I love meeting people from different cultures and learning from them. Last night I met a few Italian students and learned how to say "I'm hungry" in Italian...Sono Affamato. I am planning to start a blog post of how to say "I'm hungry" in different languages to ensure that I and those that read my blog will never go hungry in a different country. Considering the fact that we do eat 3 times a day, this is a handy dandy phrase I must say.
Meeting others of a different culture has opened my eyes to myself. In Global Marketing, we learned about all these people who made foolish mistakes in other countries that causes obstacles in cross-cultural interactions. In my mind, I'm always pft-ing (if that's even a word) at these stories and pride myself in being open minded to consider and think about these differences before I interact with others. Me and Beyonce have something in common in that we have big egos. In a recent interaction, I'm shocked that I became one who was quick to judgement. Please note that when I'm talking about the cultures I'm interacting with I am making generalities so if it isn't true for the majority than I apologize!
In our common room area, there are a group of Korean exchange and internationals that always stick together. Each time they congregate in the common room and I walk in, I will say "hello" but most of them will not acknowledge me or say "hello" quickly and resume to what they are doing. I'm offended that they seem completely disinterested in conversating with me. However, I couldn't help but notice that they only speak in Korean. Even in the presence of non-Korean speakers, they will continue in Korean. I find this completely rude and felt that they were being exclusive. My feelings toward the Koreans intensified even more when I interacted with a group of Italians. Upon meeting them, they all introduced themselves and engaged in conversation quickly. Even though the majority of them were Italian, they rarely spoke in Italian and if they did it was to only clarify words with each other that they didn't know in English. I felt immediately at ease with the Italians and enjoyed interacting with them especially when they taught me how to say "I'm hungry" and described how wonderful real Italian food is.
Not until I ate lunch with a group of Koreans did I take time to think about the other group of Koreans I wrote off before. It started off similar, even in the presence of 3 non-Korean speakers, when the Koreans spoke with one another they stuck to Korean. Peeved, I asked one of the guys why they continue to speak in Korean even when they are eating lunch and interacting with 3 clearly non-Korean speakers. He apologized and informed me that in Korean culture, it seems arrogant and rude to speak to other Koreans in English. It seems as if it is a means of "showing off". I told him about the Koreans in the common room who never seem to invite anyone to their delicious Korean food parties in the common room and their seemingly disinterested manner. He replied saying that Koreans are rather shy and "young" (Freshman) and are intimidated when interacting with others.
I readjusted my perception of Koreans and unwrote them for being rude. It didn't cross my mind that perhaps the way they were behaving was part of their cultural norm. Although a small incident, it gives me prospection in cross-cultural interactions to remind myself that anyone can interpret other cultural norms are rude or unfriendly if not considering the possibility of their cultural norms.
More on my lunch this afternoon, I was with 4 Korean exchange and 2 Hong Kong locals. We were talking about eye size. One of the girls commented that one of the guys didn't look Korean because of his eyes. Also, I was deemed the person with the "biggest" eyes of the group. Never in a million years would I think me, almond eyed chinky mcchink-star, would ever have the "biggest" eyes amongst a group of 7. Nevertheless, I was thrilled. *sigh only in Hong Kong... :)