- You shall not expect to find things as you have them at home…for you have left your home to find things different.
- You shall not take anything too seriously…for an open mind is the beginning of a fine experience.
- You shall not let others get on your nerves for you have come a long way to be a good ambassador for your country, to learn as much as you can and to enjoy the experience.
- You shall read carefully this information…for those who have gone before you have good advice to share.
- You shall remember your passport and know where it is at all times…for a person without a passport is a person without a country.
- You shall remember that if we were expected to stay in one place, we would have been created with roots.
- You shall not worry…for one who worries has no pleasure.
- You shall not judge the people of a country by the one person with whom you have had trouble…for this is unfair to the people as a whole.
- You shall not make yourself too obviously the foreigner…when in another country, do somewhat as the people there do.
- You shall remember that you are a guest in every land…for one who treats a host with respect will be treated as an honored guest.
In my view, the greatest misperception about intercultural communication is that studying it leads to skill in utilizing it. Study provides a solid framework for beginners, and refines the understanding of the veteran, but like any other skill, it must be practiced, experienced, and felt deeply, to be mastered–if it can be. Study alone is like studying grammar and believing we’ve mastered a language.
CODE OF ETHICS
Travel in a spirit of humility and with a genuine desire to meet and to talk with local people. Be aware of the feelings of other people, thus preventing what might be offensive behavior. Remember this especially with photography. Cultivate the habit of listening and observing, rather than merely hearing and seeing. Realize that people in the country you visit often have time concepts and thought patterns different from your own. Not inferior, just different.
Discover the enrichment that comes from seeing another way of life, rather than looking for the “beach paradise” of the tourist posters. Acquaint yourself with local customs. Respect local customs; people will be happy to help you. Cultivate the habit of asking questions instead of knowing all the answers. Remember that you are only one of thousands of visitors. Do not expect special privileges. If you really want a home away from home, why travel? Spend wisely; remember when shopping that the bargain you obtain is only possible because of the low wages paid to the maker. Make no promises to local people unless you are certain you can fulfill them. Reflect daily on your experiences; seek to deepen your understanding.
CROSS-CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT (source unknown)
When you leave your own culture and go to another, you naturally carry with you your own background and personality, sometimes called your cultural baggage. How you react to the new culture and how well you adjust to living in it will therefore depend upon you as a person. Here are some suggestions that others have made concerning adjustment.
- Listen and observe. Since there are new rules, norms, and cues that may be unfamiliar to you, you need to listen to verbal communication and observe non-verbal communication carefully and try to put them in proper context.
- Ask questions. You cannot assume that you always know what is going on or that you always understand some communication. Most Mexicans will be very helpful to you if you need an explanation of something. You may need to rephrase a question, check the meaning of something, and repeat what you have said.
- Try not to evaluate or judge. You will see many things that are different from your own culture. It is important not to label everything as good or bad in comparison with your own culture; most customs, habits, ideas are simply different from what you have known before. You may also misunderstand something and thus put the wrong interpretation on it until you have more information.
- Try to empathize. Try to put yourself in the other person’s place and look at the situation
from that person’s perspective. There are very different cultural perspectives of the same
- Openness and curiosity. To experiences a new culture and to learn from it, it is important to be open to new experiences, to try new things, to be curious about the way things are done in a new place. The more you explore, the more you learn.
- Sense of humor. It is very likely that you will make mistakes as you explore a new culture, and if you can laugh at them yourself, it will help you learn, and other people will respond with friendliness.
- Anxiety and frustration. Learning to function in a new culture is not easy, and it is natural to feel anxiety and frustration. If you recognize that these are a normal part of the experience, you may be able to deal with them more effectively. You sense of humor and openness will also help.
- Become involved. The more you put into the experience, the more you will learn from it. You should make an effort to meet people, form friendships, get involved in activities, and learn about the people and their culture.
HOW TO LEARN A NEW CULTURE
People who are effective in cross-cultural situations know how to learn about culture. They have discovered how to continue the learning process by effectively creating new learning opportunities, immersing themselves in the culture, learning from host culture persons (“cultural informants”) and other “sojourners,” and drawing upon other resources (e.g., media). They understand that cross-cultural experiences are challenging and require more than just understanding. They have also learned to manage stress and handle their emotions. They are adept at trying out new behaviors. And they never think they know it all because cultures, persons, and situations change. To stay on top of things, effective sojourners maintain a lifelong learning orientation.
- Participate in the culture
- Don’t fight the culture, flex with it
- View culture learning as expanding your skills and knowledge
- Reject the view of culture learning as capitulation
- Learn what is most important to the people in the culture
- Constantly test your own ideas about the culture
- Don’t assume you understand the culture
- Learn from ‘experts’-host culture and expatriate friends
- Occasionally withdraw from the culture-avoid culture fatigue
- Explain your culture to your hosts-help them understand you
- Learn from others, but don’t become dependent on them
- Learn from TV, radio, and the press-great for cultural insights
- When you don’t know, ask
Source: Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication 1998, Peggy Pusch
“Living and working in another country successfully depends ultimately on your
knowledge of and sensitivity to its culture and its people.”
William G. Klingelhafer, Harvard
LEARNING ABOUT YOUR HOST’S CULTURE
The following is adapted from the AMERICAN FORUM FOR GLOBAL EDUCATION – THE INTERCULTURAL TRAVELER:
You’ll never know all you want to know about your host culture; there will always remain things that are difficult to understand. By developing certain skills and attitudes you will be able to seek out information and use it in a way that will help you adjust to any new situation. This may in fact be the most important part of your whole experience. Exploring a new culture involves a sense of adventure, a willingness to take risks, an openness to look at the world in new ways, and a responsibility to accept people on their terms. Living in another culture may provide the most enriching experience you will ever have. It may affect you in so many ways that it will take years before you realize how much you have learned. The following information will help you focus on areas to explore about your own country as well as your host country:
From: CHECK LIST OF STUDY by Marion Salinger
Your subjective experiences will provide you with an image of your host society and its people and their culture. We know that there is no such thing as a totally objective, scientific, and unbiased perception of anything–our goal is to guide you along the path toward relative objectivity. The framework offered below has a two-fold purpose. First, it can serve as a checklist for guiding your observations and inquiries. Second, it will provide a possible basis for the development of a more exact personal image of your host society and its culture. These topics, touchstones for your own explorations are general, and thus applicable to any country you will visit. To prepare yourself try to answer some of these questions in relation to your own country.
Adjustments to the new country:
Being away from family/friends
Adjustments to the new job or position:
Learning new skills
Mastering new responsibilities
Getting to know colleagues and students
Adjustments to the new community:
Adjustments to the new culture:
“We see things not as they are, but as we are.” Talmud
The following information on pages is adapted from: Rhinesmith’s, “Bring Home the World”; Kohls, Survival Kit for Overseas Living; American Heritage Association; Sorti’s “The Art of Crossing Cultures”; and unknown sources.
What is culture shock and will you suffer from it?
Culture shock is a normal part of living abroad. It is neither bad nor good; it just is. It affects some people more than others. What exactly is culture shock? “Culture shock is the disorientation most people feel when they move into a culture quite different from their own.”
Why do we get culture shock?
The Experiment in International Living describes culture shock in this way: “When you spend your whole life in one culture, you have an unconscious belief that your values, attitudes, and way of perceiving the world are ‘right.’ When you live for a time in another culture, your beliefs may come into conflict with people of your host country who, not surprisingly, feel the same way.
THINGS TO DO FOR CULTURE SHOCK
- Remember that your situation is temporary, and that your feelings are a normal part of an exciting experience. Try tofocus on the exciting aspects of your time here.
- Take time out for yourself,be especially nice to yourself, give yourself treats, take a few moments alone or with a friend, take an hour “off,” pat yourself on the back and remind yourself what a brave and exciting thing you’re doing for yourself by really experiencing another way of living!
- Learn as much as possible about the host culture–the more you know, the better you understand. Continue to try to learn the language.
- 4.Look for logical reasonsbehind everything in the host culture, which seems strange to you.
- DON’T succumbto the temptation to disparage the host culture, and don’t hang around people who do so.
- Talk to your repwho is sympathetic about specific situations and about your feelings. Talking to someone about your feelings often helps you put them in perspective and lets you move on to thinking about something else.Continue to have faith in yourself!
- 7. If you find yourself making frequent negative comparisons of the new culture to your home culture,challenge yourself to look for the things that you likeabout the society you’re experiencing, and concentrate on enjoying those things.
- Keep in touch with family and friends at home,write a letteror E-mail them. This may remind you of your perspective as an observer of new culture and help restore your spirit of adventure and sense of humor.
- Keep a personal journal! It will help you gauge your feelings and keep things in a clearer perspective. It will also help you remember your experiences after you return home.
- Speaking of sense of humor–try to remember to use it! Ask yourself, just how serious is this really?
- Be patient, do not expect too much of yourself. Be content for the moment with small successes. Stop trying to conquer everything! Try to quit worrying about whether you are “succeeding” and just be an observer of yourself and others, knowing that you can “analyze” the experience later, if you want to.
- Take care of yourself physically:Get plenty of rest, eat properly, and stay fit (continue your normal exercise).
STAGES OF CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT
(From “The Art of Crossing Cultures” by Craig Storti)
Not everyone experiences all of these stages nor experiences them with the same intensity.
Stage One: Enthusiasm and Excitement
The individual: is very positive about the culture, is overwhelmed with impressions.
finds the culture exotic and is fascinated by it is largely passive; doesn’t confront the culture.
Stage Two: Withdrawal/Loneliness
The individual: begins to interact with the culture, finds the behavior of the people unusual and unpredictable, begins to react to the behavior and dislike the culture.
feels anxiety and stress, begins to withdraw, begins to criticize, and wants to go home.
Stage Three: Re-emergence/Adjustment
The individual: begins to understand the behavior of the people.
feels more comfortable living in/encountering the culture, feels less isolated. regains her/his sense of humor.
Stage Four: Achievement/Enthusiasm
The individual: enjoys being in the culture and functions easily in
the culture, prefers certain host country behavior to that of own
adopts certain behaviors of the host country.
STAYING IN TOUCH WHILE YOU ARE AWAY
Your friends and family will love this! Blogging has become very popular and an excellent way to stay in touch. Just remember that anyone with internet access can read your blog, therefore negative comments about your boss, school or colleagues could come back to haunt you. Keep it positive and it will be a great way to share your day-to-day life adventures in Mexico with your family and friends back home. Skype is a wonderful program to stay in touch with your family and friends. It is a popular free program to download to your laptop, and with the use of a headset, the quality is just like a phone call. You can even see each other if both parties have webcams. Many people use Skype to work online from Mexico.
COMING BACK HOME
“To exist is to change; to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
Henry Bergson (1859-1941) French Philosopher
REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
Yes, you may even experience some culture shock when you return home because you will see things differently at home. Like “culture shock” upon entering a new culture, some people experience “reverse culture shock” when they return home. “Re-entry” refers to the adjustment period experienced when the excitement of the trip is still very fresh and the traveler is enthusiastic to share his/her experiences and likes and dislikes about the foreign country with her/his friends and family members.
Most people who live in another country for any length of time discover that their return home is often more difficult than their adjustment to the foreign culture. Part of this has to do with the fact that people don’t expect to find their own culture “different.”
Coming home will provide unique challenges for you. People, places, things, and events will seem different. You will notice changes in yourself: socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. The longer that you have been away, the more pronounced it will be. You will have different perceptions about poverty, wealth, food, clothing, and behavior. An open attitude is very important. “As your life’s experience is expanded, so is your perspective of life.”
You may feel some frustration when your family and friends seem only politely interested or may not seem to be able to appreciate or understand your experience and what it has meant to you. You may also find yourself feeling some “culture shock” in reverse, feeling critical of things in your home society, and feeling homesick for your host country. Some people also report missing the excitement of their international experience, and feeling reluctant to settle back into the everyday routine of their lives at home. You will find that most of your friends and relatives will be interested in hearing about your experience–for a short while. They will not be as interested in it as you are. It simply will not be as important to them. So keep your comments brief, especially if you begin to feel that your listener is beginning to lose interest. (Source Unknown)
“It is wonderful what a different view we take of the same event four-and-twenty hours after it has happened.” Sydney Smith (1771-1845)English clergyman and essayist
“Life is an endless series of experiments.” Mohandas K. Gandhi
SO WELCOME HOME!
The cultural transition process that began upon your arrival abroad is completed as you make the transition back into your own culture and society. The final phase involves the integration of where you have been, who you are and where you are going. With time, that integration will occur, and you will be “at home” once again.
The following are some suggestions for dealing with re-entry:
- Accept your feelingsas a natural part of the international process. Keep your “observer” role for a while, observing your feelings and reactions and your home culture as you did in your host culture.
- Record for yourself, in writing (in your blog if you wish) or on cassette, how you were affected by your experience. What did you learn about yourself, other people, and the world? How did you change? Do this again after you have been home for a while noticing long-term effects.
- Organize your mementosin a way that is pleasing to you (photo album, frames, music recordings, displays, etc).
- Finally, try to reserve judgement, giving yourself time to think through what you have learned and the best way to introduce it. Of necessity you will go through a period of trial and error; not all new skills will be applicable.
Good luck and thank you for what you have contributed; a legacy of increased mutual understanding and shared appreciation between countries! Safe travels, and have a great time!