Cultural Differences

By: Travis Rind, Foster Undergraduate

This was my first Thanksgiving spent outside the US, and the first time experiencing it with non-Americans. We took the opportunity to share a cultural tradition and host a potluck. Everyone brought dishes from their home countries to share – with everything from crepes to sashimi! (But don’t fear, we still had the traditional oven-roasted turkey and mashed potatoes.) Everyone was very curious about this distinctly American tradition, and I enjoyed sharing our culture with others.

I was particularly surprised with how wide-spread American influence was overall. Grocery stores had Thanksgiving displays, and even our dormitory dining hall offered a ‘traditional American’ Thanksgiving feast complete with spicy chicken wings, chili dogs, BBQ ribs, and French fries. Clearly there is a bit of a cultural gap that may take a bit more understanding.

Europeans were also very interested and well-versed in American politics. Because the US is such an influential power player in global affairs, many felt that their nations were directly impacted by American policy. The presidential election was followed ardently, and a lot of the other exchange students and locals even stayed up through the night to watch the election results live on television.

These experiences have made me realize how lacking Americans typically are in understanding other cultures. I’m not sure how many people know what St. Andrew’s Day is or can name the prime minister of the United Kingdom, but being abroad has helped me realize the importance of educating oneself about global affairs. Not only is it practical knowledge for being in the realm of business, but you are able to have much more lively and engaging conversations with others when you expand your knowledge base.