Many people experience culture shock when they travel. When I first arrived in Korea, there were actually not many things that surprised me. However, I can honestly say that constant stares from people on the subway were new to me. Before I left, I had many conversations with friends and coworkers over this topic and continuously heard, “you will be stared at”. But I never truly grasped this until I was two weeks into my program and the stares began to get old. The stares were so common that when I returned home it was shocking to realize that I was almost invisible again.
Ultimately, this is something that almost every foreigner must learn to cope with at some point. Despite the fact that people were looking, I never felt as though I was not safe. People are innately curious and you must remember to not let it get to you.
Beyond the looks, culture shock hit me the hardest when I got home. I realized how different America is. Americans are bold, loud, and big — passionate people with nothing to be ashamed of. However, I can say with all honesty that I understood what people were talking about when they said that they thought Americans were all rude. I met many people that were surprised to find that I wasn’t aggressive towards them. I heard, “you are the most polite foreigner I have ever met” so many times that I lost track.
Overall, I am no more respectful than my friends or family. It is important to remember that people have ideas about a country and its people, but that does not mean it is overtly true. I found that I spent a lot of time explaining how big the U.S. is and how different people are from each state. The biggest thing that I took away from all of this was that you shouldn’t go into any situation with preconceived notions about it. It is important to always have an open mind, no matter what.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.