Not your parentƒ?TMs culture shock

By Soham Banerji

Imagine yourself moving to an unknown place. You walk around with no clue whatsoever; you hear people around you speak a ludicrous language in an equally nonsensical accent. You feel like a complete prick!
This is much like how a Texan would feel in India. There is just endless gobbledygook whizzing in and out of you. You’re completely nonplussed, not knowing whether people are asking you to sod-off or not. The entire codswallop is unbearable.
I felt the same the first time I came to America. Having not been outside of New Delhi my entire life, I assumed America was made up of the stereotypical gun-toting, “Howdy”-yelling cowboys! And I to them was a flute-playing, turban-wearing snake charmer!
There was always disappointment wherever I went, for it finally transpired that I did not wear a turban and they did not don a cowboy hat. I remember rolling around in the muck with American friends who did not have a clue of where India was and thought that New Delhi was a place in Indiana. To me McDonalds, Halloween, Christmas and Thanksgiving were altogether bloody brilliant.
Twelve years have passed since I first came to America, and I have been to Greece, Kenya and have lived in the United Arab Emirates. I have never experienced a cultural shock as such at all. In fact, having been to so many places my appetite to know more about other cultures has become insatiable.
The question then arises: has the term ‘culture shock,’ in the day and age we live in, become obsolete? With mass communication at an all time high, ignorance of the world should never occur. Stereotyping of people is a thing of the past.

But ignorance still does occur. And ‘culture shock’ is still a reality for some.
My roommate, Joseph Van Eeckhout ’10, a domestic student from Lopez Island, Wa., has been to more places in India then I have. I remember talking to him about Indian Bhangra music and he immediately lifted his hands, bent down a little, shoved his backside out and stood there imitating the iconic position.
“My trips were overwhelming at first,” Eeckhout said. “I did feel the shock. I found it hard to communicate. I found them quite weird, completely different from the U.S. I felt that the whole place was a chaotic mess. But having been to an International School I accepted this and learned to interact.”
Is the phenomenon of ‘culture shock,’ then, reserved for Americans?
“International students seem to adapt far better to a new environment because they have probably experienced different cultures and are better prepared for it,” Manoj Vemula ’10, of Bangalore, India, said.

When I arrived at Macalester College I was completely awestruck by the mosaic of intermingling cultures and backgrounds. I would never have imagined that I would have friends from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Bulgaria.

Studying with students from every corner of the globe completely bamboozled me. To me, this is the present and the future. Each individual is an integral part of the kaleidoscopic image. Thus, it extends to the world at large. For without a multi-cultural atmosphere, we have truly missed out on an enriching experience.
“Having been to America many times I feel that Macalester itself is vastly different from many American places I have been to because it is so culturally diverse,” said Neha Mashooqullah ’10, of Karachi, Pakistan. “It’s like New York on a smaller scale,”
Sometimes I wonder whether with such a large diversity of students, if cultural barriers still exist. I remember talking to domestic students the day they arrived on campus. They wondered why international students always clubbed together and did not hang out with them — why they felt so removed.

I often hear Americans feeling almost apologetic when they talk of the state they come from — only because it’s not as exotic and exciting as where the internationals come from.

In order to remove the cultural barrier that exists, we have to walk past the chasm of ignorance. We have to widen our knowledge of the world. So the next time you visit a country or talk to someone of a cultural background different from your own, please pay attention to that higgledy-piggledy and save yourself from being a right bunch of nit-wits.