#4. Intercultural Communication

When I was backpacking around Europe, I have had the opportunity to experience the myriad culture across Europe which is contrary to my previous belief/stereotype that Europe only has one culture – the European culture. Having spent close to 7 months in Europe, I can say that I have adapted pretty well into the local culture, so much so that when I returned to Singapore, I was surprised by the Singaporean culture. I will address this one behavioural pattern which took me quite a while to adjust back into; that is the way Singaporeans or rather, Singaporean Chinese greet.

In general, Europeans greet each other with a hug and a peck on the cheeks; which varies from one peck to three pecks depending on the culture of the respective European nation, and of course to whom you are greeting. This will usually be followed by this question “How are you?”.

When I first got to interact with the Europeans, It seemed puzzling to me why do they bother asking such a redundant question, when we know that the other person will either say “Great!” or otherwise brush it off! I was sceptical of the sincerity of the “how are you”. It was when I realised “how are you” is actually akin to our “hello” that I start to understand that saying “how are you” does not necessarily imply that he/she is expecting you to reply “oh my day truly sucks, my blah blah blah…” of course, having something special to share with your friend would be great. But what I am trying to drive at here is that, “how are you” simply means “hello!”.

Another behaviour which took me a long while to adapt back into Singaporean culture was the fact that Europeans hug when they greet. Having experienced the difference between an awkward wave, which we, Singaporeans are so accustomed to versus the warm and friendly hug that brings everyone together instantly of the Europeans. I would definitely prefer the latter. It was definitely a challenge for me to adapt back into the Singaporean culture. I remembered how when I first met my friends upon my return. My immediate response was extending my arms for a hug and offer pecks on the cheeks. That, caught my friends off guard and led to awkwardness between us. Thankfully, they weren’t anything more severe.

All in all, I want to just say that perhaps, we can adapt into the local culture as easily we want, however, regardless of how well you blend into their culture, we have to make the effort to switch back or to the culture of our host nation. That is part of adapting and respecting the culture of the country.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to #4. Intercultural Communication

  1. Nice reflections and comments, observations. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Leow Min Yu says:

    Hi Asther,
    I enjoyed reading your post! Could see that you enjoyed your time interacting with people from other cultures. It was also fascinating to learn about how they greet each other.
    I do agree with you that we should always learn to adapt to culture of the country we are residing in. However, this is usually the tricky part as we have to embrace a new set of practices and yet still hold onto our old beliefs. It is perhaps the combination of embracing other cultures and holding on to our cultures that makes us unique. 😀
    In addition, embracing other cultures may also take place in our own country as Singapore progresses towards a global city. This is tricky too and is one of the current problems that Singapore faces.
    I do spot a rather lengthy sentence “All in all, I want to just say that perhaps, we can adapt into the local culture as easily we want, however, regardless of how well you blend into their culture, we have to make the effort to switch back or to the culture of our host nation.” maybe you would like to break this sentence up?
    It was an interesting read!
    Cheers, Min Yu

  3. Brad says:

    You describe an interesting difference in terms of greeting between the norms of Southeast Asia and of Europe. The idea that you had the need to do some re-adapting when you returned shows just how powerful experience can be, and how we humans tend to adjust of behavior according to our environment. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    As you can see, there are some nagging language issues in this post that require your attention. It seems to me that you need to do more editing before posting.

    1) When I was backpacking around Europe, I have had the opportunity to experience the myriad culture across Europe which is contrary to my previous belief/stereotype that Europe only has one culture – the European culture. >>>
    When I was backpacking around Europe, I HAD the opportunity to experience the myriad cultures across Europe, which proved that contrary to my previous belief/stereotype, Europe did not have only one European culture.

    2) Having spent close to 7 months in Europe, I can say that I have adapted pretty well into the local culture, so much so that when I returned to Singapore, I was surprised by the Singaporean culture. >>>
    Having spent close to 7 months in Europe, I can say that I adapted pretty well into the local culture, so much so that when I returned to Singapore, I was surprised by the Singaporean culture.

    3) When I first got to interact with the Europeans, It seemed puzzling to me why do they bother asking such a redundant question, when we know that the other person will either say “Great!” or otherwise brush it off! >>>
    When I first got to interact with the Europeans, It seemed puzzling to me why they bothered asking such a redundant question, when THEY knew that the other person WOULD either say “Great!” or just brush it off!

    4) Having experienced the difference between an awkward wave, which we, Singaporeans are so accustomed to versus the warm and friendly hug that brings everyone together instantly of the Europeans. I would definitely prefer the latter. >>>
    Having experienced the difference between an awkward wave, which we, Singaporeans are so accustomed to versus the warm and friendly hug that brings everyone together instantly of the Europeans, I definitely prefer the latter.

    5) I remembered how when I first met my friends upon my return. My immediate response was extending my arms for a hug and offer pecks on the cheeks. >>>
    I remember how when I first met my friends upon my return, my immediate response was extending my arms for a hug and offering pecks on the cheeks.

    6) Thankfully, they weren’t anything more severe. >>> ?

    In any case, I appreciate your effort, Aster.

  4. Darsha says:

    Hey Aster

    I enjoyed reading about your experience. What is especially intriguing is that you adapted so well so the culture in Europe that you had difficulty adapting in Singapore, the country you’ve grown up in. I think this clearly shows that you have a definite preference for their way of greeting rather than Singapore’s. I completely agree with you that in Singapore we are quite aloof towards new people/strangers. The service industry in Singapore especially is lacking in this area. When we enter shops, many do not even bother greeting their customers or even so much so as look up. We have so many foreigners who have taken up positions in this industry, and while we may complain about their fluency in English, many of them are friendly and approachable as compared to Singaporeans. It might be that in Singapore we tend to mind our own business and get caught up in our world that we forget to be friendly. I would like to bring up something here that my sister shared with me. She decided to try smiling at people, who were complete strangers. A few didn’t know how to respond and were confused, and one lady even gave her a look that showed that she thought my sister was crazy. While this were just a few people that she tried this out on, I have to say that as Singaporeans we not only are not friendly but are not even used to others being friendly, tending to be socially awkward in these sort of situations. I guess as a whole we need to be more socially aware and smiling more to the people around us could be a start.

    Darsh

    • asterchew says:

      Heys Darsha,

      Thanks for sharing with me what your sister did. To be frank, I tried that personally! It was interesting how smiling can make you feel better personally. Some people might give you the weird stare, but there are Singaporeans around who actually smiles back. 🙂 And when they do, you know your lips just curve up even more involuntarily. You have a great smile, so keep it there! A smile is a curve that sets everything else straight. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Aster

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s