Share Your Culture

First I want to say I’m proud of you. You have ventured to America to further your education and learned a new culture far away from home. You are adapting new values and hopefully understanding more about yourself. However, as you learn more about yourself I’m sure you desire, perhaps even long for, your new friends to know where you came from. Those friends you made at new student orientation and in Chem Lab are just as curious about your culture as you are about theirs.
I can understand the hesitation of not wanting to be vulnerable with those around you; you don’t want be the one that is different. But bringing your differences to light can be just what your friends need. We all have something to teach one another. The more we share ourselves, and the more we learn about others, the more we realize we may not be that different after all. Here’s some tips on how to start sharing your culture with others!

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Lessons I Learned Dating

I was all dressed up with nowhere to go for most of my adolescence. I went to prom by myself, hitting my teenage understanding of rock bottom, when I pumped my own gas in my floor-length gown. I had a longing for someone I had never met, his existence like a mirage, or a shadow, in every romantic setting I encountered alone. Years of singleness gave me plenty of time to develop an unrealistic picture of marriage in my head. I put kind, thoughtful men up on pedestals. I didn’t know then that they didn’t have the balance for that. Now I know, no one does. Americans tend to over-romanticize relationships, which kept me from seeing the simple beauty of two flawed people choosing to love each other. But reality, being the truthful friend she is, slowly removed the blindfold as I started dating after college.

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Chinese New Year

Red is the color of my memory about the Spring Festival because it summarizes my feelings of the old times in my home city of Beijing.

Beijing is an ancient city, the roots of many families have been grounded there for generations. If you ask “Beijingers” why they don’t want to move, they will answer you, “There is no better place than this city.” They are proud to live there. The accent, food and even the way of eating certain foods all carry pieces of this pride. I think there is also a deeper reason for it. It is the sense of family and community. We believe that there is nothing outside worth the cost of leaving family, friends and the city.

Family and community is the foundation for people in Beijing. It is also the theme of my family’s Spring Festival. A week before the Spring Festival, you will be able to hear the beginning whispers of it.

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The Culture Map

Living within another culture has unique demands when it comes to communication. It is not simply a matter of being able to speak another language, it is also a matter of understanding how and why people communicate the way they do.

In 2014, Erin Meyer wrote a book called, The Culture Map. Meyer, an international business consultant describes eight ways cultures differ from each other. Not only does she describe the ways they differ, she also puts countries on a graph to show how countries compare with each other. Understanding your own way of thinking in light of a new culture you are immersed in, can enable one to be patient, adjust, and hopefully thrive.

Take for example how cultures communicate within their culture. There are some countries and areas of the world where peoples have lived for generations without many coming in from outside. Some Asian cultures have centuries of cultural sameness in contrast to the United States, Australia, or Canada which are relatively young and where immigrants have been a part of the building of the country.

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How Did MLK Jr. Change America?

I’m sure you have heard of Martin Luther King Jr. because he is a big part of American history. I suggest taking time to read and listen to any recordings you can find about him, but first, I want to share what he’s meant to me. Growing up as a first generation African American woman I can say, I know who I am. My parents being from Uganda, were proud of where they came from and expected their children to be proud of their heritage too. However, being black in Africa is something to be proud of but being black in America is an entirely different struggle.
Dr. King was born in 1929 into a family who loved Christ and took the time to love those around them, but America during the 50s and 60s was less than kind when it came to African Americans. He lived in a world where anyone of dark skin had to sit in the back of the bus, use a separate bathroom, children attended rundown schools with outdated textbooks, and being treated fair was only in your dreams.

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Gained in Translation

The expression “lost in translation” makes sense. Some phrases don’t translate well from one language to the other, carrying the same meaning across borders is challenging. It’s only practical that people would say words get “lost in translation”.
But interacting with people of different cultures and countries involves so much more than words. There’s plenty of room for misunderstanding, but as I’ve befriended people from all over the world, sought to understand them and committed silly cultural faux paus along the way, so much has been “gained in translation” for me.
There’s a richness, a fullness to the picture of our world that comes into focus as you engage people from all nations. The way we each grew up, our own set of traditions, are a small part of the whole. Every time I interact with a new people group, something changes inside of me, like my mind is reprogramming itself to accommodate the new information.

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