Transcripts of the Video:
If you're an English as second language learner or you can't understand my accent, follow along by reading!
Hello everyone I am Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys and alaivani dot com. Hope you're having a great day!
I wanted to ask you a question.
What circumstances do you think help or hinder someone from integrating into another culture?
Do you think by simply moving to another country that you will learn and appreciate and assimilate into another culture?
I used to assume, and I am still guilty of assuming that just because people move to another country that they want to learn another culture. **BEEP** I'm wrong! I know I'm wrong. It's not true because people go to other countries for many different reasons. They don't always have to be wanting to 'be like a local'; and the other is I realize that people - everybody experiences life differently and based on their circumstances even if they wanted to do what I did they may not have the opportunity to. I'll give you an example.
I went to India -
- as a single person
- I lived in the hostel with locals the entire time or I lived as a paying guest in the house of a local person
- I never lived with an American person
- I rarely hung out with American people - there were really no Americans around
- I rarely hung out with international people
- I, in two years, had about 4 or 5 American meals
- I rarely watched TV or American movies; although I had access to that I just did not want to do that
- I had to learn new ways of communicating; even if that be learning a new Indian English accent or learning Tamil
- I had to learn new ways of dressing; I had to learn to wear the sari and salvaar kamiz. Although that was the more accepted dress code, I could wear jeans on occasion if I wanted to.
These are some of the factors- those are some of the physical factors.
The emotional factors are these-
- I wanted to assimilate
- I, in my mind, chose to go on my own. I knew if I went with a group of Americans that that would be my comfort zone, that it would be hard for me to break away from them and interact with other people.
- I also wanted desperately to experience something completely different than what I was used to when I grew up.
It's both the physical factors that are outside of myself and the emotional factors inside me that allowed me to have the experiences I had. And I went as a single person. Now, could I have done that if I was a married person? It's possible, but not - maybe not as possible because certain things I would not have been able to do. Like, if I was married and I went to India I may not have been able to live with local people the entire time I was there, because I would have been living with whoever I was married to or I would live with my family members as a child I would not be able to live with local people. So, there would have been a buffer zone between my life in my house and the lifestyle of other people in other people's homes that are living in the local culture. But, because I was living with local people in a hostel day in and day out or living as a paying guest in someone's house or living with my friend's families day in and day out - day and night - night and day -- I, of course saw the behaviors from everyday mundane behaviors, eating patterns and hygiene habits to maybe the things that are done only occasionally like when guests come over. I was not treated like a special guest. I did not want to be treated like a special guest. I wanted to be treated just like everybody else in the most realistic way that could have been done.
One of those ways is that my friend's family members "coached me" on how to be Indian. I'll give you an example. I came down in the morning to have a cup of tea. Or, I came out of the bedroom and into the kitchen for a cup of tea. I was told by my friend's mom, "No tea for you!" Why? Because I hadn't brushed my teeth yet! I quickly realized that the Indian way was that as soon as you wake up you brush your teeth; not only before you have anything to eat or drink, but before you talk. People feel that it's better to have fresh breath, and I agree. But, the thing is I wasn't raised that way. I was raised that you wake up, you hang out with your family, you talk to them 'how did you sleep,' 'did you have good dreams', maybe have some breakfast, then take a shower, and then go to school. (5:13) (*I missed saying that we brush our teeth AFTER we eat and before we leave the house for school!). I never, while I was growing up here in America, met an American person who brushed their teeth as soon as they woke up. It just wasn't a normal habit for me. So, of course, I learned a new habit.
Some people may say like, "Hey, Jennifer, wasn't that rude that your friend's family actually told you to go brush your teeth and they wouldn't even feed you anything in the morning or let you talk to them?" Yes, you know, I felt a little odd at first, but you know I totally appreciate that experience; and the reason why is because I'm sure it was hard for them to tell me not to do or to do something because actually initially I was a true guest in their house. I was not their family member. I was not even a friend that they knew before. I was brand new to them, and for them to treat me and discipline me as if I were their child that's a little uncomfortable for them on their part, I'm sure, but think about it from this perspective...What if I had come down without brushing my teeth and had tea and they gave it to me? They would have then felt uncomfortable for that. And, that's a different kind of discomfort that actually may have been a bit more difficult to handle then them actually kind of trying to steer me in the right direction. I felt like they cared about me. They wanted me to be successful in India, so they took the effort to realize certain things that I might not be accustomed to doing and helping me to update my behavior to be more successful there.
Because I had all those circumstances in that way I was able to adapt into the Indian culture in a way I would not have been able to do if I went with American family, American friends or even if I had lived alone in my own apartment. It would have been a completely different experience for me.