Understanding Others’ Culture is a Challenge / Junpeng Zhang

“America first” may limit your vision to understand the world.

“With this pair of eyes that we have, be witnesses of the world, sometimes need to be humble and true, not only to others but also ourselves.”

— Pro. Z

Lies. Why does it exist in this world? Does it need a reason? Is it a really bad thing? If it is, why do we keep doing it? Same to our life, maybe you can’t feel it, but you just can’t leave it. Then misunderstanding appears as the production of lying, I mean sometimes.

“America first” slogan, which was first used by President Woodrow Wilson during his re-election. What he promised to American citizens was that he would keep America out of the WWI. However, after he was elected safely, he sent American troops to the battleground in Europe. No matter you admit or not, lying has been a part of our history, also our life. You might try so hard to be honest, but believe or not, you just can’t get away it. You may say it is for good purposes sometimes, that’s your pleasure.

From my standpoint, this slogan now is used for a new meaning because this generation understands it in a different way. “America first” can be translated to “America is the best,” in other words, it represents America has the best of all things. To understand in this way is debatable, but some Americans do understand in this way, which is the way they are living and educated.

This slogan influenced this generation unconsciously, children grow up in such an environment that advocates how great America is and why this nation has been and will be a leader in the world. It’s a cultural thing that limits Americans’ view to acknowledge the world in some circumstances.

Frustration from the cultural differences is the very first and foremost thing gave this group of students (represents us) a crush in mind. As we saw everything in the first time after we arrived in Budapest, everyone was not only amazed but also frustrated with some differences they just couldn’t understand.

Indeed, culture is a fixed mindset for people living in their own countries. And suddenly when they come to a foreign country, it is common that they are not used to the way they are treated sometimes. For example, sometimes when we talked to a female receptionist, I could feel that she is not very good at speaking English, sometimes she would misunderstand us or make us misunderstand us, either way. She was then entitled with some adjectives like “rude” and “weird.” Indeed, she probably used very simple and straightforward phrases and sentences. But for people who were listening, sometimes could interpret another meaning. However, it is nonsense to ask Hungarians to act and talk like a local American. I think we can be more generous to others so that we can have a broader vision to understand them and their cultures as well.

Dining in Budapest is different because of manners while having meals. Most cafeterias are not very large because they are not even crowded inside. The environment is very quiet, which is very different from the cafeteria in America. Americans usually like chatting in a normal volume of voice, or even higher with joking. Compared to Americans, Hungarians sound like whispering to each other with their private secret businesses. Neither students from our group nor Hungarians could understand others’ manner. At the beginning, some of us always had something very exciting going on while socializing by the tables, which always caused the staring from Hungarians around. Moreover, I think Hungarians would more likely to wait for everyone’s food ready, then start together. However, Americans would like to start their own appetizers like fries or something. they don’t really wait for others because from American culture in most time, this doesn’t seem like a big deal from my perspective.

This slogan influenced this generation unconsciously, children grow up in such an environment that advocates how great America is and why this nation has been and will be a leader for the world. It’s a cultural thing which can limit Americans’ view to understand the world in some circumstances.

But changing ourselves to fit in other parts of the world is necessary. After all, I deeply realized that American (or Chinese) territories will not be extended to every corner of the world. To respect others’ cultures, sometimes we should give up something originally brought from our own countries. Because we know we are not currently living in our own countries, we should not pretend that we still are. That’s said, “America First” sometimes can prevent you to fit in the world.

Coping with relationships with classmates is one of the hardest things during this trip. Compared to manners, people are alive and changing. What is interesting is that our group has three kinds of culture, American, Mexican and Chinese. It is obvious that they are different, but the more difficult thing is that individuals have sub-cultures, which they created for years around them in life. Everyone finishes things in different ways. Not everyone agrees with others, that’s why society is made in complex, and understanding others’ cultures is never easy.

If we would tell the truths to others, probably hopes will be less. Like things have been told to those homeless people, I would not agree with all of them, which gives America a brighter view of the world. I hope in the future homeless people can be richer so that they can travel around the world like us to seek the truths. Are they luckier than others being helped or not? Will those homeless people be the same as ones in Hungary? Before we can really understand others’ cultures, misunderstanding will always be the barriers for us to seek and know more.

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