When cultures meet, one may be confused. But just don‘t panic
Ruhr-University Bochum is an international university, which is deeply involved with exchange network, providing a place for research and great education. More than 4,500 students from all over the world are currently studying at RUB. Students from Europe, Asia, even from the USA and Australia come to Bochum to complete their degree at our university.For international students like me, Germany is typically known for hard work, sausages and of course beer! Also we got to know plenty of festivals, which take place all over the country in different times of the year. But although Germany is such a beautiful country we all know that most of the students come to Bochum not because of the city but because of the RUB. It is very impressive how the University is prepared for international students. An international team is available for any question foreign students may have. But not only International Office is involved in the foreign students live but also professors and home students. Dannie, a student from Spain, says, “I was supported by my lead professor through my two years of master degree. Anytime when I had a problem, even not involving study matter, he was always there with a good advice.“ Serena from the USA agrees, “Everyone here is so helpful and nice, it feels almost like home to me.” But not everyone feels that way. According to staff working at the student desk, most of the new students feel lost, scared, confused. Some of them even angry, as they feel like nobody wants to help them. They develop the attitude “nobody likes me, this is too difficult, I want to go home”.
A first year student I met few days ago was standing in the front of the library, helpless looking. She simply did not know where to go, as she missed the introduction day. I showed her the way and gave her the map of the whole campus. As I was leaving I saw relief on her face. She reminded me a bit of myself the first time when I came here, when you do not really know where to go, who to ask. It feels like they made it so complicated on purpose just to ruin your day. But now looking back I must say that this all has pretty great sense if you determined enough to go through. So it seems like all the confused student can find all the needed help in the International Office; so what does that have to do with culture shock?
First we have to ask ourselves the very simple question: what is culture shock exactly? I asked some students about the meaning of the word ‘culture’. Some of them said culture represents everything that we do in our free time. Others said that culture reflects the soul of the society. Both of the answers are true. It seems that in every country the people have the same needs and wishes, although they speak different languages. But this is not entirely true. Every country has its own mentality, historical treasure which shapes the whole society. Even sense of humor may differ between the countries. I was very curious how other students felt about the German culture. Pantie from China said that the food is definitely different that in her country, “The Chinese food served here is far away from the original food we enjoy back in my country.” However, most of the students said that the arts, music, cinema, sports are very similar to their own. There are only few small things which stresses differences in a cultural way.
This may help you
To avoid embarrassing situations, I prepared few tips for you. The first one may seem a bit funny, but in university Germans applaud by knocking their fists on the table, not by clapping both hands. It can be a bit embarrassing if you will be the only one clapping after someone gives a presentation. So please keep that in mind for your own good. Another very important thing is to distinguish the difference between “du” and “Sie”! Especially for those students who come from English speaking countries. Students from Great Britain, Canada or New Zealand are used to use the same pronoun for everyone, it doesn’t matter how big the age difference is. However, in Germany the respect for more mature residents is very restricted. If you use an informal sentence for an elderly person you should correct yourself quickly. Trust me, you do not want to see an angry German. To understand the cultural difference better you can attend classes, which are specially prepared for this purpose. All the information and additional courses are listed on the RUB website under the International Office section. To sum up I just want to say that we should all be open-minded. At the end of the day it is up to us how we want to spend the best time of our youth.