I believe in experiencing foreign cultures. Although it is important to love your country and be faithful to it, you can’t be afraid to go out and experience life in a foreign country. I believe this opens our eyes to the world around us, broadening our knowledge of countries everywhere.
I came to this conclusion after taking a life-changing trip to Spain last summer. The trip was made to open the students, on the trip, up to new cultures, as well as be an educational learning experience. Although I was excited to leave the U.S. for the first time, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I should have been. It was an amazing opportunity for a kid my age, but I was about as eager as someone going to see a new-release. It wasn’t until I got off the plane that I realized…I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
I would have to describe the feeling of my first foreign city, Toledo, as culture shock. Most things were different, but at the same time, there were also many similarities. The roads were full of cars like in the U.S., but pedestrians didn’t have the right of way in this country. There were innumerable public transportation vehicles driving around, yet there were still countless people walking. The main difference I had to get used to was not being able to communicate very easily with the local people. Even though I took Spanish classes since the 7th grade, it was so much harder to understand it when someone spat it out at you faster than you can comprehend.
Living in Spain only became more difficult when my roommate and I moved in with a host mother, in Salamanca. Her Spanish was spoken so quickly, we had to ask her to slow down almost every time. And even with that she would simply break it down into three parts, which she spoke, once again, much too fast. Her food was different, school was different, and I still couldn’t communicate with people who lived there. I felt overwhelmed with this new culture around me, and I didn’t know what to do. Finally, one night, the answer came to me: accept it.
The next morning I woke up and went to school with my roommate looking at our temporary home town in a new way. I was able to make short conversation with people on the street that day, school was more understandable, and the all-around atmosphere of Salamanca seemed to change. All I had to do was accept the fact that I was in a foreign country, and things started taking off from there.
I believe this is the attitude people should always have when taking on a trip to a foreign country. If you try to walk around like you do at home, it might not be as good of an experience. Accepting things how they are definitely makes a foreign culture one of the most enjoyable sensations someone can encounter.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.