Do you have a good friend who can share your problems? Do you have someone who will sympathize with you?
The last time I felt confused and conflicted by cultural differences between my culture and the U.S., I decided to talk to one of my girlfriends who is from Saudi Arabia. She told me how she was dealing with her own cultural differences in America.
When she met her program’s academic advisor (he is also one of her professors), he reached out his hand to her in greeting. She said that she was shaking because touching any part of a man’s body is not allowed in her culture, yet she also didn’t want to hurts his feelings. Eventually she had to shake hands, and it was her first experience of strong cultural/personal conflict in this country.
Since then, she has been aware of many such differences and has been trying to overcome these issues for three years. Even now, she told me, she is comfortable on the PSU campus but outside of campus, she still has uncomfortable experiences.
Sometimes people stare at her in public places because she wears a scarf that wraps her hair. I was very interested in how she deals with these cultural differences, because I am struggling with similar misunderstandings with my American classmates. She told me she acts very polite and formal towards her male classmates so that they don’t become too friendly and try to shake hands or pat her on the back for encouragement. She knows it restricts their friendship, but it is also what she feels comfortable with.
As a Japanese female, I don’t have such strong feelings of discomfort about shaking hands or being patted on the back. However, I felt that hearing about my friend’s feelings and how she has dealt with her issues has encouraged me to overcome my own.