1.5 - Packing Up!


Packing up!


Of all the things you might forget to bring with you overseas, one aspect you simply cannot avoid taking with you is your own cultural reactions. You have developed ideas, values, and ways of doing things all your life, and those patterns have generally been successful in getting the things you need and want. These patterns are the result of the sum total of all you have learned from experience and education. You don’t have to remember to include them because you could not abandon them if you wanted to. If you are largely unaware of how much you are a product of your culture, an overseas trip will quickly reveal just how "US-American" you are. US-Americans are readily identified by any host country national just by their body language and dress.

Further, much of what we do is unconscious. We are operating on a kind of "automatic pilot" and it is not until a problem arises that we think about how we think and act. It can be deeply disconcerting to discover overseas that many people do not share your values, beliefs, or ideas on how to behave. You may find that everything from proper dining etiquette to what being "on time" means may require relearning, adjusting attitudes, and finding out the local "right way" to do the simplest tasks. Knowing how and why your "natural" cultural reactions may vary from those of your host country is a first step in being able to successfully negotiate your way in a new culture and interact effectively.

If you did the exercise “In the Mind of the Beholder” in Section 1.3.2, you have some idea of how differently people think. We are slow to recognize our own cultural conditioning in this regard, however.