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The best way for foreigners to tackle cultural differences

By wpywood ( Updated: 2014-07-03 16:26

Every continent has its own great spirit. Populations are polarized in some particular locality with their homeland. But the spirit of place is a great reality. It is necessary to attach great significance to this especially in this age of globalization.

With the advent of globalization, various aspects of the life of nations around the world are more closely associated than ever before. What has also arisen is the issue of cross-cultural communication when people are communicating with others who have different nationalities, religions, cultural and social backgrounds. Sometimes due to a lack of understanding and tolerance, such kinds of unconscious differences may incur grudges and grievances. Globalization not only provides us with more opportunities, but also poses a major challenge for society’s cultural tolerance. As it goes with the good saying, “when you are in Rome do as the Romans do,” the most wise and rational way for foreigners to tackle cultural differences is to respect and embrace the local culture.

By respect, I mean to recognize and understand the different customs and norms instead of despising or excluding them because of cultural hegemony. Take my foreign language teacher’s experience in China for example. Mr. C. was our oral English teacher who once won the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition. Having lived China for a year, he could be well described as a “China-hand.” However, even for a China-hand, there was once a depressing and annoying occasion concerning cultural differences resulting in an embarrassing situation. What almost caused his anger was that a female taxi driver who had taken the wrong way and wasted much time just laughed rather than offering a serious apology to defuse the situation. In Britain, such behavior is recognized as offensive which can result in an argument or even a fight, he said. Despite being greatly disgruntled, Mr. C. didn’t lose his temper because he was able to respect the ways Chinese behave.

And by embrace, I mean to truly fit into the local customs of daily life by further adapting to their habits and customs. For instance, Ms. T. my other oral English teacher, was well-qualified as an international talent who was not only proficient in four languages such as English, French, Spanish and Chinese, but also had traveled extensively around the world. What impressed me most was her deep understanding of Chinese culture and her active attitude towards learning more about it. As a Chinese one is sure to feel her warm hospitality when she greets you, “Have you eaten yet?” The willingness to truly apply this Chinese common greeting to her daily social interaction showed Ms. T’s awareness of cultural diversity and her passion to embrace it.

Recently, the story of a “rude Chinese tourist” triggered public discussion both at home and abroad. In my esteem, such controversies and even conflicts are inevitable as the world enters a new era of globalization. And this situation could be improved if people of both sides spontaneously assume their responsibility as a “diplomat” contributing to cross-cultural communication. In a nutshell, as a foreigner, when you are in Rome do as the Romans do. Also,, Romans should show greater understanding and tolerance on their part.

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