Post-Travel Reflection On The Impact Of Cultures, Beliefs, Values, Perceptions And Knowledge In The USA
Existing Beliefs, Assumptions, and Knowledge
It was a wonderful opportunity for me when I learnt that I was selected as a member of the team that was selected to be a part of the study tour team to the United States of America. Foreign tour in itself is an exciting concept in itself for the student community, and moreover USA is one of the most anticipated destinations where everyone wants to go at least once in their lifetime.
Study tours and field trips are very important to give students practical firsthand knowledge about the theories they are learning (Greene, Kisida and Bowen 2014). The students who are learning about culture, economy and lifestyle of people from any other country, it is very important for them to practically understand the intricacies of the place firsthand while visiting the place. In our case we needed to understand the country from business perspective and its economy (MacVaugh and Norton 2012).
The itinerary which was provided to us before the tour exited us more. We were being taken to Los Angeles, Hollywood, Berverly Hills, Washington, White House, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Ford Orientation Center and many other important places which were very fascinating for a student of business like me. These places are economic power houses and there is a lot to learn about business, marketing and finance from these places (Rieff 2013).
America has always enticed me as a destination that offers all luxurious and elegant lifestyle to everyone who visits the place. The country has been very successful in economic, social, military and all other standards by which a country may be judged about its prosperity (Friedman 2013). The largest economy of the country has been always a point of interest for all the business students around the world (Statista.com 2018). I was no exception. The primary idea I had about United States of America was a prosperous, liberal, and economically advanced country with all kinds of indulging and luxurious activities.
Los Angeles falls into the category of one of the most popular cities on earth. Also known by its initials as LA, the city is the cultural, and commercial hub of California (Kubrin and Ishizawa 2012). Beautiful beaches, skyline of tall buildings, and wonderful sceneries with dotted hills makes the place a picturesque one. These were the images that came to mind when I thought of the place.
The world famous film industry, the Hollywood is situated in this city itself which makes the neighborhood even more famous across the world. I had an idea of glam and glitz all over the city with stars dotting around. Hollywood provides employment to thousands of people and contributes huge amount of money to the economy of the city (Scott 2014). Therefore, I thought the home city of Hollywood would be economically very stable and the people would be super rich.
My Personal Skills and Abilities in Cross Cultural Communication
The assumption I had about the American culture was that the people would be very open minded, rich and clever. They would be very business minded and the lifestyle of the people will be very fast. The economy of the country is mainly dependent on its people, so I expected a very smart and fast lifestyle.
In the country from which I belong, people from many different cultural backgrounds have been residing for a long time. I have friends from diverse cultural backgrounds. Therefore, I could develop some much needed cultural communication skills that will be helpful for me to bond with people from other countries in a better way (Bochner 2013). The communication skills that help me in communicating in inter cultural context are-
Slow but steady- When interacting with people from other cultures I usually speak slowly and clearly so that the other person may not have any problems with my native accent.
Clarity of sentences- Either sentences or questions I keep them very simple and to the point to keep the message clear and to the point.
Making it interactive- I focus on making the conversation very interactive, where I speak and stop and let the other person speak.
Checking the meanings- I do not assume anything while interacting with people from other cultures. If I have a doubt with any meaning, I ask the person, and keep the concepts very clear.
Expressing non verbally- When I communicate with people who have a difficulty in understanding my language I use gestures and other nonverbal way of communicating to support my verbal communication.
Setting up emotional connect- It is said that emotionally one can communicate much better if there is a mental understanding between the participants of the conversation.
The main objective of our going to the United States of America study tour was to ensure that we practically understand the lifestyle of the American people and the economy of the country as a whole. It depends on the individual students how that individual would utilize the study abroad program to the fullest to reap maximum benefits. The main objective is to immerse oneself in the study tour and even before going physically to the place one may research about the cultural practices, economic activities and the lifestyles of the people.
My goals and expectations included, engaging with the local people to learn their culture and lifestyle, to understand the economic and financial status of the host country, to become more flexible and inquisitive about other cultures, and lastly to enjoy the concept of unity in diversity.
Learning Goals and Expectations
Samovar et al. (2015) stated in their work “Communication between cultures” that there are many subcultures within the United States of America. Plenty of people coming from different areas of the world to the country adjusts themselves in the culture by putting their individual effort and trying to new things. Furham (2012) pointed out that when a person is put to a completely new culture, the person experiences a “culture shock” which denotes a sudden change in the perception of the person about culture and lifestyle. The person finds it difficult to at once swallow all the sudden changes he sees in the lifestyle around him. Lin, Chen and Song (2012) has said that the most effective tools in adjusting with a completely new culture is to use the cultural and emotional intelligence in the best possible way. With more prominent decent variety in the workforce nowadays, financial, political and social multifaceted collaborations are increasing. These connections happen in an assortment of business related circumstances.
In the present times business excursions to remote nations and long haul abroad assignments, and in addition non-business related circumstances, for example, academic tours have become very common. Individuals confront diverse difficulties in a multifaceted domain while encountering a change from well-known to new settings (Kinloch and Metge 2014). They perceive that behavioral conduct, enthusiastic articulation, states of mind, and social esteems that are worthy in their natural condition may not be satisfactory in different settings, and that a few things that are hostile in their own social settings are permitted in the new social condition (Young and Schartner 2014).
There are mainly four stages of adjusting in coping up with a completely new culture. These are— “Excitement, Emerging differences, Culture shock, and Coping up with the Cultural difference.” In the first stage the individual feels the excitement of exploring a new culture. At the beginning, despite the fact that the new circumstance is somewhat confounding, most students additionally observe it to invigorate, a period of new encounters, new experiences and new feelings. With such a long way to go and ingest in the new culture, the underlying time of settling in frequently appears like a difficult one. The next stage is the stage when the differences seem to be too stark, which results in a culture shock, ultimately the individual has to cope p and adjust to the new culture.
- Social Customs and Practices of Another Country
Both the countries have some stark similarities in terms of social cultures and the behavioral traits of the people. The people of Australia and USA are individualistic and they give more importance to individual goals than social responsibilities.
Cultural and Social Adjustment Required to Live and Study in Another Culture
In terms of language and accent the two countries are having differences, the Australian accent is not very clear to many Americans. There is a tendency among the Australians to abbreviate most of the things.
The Australians are seen to be more indulgent and enjoying their life to the fullest even more than Americans. However American life is glitzier and glamorous because there are more options to indulge (Hofstede-insights.com 2018). The pace of service in Australia is slower than that of the prompt service at America. Australian traits make the people much more relaxed and the lifestyle is not as fast as their American counterpart.
- Business Practices of Another Country
As per seen in the above image of cultural comparison in the Hofstede model the power distance is lower in Australia than in USA, which means that the employees have a closer relationship with the boss in the business organizations. However, the uncertainty avoidance scale, Australian’s are more likely to avoid uncertainties (Hofstede-insights.com 2018). They take lesser risk and are more comfortable in doing what is tried and tested.
The Americans are known for their risk taking abilities for which many Australian companies have become super successful. The American people can take better risks with their lives, often people drop out from college to start their own ventures. When going to a meeting in the U.S., one ought to anticipate that it will be run more in the nature of a meeting to generate new ideas. American businessmen have a tendency to be straight-forward with their conclusions and aren’t reluctant to add to the talk. Hence, outcasts frequently feel that American conferences are more about the discussion than the activity. While Australian business culture is known to be more laid back than in the U.S., that doesn’t mean their way to deal with gatherings is remiss. Dependability is an unquestionable requirement for conferences in Australia and individuals for the most part to keep these occasions short and to the point.
- Educational and Learning Practices of Another Country
In the countries like New Zealand and Australia the education system is more personalized and less professional than their US counterpart. However, most of the aspects of education in both the countries are similar. The system and the syllabus that both of these countries follow are not drastically different.
The Australians are less oriented in “long term orientation” category of the Hofstede model than their US counterparts. That means Historical and traditional education is less popular in Australia than USA.
A fundamental contrast is that Bachelor Degrees in Australia can be three years (some are four) while most are four years in the US. In Australia, most colleges offer a fourth year extra program to credit normal students, so it is not entirely true that this is dependably the most prominent difference. The courses in America are more career oriented (Mourshed, Farrell and Barton 2013)
- Prior to departure—As I started researching about USA, specifically Los Angeles and the places that were included in our itinerary I understood that Hollywood is not as big as it seems economically and contributes only about 5% to the economy of Los Angeles. Rather there are other more economically productive activities in the place like apparels, aerospace and biomedical services (Storper et al.2015). So the city is just not about Hollywood and the film industry.
- During my trip—When I arrived in the city and started exploring the various parts, I was quite shocked to see that there is quite a lot of poverty around and there were homeless people and beggars dotting the whole city. There were many people high with the effects of alcohol and drugs all over the city and even in the hotel where I stayed. The rich people were very rich and the homeless people had nowhere to go. The visit to the World Bank and the International Monetary fund was really helpful for me to understand the work culture of these places. I was amazed how the people were active all the time and the only thing to be playing in their mind seemed to be work. Everything was finely designed and the work flow was predetermined. The classes in the host university was very interactive and the students were helpful and cooperative, I expected them to be arrogant which they were not.
- After Return to My Home Culture—When I returned to my home city the differences were clearer to me, I perceived how people back home were more laid back in their attitude. I could not match the professionalism in the USA organizations with that of my home country. I truly believe that the people of my country should be more professional and less procrastinating. However, the poverty situation in USA is worse than Australia, there are lesser beggars and the economic prosperity is better in a overall perspective.
Study tours to foreign countries are very important in developing a better cross cultural understanding of different cultures. A student of business must be wired properly to be open minded and acceptable to varied cultural dimensions. This trip has been really helpful for me to understand USA, its people, and its economic status. Many of my misconceptions about the place got corrected and now I have better cross cultural skills.
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