Category Archives: Culture

Born into it

Temperature is so low I lose the sensitivity of my fingers (without gloves) within minutes. The blanket of snow still greets me god morgon whenever I stepped out of the hostel. The shudder always comes next when I breathe in the chill of the air.

Few Swedish students will be heading towards the tropical island for their research project next semester. Other than the culture shock they will experience, I think they will find the weather shock more unbearable. It goes the same for me too, but I would rather the heat waves embracing me when I go home than the icy air sucking the life out of me everytime the door opens.

A multi-racial community is where I grew up in. Seeing different skin colors is a norm for people living in the place where I come from, in addition to the many attempts the government tries to normalize the mix, I don’t usually see race as an identity of a person. To my fullest knowledge, we respect each other’s cultures and festivities, we acknowledge the presence of differences between how these people of different colors behave and accept them. An occasional thorn may appear from the surface of what seem like the peacefulness between races, but it never grows into the malicious and indiscriminate assaults between the people.

I don’t usually identify myself with being a Chinese, but I can’t help with the fact that I celebrate attend Chinese festivities, tie myself with the traditional cultures that advocate down-to-the-earth attitude, and eat Chinese food (no, not Chinese noodles). Seldom have I thought that my Chinese heritage defines who I am, until I met a lot more people from other races, and mostly, other nationalities.

So one of my Swedish friends, who’s going over to my homeland for his research project, was caught in a shock when asked about the ethnicity group he belongs to, on top of his nationality. Here’s the question (which is specific only to my country, not sure about the rest), if we are just looking at the capability and educational qualification of an applicant, why bother about names and ethnicity? Interestingly, I was asked where/who do I identify myself with, my country or my race? While I couldn’t really find an answer to that, I realized that I don’t feel belonged to any group that people categorize themselves into. Not that I want or don’t want to be a Chinese, I’m genetically and culturally born to be a Chinese.

Race is always a sensitive topic, because people choose to distinguish and protect themselves, to keep on to a culture that was passed on to them. While nothing’s wrong with embracing your own culture, it’s only wrong when you prevent others from embracing their own cultures.

So let me end with a quote from Confucius – “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

己所不欲,勿施於人

– 孔子

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While it lastsOne can never get enough of the pure whiteness.

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Filed under Culture, Sweden, The writer

Anti-socal, really?

Pardon me but it’s hard to write if I don’t know what to write about. And then, I stumbled upon Julian Tan’s article on Asian students’ reluctance to mix around with local (when overseas) and other international students while they are overseas.

Admittedly, I’m guilty of not mixing around with other students and tend to hang around friends of my own country. Let me just summarize the points he made for people like me, who are not sufficiently sociable:

1. Differences in social behaviors and sharing of jokes (not much on food, I’m quite resilient in this aspect) that contribute to the so-called culture shock experienced when you’re suddenly dropped into a foreign land.

Drinking has never been my forte, neither does dancing to rock/rap music appeal to me. I find it particularly tough to catch up on the Western counterparts’ conversations as they are really good story-teller, while my mind just draws blank whenever I try to recall details of an event. Certain jokes are hard to catch in the absence of context, which essentially boils down to the fact that I don’t live in your country. Once, I was with an Australian, an American and a New Zealander (also known as Kiwi – Wikipedia) over dinner. They shared their stories on housing because they moved away from their parents, on drinking in bars and on searching for employment overseas. Of all, I couldn’t contribute any because of my lack of exposure, because of how I was brought up. And to be frank, I still feel kind of weird whenever I answer the “How are you?” and “How’s your weekends?” questions.

2. English isn’t the first language. And it is difficult to break two barriers at the same time just to chat, the language and the clique.

While I have no issue with English conversation, quite the opposite happened. Swedish is my classmates’ first language, and naturally, they feel more comfortable conversing in their first language among themselves. It poses a barrier in wanting to chip into the conversation. It doesn’t help when they’re already a clique since they have been classmates for more than two years. So, it’s not just a language barrier that I have to break, but also a social barrier. On the other hand, among other international students, a mixture of accents which I’m not used to make things slightly complicated. Apparently, my own accent isn’t helping either. So at the start, we just brushed each other off with polite smiles and nods, silently acknowledging the miscommunication.

Blending in is never easy. It takes not just effort, but extra effort to interact with the locals, and with people who were brought up in a different environment than you are. Understanding a new culture or language isn’t an overnight event, neither should I categorize all the diverse cultures into a generalized “Western world”. But I do have to admit alcohol knows no boundary. It’s like music, money and food – everybody has a common understanding of them.

Yup, maybe I should try to be less “anti-social” and join the upcoming corridor party. Who knows, maybe I’ll love the combination of alcohol and loud music.

Since I’m on Julian’s article, also check another of his articles out.

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This isn’t really an iconic place in Copenhagen. I just found this row of buildings while I was strolling along the river (in the biting cold).

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Filed under Culture, Europe, Sweden, The writer