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Share experience about intercultural encounters.

tran nguyen 1 / -  
Sep 12, 2020   #1

the ways, in which we have contact with the world

I had not travelled to anywhere before although I like travelling, I had not thought about the day I get the new feeling, new vision or something new will come to me. Upon a day, I decided to study abroad in Sweden where I got the first-hand experience in my life journey. I was excited in the new life, new relationships, and learning the intercultural knowledge was my primary purpose. I have been here for a year; I have been and are experiencing shortcomings in communication with international relationships. Therefore, I would like to share my experiences during the process I have learned to get along with Swedes style.

According to Dale Carnegie, an American author, "There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by those four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say and how we say it.". It is generally agreed that a good appearance could create the impression to others, the behaviour, the action, the speech also is evaluated as a personal signature. Hence, it took a long time for me to get the best preparation in my background and knowledge in communicating to avoid showing inadvertently the lack of respect to others.

Sweden has a traditional "fika" which make it distinct with others. The word "fika" was varied the syllables based on the word "kaffi" which one the Swedes was used to talk about coffee. Swedes love to enjoy life lightly as "fika" is a daily habit that is maintained for a long time by locals. It is more than just having a coup of coffee, enjoy pastries, it is time people take time to bond with friends, utilize to take a rest to pause a hard-working day and gain more energy to keep working. Another special thing is occasionally people like to combine working and "fika" at the same time because some great ideas come up randomly while they are enjoying "fika".

Once, I had a first-hand experience on Christmas Eve away from home with locals in Gränna, Sweden. I pretended to hang out with my friends and engage in Christmas atmosphere; but most of Swedes welcome Christmas by the way of gathering with their families and joining the ceremonies in the churches. Christmas is the right time for family reunion, people would take out the sorrow, take a rest after a constantly struggle year as well as celebrating a private party at home. The locals knew that the international students may feel lonely, so they were kind inviting us to join the ceremony in the biggest church in town and lots of people went with their families. I knew that we have different way to interact with people in manners and speech, so I followed their behaviour to catch up with the rhythm instantly. Firstly, we had "fika" and talked together; then an old woman who looked smart and nimble, was responsible reading the bible, I guess so. Although did not understand at all, but I gave her my best respect by listening and looking at her attentively. After the ceremony, people sang traditional Christmas songs, a lot of beautiful songs about Christmas holiday. The families sang following singer as well, I could not sing but I felt like my soul integrated with the songs and locals to greet a Merry Christmas. Secondly, we had dinner together and dissert that made by locals. We went around the table to take food on a circle, their favourite food is ham, sausage, bread, etc, and dessert are dark and white chocolate and cinnamon ice cream. I appreciate the Western people getting enough food for their own and avoiding food scraps are good table manners to show the respect for cook and their meals. At the end of the date, we concentred around the pine, locals taught me dance on the Christmas music and gave me a present. That was a precious time I have had since I came to Sweden. Meanwhile, Vietnamese has the different way to celebrate Christmas Eve, people hang out with their families or friends and have dinner outsides. Most of them go to the church to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere, and be curious the vary with decorations each year. The fact that Christmas Holiday is meaningful to Islam and religious people, but Buddhism is largely popular in Vietnam.

Thereafter, my teacher invited me to join a "fika" at her home. She was nice to invite almost the rest of students who could be a lonely guy on Christmas Eve. She did not hesitate to share her wedding album and told us about her family. She prepared traditional food like meat ball (I love it), bread and jam and drunk cinnamon juice with cake. It was a long time I had a sense of belonging with a teacher, especially a foreign teacher. She told us about her vacation and shared about Swedish tradition holidays, the right manners and using respectful words with others in particular contexts. It is essential to have a better understanding about communication manners to get the connection with others here. That is why I learned "Life and Studies in Scandinavia" course when I was a pathway student, to adapt with Western's cultural communication because of the different context between Vietnam and Western society. For instant, in Vietnam, we interact with others based on their social status, we use a variety of words to call their title even when we are in conversation. We call "teacher" for people who work in field of education, we rarely call their name to show the respect. Another case, I will not tell "you" and "I" with my parent in the conversation, the title "dad" or "mom" will be used almost time when I talk to them. Especially, a thing makes me have a different feeling between Vietnamese teacher and Swedish teacher that is the treatment toward their students. Vietnamese teacher will not too close to students because of their powerful mastery. It feels like a value taxonomy which create an invisible distance between student generations and teachers since they believe that students would follow their requirements obediently thanks to the border of the ruler and the ruled. Consequently, a connection which is built on a domination, is not a sustainable relationship. Oppositely, Western teacher tends to generate a friendly environment learning with their students and be a best friend of students to easily provide the needed assistance. Generally, I prefer an open relationship than being dominated.

Generally, communication is a large field in which culture is an invisible factor but includes two opposite sides that can be described as an iceberg. All is visible in a conversation is the behaviour, linguistic, religions, dress, the appearance that show 10% their characteristic, but the personalistic core values were hidden insights as the sunk part of the iceberg involve to our thoughts (norms, opinions, attitudes) and real emotion, belief, non-verbal communication, codes for social interaction. Therefore, the communication acumen is needed practice time by time. According to Penelope Fitzgerald - a British author (1916-2000): "However, no two people see the external world in exactly the same way. To every separate person, a thing is what he thinks it is - in other words, not a thing, but a thing." It means that people have their own viewpoint at the same issue because of different cultures, religion and their origin. The more a person's acumen in cultural exchange, the more easily that one access to the sunk ice under the waterline as well as such oppositely diverse opinions in mindset.

As a result of the multinational alliances in the world, the globalization and increasing cultural diversity have led to the access necessity to the new cultures and linguistics in growing. We are no longer living in an isolated society; we are seeking the opportunities to interact with the newness beyond our comfortable zone. The purposes of the international encounters are described deeply the context of the alliances which show the relationship of the countries; beside that, getting more experiences in the intercultural encounters will get people along with the international environment, exchange the culture and knowledge that they did not know before and basically advance the communication skills.

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