I was talking to my cousin yesterday as he is about to travel from Malaysia to the UK to pursue his postgraduate studies, this weekend. I was giving him some tips on what to look out for. Then today, I chatted with a friend who is due to move to Hong Kong (from Japan) and as a foreigner in both countries, we talked about the cultural implications on changes in habits that we would need to adjust to.
So, what do we do to survive in a new environment? I think that there are generally three camps of people; 1) the assimilators, 2) the easy-go-luckies and 3) the cultural imperialists.
The assimilators are those who prepare themselves thoroughly on the local culture (of where they are moving to), understanding all the dos and don’ts, learning the language and trying their absolute hardest to be accepted as one of the crowd.
The easy-go-luckies are those who are constantly calm and collect and actually not that bothered with too much of the cultural differences. To them, the world is as one and that if you do what people tell you (and not question too much of it), it’s all good.
The cultural imperialists are those who insist that their way (which could be their origin country’s culture, or even just their own way of thinking) is the best. They think that anyone else from anywhere else in the world need to be educated of the right way of living, which is their way.
So, which camp are you in? I think I try to be an assimilator, but sometimes, at times of frustration, I fall into the imperialists camp. Clearly, writing this article tells you that I can never be chilled enough to be easy-go-lucky in any cultural situation!
Food for thought? In this world that is getting smaller with the improvements of travel technology, perhaps we need to be educated from young on immigration etiquette. We are after all still the visitors… or are we really? Surely there is a point when one changes from being a visitor to a local?