This semester in Globe class we began learning about global engagement and how we can be effective communicators and have meaningful interactions with people from other cultures. We practiced different topics that shed light on the aspects we will be facing once we go out into the community next semester. Global engagement means being exposed to various languages, cultures, and customs of the world that we may have never experienced before. There are more aspects to a culture than people realize when first being exposed to that new culture such as the core values. There are also various types of communication that many people overlook when thinking about communication such as nonverbal. Intercultural communication allows us to reach out to people from different cultures in order to communicate.
Many people do not realize that they often are ethnocentric in that they judge another person’s culture based on their own culture. However practicing cultural relativism can prevent this. For example, when the students from Guadalajara came to Globe I was able to spend time with the students and learn more about their culture and we often found that some of the aspects of our two cultures were very similar. We were able to relate better and the Mexican students expressed how they thought Americans would be standoffish, but meeting the students at VCU they found the opposite was true.
It was also interesting to see how many the Guadalajara students had the same taste in music as I do and we were able to give each other music suggestions or listen to the same music. However, they did not expect me to know music that they listen to in Spanish, but I listen to music in many different languages. No matter where you are in the world there is some form of music and that can help bring people together –it’s a cultural universal. A cultural norm I have experienced with students from South/Central American countries is a greeting by kissing someone’s right cheek once. This is very different from culture in the US because we typically keep to our own personal space and just nod or shake someone’s hand as a greeting especially if we just meet them. I caught on to this norm for those students after the first few encounters of not remembering to do this gesture.
Another cultural norm of the Mexican students, particularly the men, was when we walked to Sugar Shack or anywhere around the city they guys insisted on walking nearest to the road. They also insisted on opening doors for all of the girls and were extremely polite. This was difficult for me to get used to because I was brought up with the same type of manners such as opening doors for everyone else and letting other people go first. The guys I hung out with did no understand why I had so much trouble letting them be so polite. I had to explain to them that in my culture I was brought up with similar traits, but it was not just for the guys to learn. Women are expected to have the same manners and I was also brought up by a very independent, do-it-yourself mom. I made an agreement with the guys that we could share the responsibilities of being polite. Occasionally they had to go through the doors I opened and vice versa.
Being a member of Globe is a collective identity. I have a strong sense of belonging to this group and it has become a huge part and influence on my identity. Throughout this semester I have become more aware of communication styles that may not be directly evident when meeting someone. I have learned that it is important to take in what I observe from my encounters with other people and interpret what they mean as well as, if how I am reacting is appropriate based on the situation. I have been exposed to many languages and cultures and in order to have a meaningful interaction with the people I meet I try to assess each situation I encounter and decide what the best means of communicating with that person are. There are ways in which people are able to communicate and connect with each other, but until someone takes the time to fully understand the other person’s culture there will always be a gap that won’t be filled.