Study Abroad: Cultural Differences
A little under a month ago, I attended several pre-departure orientation meetings sponsored by NAU in preparation for my study abroad program. I have been waiting for the time to pass since October, when I first submitted my application to study abroad in Australia. Sitting in meetings may not sound like an exhilarating time, but to me, I was thrilled; it was finally becoming more real.
My first meeting was country-specific, and I had the opportunity to meet other students who were traveling to the same country/area as me; I even met a girl going to the same host university. The PowerPoint presentation held a plethora of useful information, some of which I had already considered or had no idea about. The same went for the presentation in the general session of the study abroad program. It was interesting to see where other people were traveling: Ireland, Morocco, India, Spain, China, Greece, and many more.
One thing that stuck with me while I was sitting in the audience was of the cultural differences. I had known prior to these meetings that every country has certain differentiating customs, but I had no idea how serious some of the differences could be. For instance, assuming the service is satisfactory, tipping the waiter after a meal in America is expected; however, tipping the waiter at some Japanese businesses can be considered rude. Tipping etiquette is different in every country, and it's important to research the norms of your host country before you leave. In my particular case, I also learned that Australians like to talk about American politics upon first meeting an American. As one, I don't follow politics, as I was never really interested in the subject. However, I want to be as polite as possible while I'm in Australia, and have decided to learn more about it since politics is a common area of interest there.
While some students may initially decide to study abroad for the excitement of visiting another country, it is crucial to research each country’s social idiosyncrasies. The last thing you want to do is disrespect the local citizens by representing the United States of America with ignorance.