Sample Reflection Paper on Culture Shock in Rome
Culture shock refers to the feelings of isolation or the confusion and uncertainty that one experiences after being exposed to a different cultural environment. It arises out of the challenges that new comers in unknown social environments experience when adapting to an unfamiliar culture. Such individuals go through a process that is provided in several stages of culture shock (Renan 533). Alfred (28) provides an overview of Lysgaad’s acculturation model that explains a three stage process of how students adjust to unknown cultural environments. The introductory stage comes first in the process, in which bewildered students attempt to familiarize themselves with the new environment, its daily routines and leisure activities in the host society. Secondly, students enter the crisis stage, in which they start evaluating the other culture, based on preconceptions that originate from the standards and customs within their culture. They also strive to communicate and start genuine and helpful interactions with the locals. Thirdly, students enter the integration stage, in which they change their behavior and outlook to overcome and cope with their adjustment issues. The stage also enables them to ultimately engage and integrate with the host community Alfred (29). The purpose of this essay is to reflect my culture shock due to being exposed to unknown culture after moving from my home country to the U.S. and then to Rome, Italy.
I was born and raised in Dubai before moving abroad for further studies. The culture in Dubai is greatly influenced by religion. The holy month of Ramadan is one of the most popular times in Dubai when all things slow down with a majority of the companies having lesser working hours. The malls, restaurants, and cafes also remain closed during the day and schools are open for half day during this month, and this is a period some students were eagerly looking forward to all year. Arabic is the national language although diverse communities that speak other languages including English and Hindu live in Dubai. Students have a very different life in Dubai unlike in the U.S and Italy. Clubbing and consumption of alcohol are not one of the student’s past times since it is heavily taxed. People are required to have a license that is based on their annual pay, which allows them to buy alcohol. There are clubs, but students do not visit. In my case, I spent most of my spare time with family and friends or engaging in sports. I witnessed only a few kids drinking or smoking but this did not happen openly as I observed in the U.S and Italy. Conversely, it is common to spot young people with Bentleys and Ferraris with rare plate numbers in Dubai. The vehicles are relatively cheap due to low direct taxes. Items such as clothes, electronics, and watches are also inexpensive due to the reduced direct taxes, and this has made the malls in Dubai an ideal place for young people to hang around as they go shopping for these items. People of all ages are expected to dress in a modest manner, especially in public places and conservative areas. Women are mainly required to wear loose-fitting clothes that cover their entire bodies and a headscarf. Interaction with the opposite sex is maintained to a bare minimum. For instance, men and women are not allowed to mix when attending various functions and different sections are set aside for each gender. In school males and females were only allowed to study together until year four after which they attended different classes. As a Muslim city, making rude gestures and kissing intimately in public are considered illegal actions. It is unacceptable to be drunk and disorderly, use bad language or be disrespectful to the Muslim religion. Other things considered illegal are cohabitation, adultery, sex, having a child out of wedlock, being gay and sexual relations outside marriage (Renan 536). My cultural background from Dubai presents various factors that are very different from those I had experienced when I moved to a foreign country.
My visit to Rome exposed me to a new culture that resulted in culture shock. According to (Molinsky 622), culture shock can arise from style of communication, language, lifestyle, and food. However, having studied in the U.S helped to prepare me for an almost similar experience in Rome, Italy. I experienced a culture that is different from that in my home country when I moved to Michigan, in the United States, where I have been studying. Yuefang, et al. (64) posits that international students are required to study a new language, new ways of interacting, and they are expected to familiarize themselves with a relatively narrowly defined set of behaviors for them to be successful. Upon arriving in the U.S., I immediately faced a world that is very culturally different from my home country. Besides experiencing culture shock, I also had to deal with language problems since Arabic is my first language. Language issues made it challenging for me to navigate the educational system and my daily life experiences. For instance, going to the grocery store was not a pleasant experience for me since I had to struggle to get the correct words for the items I was purchasing. I also found it difficult to start conversations with strangers, particularly when asking for direction.
In the U.S, I experienced culture shock in different areas. In school, I observed how students interacted with the lecturers. Students in the U.S classes are very active and even give feedback or ask questions before raising their hands. They are usually rewarded for being extrovert. This is different from Dubai because teachers there are given a lot of respect and students cannot interrupt them in class. Another key thing I noted in my new environment is the freedom. Everybody could wear anything they wanted, do and say what they wanted without having to face serious consequences like jail. In Dubai, people are punished with jail term for minor crimes such as public display of affection. However, it was not easy to deal with some of the new things I observed as I moved from a country where being gay was illegal, and girls were not allowed to wear clothes that exposed parts of their bodies. In Dubai, most children are handed everything on a silver platter, and they do not have to struggle much, which makes it hard for children to become independent at an early age. On the other hand, I found out that in the U.S. every person is expected to have an independent life and handle all the inevitable adjustments alone. These experiences made me realize that it is inevitable for a person to experience culture shock after visiting a foreign country.
Studies indicate that the ease of making cultural adjustments is determined by how similar the host and home country culture are to each other or different from each other. The culture from Dubai differs significantly from that in the United States and Rome. However, the culture in the United States and Rome are almost similar (Yuefang, et al. 68). According to ((Molinsky 625), moving to a culture that is very diverse from one’s home country makes it more challenging for a person to adjust to the lifestyles, customs and traditions of the host country than for those from cultures that are closer to the host country. This implies that having experienced the United States culture prepared me to some extent for the culture in Rome. Brown and Holloway (33) provide that the acculturation process has four stages that international students go through. The first stage is the honeymoon stage where one feels like a tourist. Secondly, the depression stage that entails being overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy in an unfamiliar culture. Thirdly, the autonomy stage that makes a person sees both the positive and negative aspects of the host society’s culture. The last stage is Biculturalism that makes a person get comfortable in the host culture as they would in their home culture. Using these stages, I can reflect on my culture shock in Rome.
In the honeymoon stage, I was excited after arriving in Rome and finding myself a place to stay. I began by exploring some of the famed tourist attractions in Rome such as the Vatican and the Forum. I was eager to try new food, and I was happy to be in such a beautiful city. In the depression stage, the excitement had worn off, and I started getting irritated by the little adjustments I had to make in my daily routine. I missed a lot of things that I had left behind in the U.S. One of the culture shocks at this stage was that most of the people do not speak English. I was a bit optimistic when traveling to Rome because I thought language barrier was not one of the issues that I could experience. Despite having read that there are many English speakers in famous tourist areas that are close to the city center, I realized that there were many Italians in Rome who are not fluent in English. When I needed to inquire something from an Italian, I asked them “Parla Inglese?” They then would answer, “Yes, I do.” But I would later discover that they cannot speak English, and I would continue searching for a person who could assist. Another culture shock is related to the eating habits in Rome. In the U.S, I had got accustomed to eating around 7.00 pm, and I could not see other people in the restaurant taking their meals. I was shocked to learn that it was too early for the Italians to eat dinner at 7.00 pm. The Italians eat dinner around 9.00pm. They also treat meals differently, especially dinner. Going out for dinner lasts at least twice as it would take in a restaurant in the U.S. This happens because dinner is comprised of several courses, but the meals are of good quality and always freshly prepared and enjoyable. In the autonomy stage, which can also be referred to as the adjustment phase, I started adjusting to the cultural differences I was facing in Rome and creating and adapting to new patterns in my everyday life. One of the things that made me realize that I have adjusted is my communication approach. I went to the buy items in a place that I had previously visited and relied on sellers who could speak English and then I was disappointed when they could not understand me. However, this time I used a different strategy because I tried as much as possible to ask the price of the items using broken Italian. The seller asked whether I spoke English and went ahead to tell the cost in English after I said yes. Instead of counting on the vendor’s ability to speak two languages, I attempted to speak in Italian first. This is an indication that I tried to adjust myself to the culture.
In conclusion, I would advise a person intending to travel to a foreign country to make adequate preparations before moving to that country. For instance, it is essential to try and learn the basics of the language that is commonly used in that country. It is also important for those planning to study in foreign countries to visit these places for a few times to familiarize themselves with the different culture. People should also maintain close contact with their friends and families in their home countries to ensure that they get any necessary support to deal with the culture shock. The visitors should also try as much as possible to understand the host culture and make new friends in the new environment Yuefang, et al. (72).
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