My Dear Culture Shock

Businessmen on Globe

It was a super sunny day when I arrived at Bucknell in August. I had not  seen this kind of blue sky with white clouds before in China. There are so few people on the road so the road looks really empty. However, in China, the city is always crowded and full of traffic. I felt totally new about Lewisburg, the quiet town that I would spend my future four years with. Now, it has been almost one month since I got to Bucknell. Personally, now I feel a little bit more used to this totally new environment than four weeks before. I can find my classrooms, dorms, cafes, library and gym, which is the major part of my campus life, but I still feel lost and face a lot of barriers, including not only language barriers, but also cultural barriers.

The first difficulty I have met is slang. Sometimes Native American students like to use slang instead of normal expression, which cannot be literally translated at all. I always feel confused when I hear “give it a shot” “maxed out”, and “put one’s shoes in one’s mouth”. (The last one really shocks me in the beginning). I know there must be some special inferences. But since I don’t know their clear meanings, I always feel awkward and embarrassed.

Culture barriers actually are more serious than language barriers, because you can ask for explanation if you do not understand some special meaning, but you are easily considered weird, rude or offensive if you behave improperly.

I still remember the first time I walked together with my roommate during orientation period. I tended to be closer to her as we walk, which is the most common way to show intimacy with best friends in China. It is very often to see two girls holding hands or arming around shoulders in streets in China. However, when I was trying to do this, she immediately stepped back to keep the initial distance. Noticing that, I suddenly realized here is not China and I cannot expect others’ behaviors in my way. Having experienced this story, I begin to have more awareness about cultural difference and pay more attention to my way when I get along with people from different backgrounds.

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According to the condition that I easily feel lost and still on the way to explore proper way of interacting and behaving, I guess I must in the second stage of culture shock, which is disorientation. Sometimes I feel nervous and overwhelmed to obey all the rules here because I am afraid of offending people in some ways that I may not even realize. Sometimes I feel upset and blame myself about why I did not do more research to American culture before I come here.

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I have not experienced another cultural shock before since this is the first time I study abroad and leave my home for such a long time, only relying on myself. Through learning this interesting definition of culture shock, I feel more relaxed because I know I am not alone and this is normal reaction as a beginner here. I will try my best to mitigate the negative effect that the third stage would bring to me and become bicultural as soon as possible. My dear culture shock, please leave me as soon as you can.

Bucknell encourages individualism and diversity. At here everyone can just be themselves and find a way to make themselves comfortable. This is an amazing community that full of similarity and difference. It is possible to meet totally different foreigners, and it is also possible to make like-minded friends. In Bucknell, we don’t need to cater to somebody; instead we can maximize the value of individuality and enjoy playing our values. I think that realizing personal values is an important step of overcoming cultural shock.

Compared to China, The States is a society with lower power distance. People here admit legal rights and own more rights and freedom. In my four-week life here, I find out that both professors and students are truly friendly. They are likely to talk with students, especially new students, and help them solve problems and own a sense of belonging. In order to mitigate the effect of culture shock, my neighbors and I can try to get out of the comfort zone by making more new friends and forming connections with professors, advisors and upperclassmen.

The States also has lower uncertainty avoidance ratio. Freshmen, especially international students, will encounter new challenges and uncertainty every day. Holding an optimistic attitude and keeping smiley face are necessary, or you may lose confidence easily on the way. There is no need to control uncertainty, and actually controlling is impossible. Just confronting whatever happen, I will enjoy the feeling of changeability and possibility.

I believe Bucknell is long-term oriented since students care more about what kind of people they are going to become after their graduation. Whether continues to graduated school or goes to find jobs, it is the long-term virtue and skills that students here are eager to acquire.

Both masculinity and femininity are prevalent in our campus in my opinion. Students are encouraged to own ambition and achieve academic progress. At the same time, we devote ourselves to community service and life quality in order to help more people who in need of help and contribute to our society. I feel proud of this culture in Bucknell, which means we can strive for ourselves and become comprehensive in other parts of life besides studying.

As for indulgence, all of us need to balance Greek life and academy in Bucknell . Going to parties is a way to overcome cultural shock by making new friends and relieving pressures, but undoubtedly not a way to affluence normal life.

Bucknell is somewhere I chose to be my college, somewhere I chose to enjoy my life and somewhere I am going to devote myself to. I have great confidence that I will definitely have great times here in the following years. My dear culture shock, please leave me as soon as you can.

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About Xiaoyan Liu

My name is Xiaoyan Liu, which means smiley face in English. I come from China and Chinese is my mother language. This my first time to study abroad and I am so excited to embrace beautiful Bucknell. My intended major is accounting and financial management.
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2 Responses to My Dear Culture Shock

  1. Charles Yang says:

    Very informative analysis on the five cultural dimensions in Bucknell compared to China’s. It’s organized and the informations are dissected to be easily followed and understood. I really liked your incident of attempting to hold your roommates, but through careful observations realized the personal bubble. The slangs in America are really hard to understand and there are so many of them, since each states’ slang can be different!

  2. Amanda Stefura says:

    Your descriptions of the differences between American and Chinese culture is very informative and interesting. I found it surprising that it was strange for you to see students and professors having friendly interactions because I have never thought about this power distance relationship before and how it might be different in various cultures. I hope that you will overcome the culture shock soon, know that we are always here to support you!

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