Monthly Archives: February 2012

Integration into a new culture and coming back home

Whilst in Paris for a few days I was invited by a very good friend of mine to go to one of her friends birthday party in the 18eme arrondissement of Paris!

When we arrived we gave “la bise” to all the people already there (they were approximately twelve! ) which took us a little while 🙂

During the evening I met a very interesting Chilean lady with whom my friend and I started to chat with! We were interested In knowing how she felt in France and if she had faced any difficulties when she went back to Chile.

She first explained why she came to Paris. She came to Paris to study French and social politics at a University. And her second objective was to integrate, melt into French society and have many French friends. She said it was not easy at first, she went to many bars to try and meet people but realised that the French usually stayed in groups and did not mix with others, even if they saw her standing there on her own! So she visited many bars until she found the right one and made many friends! She also used online groups that met regularly, people who wanted to mix and meet new friends! After three years in Paris she had made it, she felt part of the Parisian lifestyle, she felt French and she had many friends!

After three years she was offered a job in Chile where she went back! She said that the first three month was hard, she had lived three years abroad so the people she knew kept telling her she was a snob because she had lived elsewhere and she didn’t speak as good a Spanish as before! Then also from a cultural perspective, she realised that family values were very important, many of her friends in Chile were surprised that at her aged she was snot married and did not have a boyfriend, that made her feel different! After a year back it is better, but she still realises that people see her differently, but she is confident that it can only get better!

The moral of the story is that when we expatriate ourselves it is always important to keep in mind that we should integrate and not stay with people from the same country! And when we come back home, yes we have changed but the people we knew have not and so a gap has emerged, the hard work is to fill this gap again !

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Perception of beauty – continuing “we are the same and yet we are different”

As mentioned in the previous article, we have our own perceptions of what is beauty and what it means and looks like to be successful in our own culture.

We are brought up with some values and ideas of what represents beauty for us ! In the western world for example it could be a tall, slim blond woman, or a very well-built (muscular) and tall man.

How is it in other cultures ? That is the question, and that is what we need to be aware of when we travel or when we meet with counterparts to not offend anybody !

I remember a funny encounter I had in Singapore that speaks for itself really ! I have to say that in that moment I felt very unsure and insecure about myself, but when I think back, I just start to laugh because this summarizes the perception of beauty very well !

I was taking a cab together with my sister in Singapore, and whilst driving, the cab driver looked at me and said to me very straightforwardly: “Miss, you are very beautiful, but you have very long nose !” I didn´t know where to put myself or what to answer, and my sister was just laughing next to me saying that it was the best joke she had ever heard ! Seeing this. the cab driver said it again and looked at both my sister and I and said: “Miss, are you the young lady´s mother ?” – now at the time I was 28, looking in western standards like a 23-year-old ! I was just bedazzled and didn´t kno what to say or how to react, so I just said “sorry Sir, I am not her mother”. And i thought the topic was over. After looking at me for a longer period of time he turned around and said: ” Ohhhh so you are her auntie !” Well, hahah, I just told him that i was the older sister, and he laughed.

Now this can happen to anyone anywhere, and the best thing is to keep calm and try to understand where the other person is coming from ! Of course, for the cab driver, probably all westerners look the same and it is difficult to find out whether a person is old or young ! The same would apply to us when faced with an Eastern counterpart. My advice would be, if not sure, just ask your counterpart, of course if you know them well and you know that such a question is not offensive to them !

Conclusion, beauty is a cultural perception, we all have our idols and our perspective of what is beautiful for us, this does not mean that because someone sees it differently we need to be offended. Please feel free to share any experiences you may have had when travelling around the globe !

Thank you very much !

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Picturesque Italy: Positano and Capri

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We look the same and yet we are different !

We are all unique in the way we think, we see, we feel, we look like and we perceive.

We cannot generalize that because someone is darker colored that this person is African. This person might be actually German or French or Swiss ! We have the tendency as humans to categorize people either through stereotypes when we recognize the language they speak or when we see them.

Where am I getting at here ? Well, I have no intention in harming anyone with what is going to follow, but each culture has its own perception of beauty. Especially physical and facial beauty. In Asian countries you will find that the whiter a person , the more beautiful the person is; in India you will find that the more voluptuous a person is, the richer they are, in Germany you will find that the more tanned a person, the better holiday it has had and looks very good !

We all have a different idea of beauty, but there is not just only beauty I would like to talk about, I would also like to talk about our physical appearance. Have you ever walked in your street and saw an Asian tourist and thought : “another Chinese person, there are quite a lot of Chinese coming to visit us, how nice!” – now the person you have seen might have been from another country. What happened is that we saw their physical appearance and straight away assumed that they were Chinese. There are many Asian countries with particular differences, interesting would be to understand what differentiates a Chinese from a Thai, from a Japanese, from a Korean , etc.  After having lived in Singapore, I can now spot differences 🙂

It is the same for other cultures, we tend to put them in one basket because their physical traits are similar, but if we look a little bit closer we can see the differences and appreciate that the person we communicate with is unique and is not put in a box with the rest !

The aim of this article is to stimulate our thought of perception and stereotype. But stereotype through physical aspects, please feel free to comment if you have had any experiences !

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Viet Nam – Hanoi and Halong Bay 2008

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