions you arrived with and expand your understanding on people and communities.
2. Read, read, read
There is no better substitute in obtaining information than to pick up a book or read articles on the internet. From fictional to news coverage, there is an infinite number of texts out there that describes a cultural phenomenon, the origins of a culture, or personal accounts of certain situations. Going through these texts would provide you with a basic understanding of the cultures you are about to face, and might help ease you into the interaction. It might also eliminate any potential unpleasant elements of surprise.
Or you know, watch videos, if that’s more your thing. Documentaries or movies are great places to start!
3. Take classes on culture at your host university
A lot of universities have social science courses or modules, and they might come in different forms, too: literature, psychology, or even business. Taking courses would provide you with a more formal setting to pick up the social and cultural cues, and would allow you to participate in a safe space in which you could state your opinion or ask questions without being judged or accused of cultural insensitivity. Bonus point: taking this course could add to fulfilling your university requirements, too!
4. Join the local festivities
Whilst living in your new culture, there is bound to be a various array of festivities happening in the area, be it local celebrations such as Christmas markets or international cultural day hosted at universities. When these events come along, don’t miss the golden ticket and join the fun! Gather a few friends and spend a day or two exploring the different celebrations and engaging in the activities. You also earn brownie points if you manage to pick up some local slang while all of the excitement happens.
5. Ask questions
Last but not least, ask questions. This applies to all situations, whether you don’t understand it or have a really good guess on why something is. The people in university settings tend to be open about different cultures and have an academic and objective way of viewing different cultures, and they would be one of the least offended people if you come with a genuinely curious question. As long as your underlying intention in asking these questions is to learn more about their culture, more likely than not, they’d transform into proud ambassadors of their own culture and explain everything to you enthusiastically. If this is the case, feel free to slip in a tidbit of information or two about Indonesia or your local customs as well. Not only would this enrich your discussion, but you can promote your home culture to your new friends in university.