Wow, I’ve learned a lot about cultural differences.
As an American, I didn’t really grow up with much knowledge of other cultures. In my eyes, nothing existed, or was relevant outside of America. I know, I know, extremely ridiculous. But after living in Berlin for three years – a cultural Mecca, I’ve learned how much I’ve missed out on.
z.B – I’ve crossed paths with many Italian people and when we go to greet each other, it’s an awkward experience, to say the least. Typically I shake hands with people I meet for the first time, but Italians, much like the Spanish kiss on both cheeks. I’m not sure if it’s my desire for personal space, or being a Germophobe, but the whole situation makes me super uncomfortable. When I think back to my experiences in the states with coworkers, friends, family members, etc. I realized we never hugged or showed very much affection. On one hand, those could be my personal experiences and not that of the whole country, but it could also mean Americans do not show as much affection as other cultures.
For example, if I’m on the train in Berlin and there’s one available place to sit, but people directly on the left and right, I will not sit down. I prefer to have at least one spot between me and the next person, unless it’s someone I know. After witnessing German culture I’ve come to realize how individualistic Americans are, for many reasons. Firstly, my family and friends here in Germany are quite affectionate. People are often hugging one another and being close. To be honest, I’m not used to it, but it’s really nice and I really like it.
My coworker and roommate are both Indian, so naturally I’ve learned a lot about Indian cultural. What stood out the most to me is the importance of family, how rare it is to have conflicts within ones family, and how much ones family supports each other. To me, this sounds a lot like some south american country cultures. In high school I had numerous friends from Mexico and other parts of South America as well, which is why I could see the similarities.
Next, I want to touch base on Africa. Being that my roots are Sudanese, I’m already somewhat familiar with African culture. In 2017 I lived in a small German city called Fürstenwalde with a man from Cameroon. I met him at the train station and eventually told him I didn’t have anywhere to live. Without a second thought, he offered to let me sleep on his couch for as long as I needed. He didn’t charge me rent and bought groceries every week so I wouldn’t have to. He never asked for anything in return and I think this is a clear example of how amazing African culture can be.
All in all I’ve learned that throughout my international endeavors there’s been a common theme – we may come from different backgrounds, but we all stick our necks out for those we love. As humans I think we should focus on what brings us together and not what separates us.
I loveeeeee meeting people from different countries. I loveeeee living in Berlin and I loveeeee the plethora of opportunities I have to travel the world.
Thanks for reading!!