Adjusting to cultural differences

CommunicationI’ve written a lot about my experiences in Korea.  I continue to be inspired by the beautiful people I’ve met in the Land of the Morning Calm, particularly at my university.  There are students, faculty, and staff who have demonstrated their kindness over and over again. The students are a constant source of inspiration.

I came to Korea fully aware that would be cultural differences.  By some standards, the work environment is conservative.  I knew I’d have to adjust.  Still, there is one thing that annoys me.  Sometimes male administrators need to communicate something to me, or they need information from me.  Instead of talking to me directly, they contact my husband.  Sometimes decisions are made about me without my input.

I’m the type of person who values direct communication.  Before I married my husband, I spent many years as the head of my household and a single mom.  Professionally, I served as an administrator in a male-dominated, competitive field.  By the time I was 20, I was all too experienced in handling gender challenges and miscommunication.

Once a graduate student and a staff member decided that an announcement needed to be made to my class.  However, they didn’t talk with me first.  They showed up in my class to make  the announcement.  It was all in Korean, and I had no idea what was being said.    I learned it wasn’t. The graduate student, I would learn, had an attack of self-importance.  He gave my students the impression that he had a lot of influence over me.  The presence of the staff member gave the impression that the announcement was official business.

The next day, I spoke with both men behind closed doors.  I told them calmly, yet candidly that their actions were unacceptable.  The men apologized.  No one ever tried that stunt again.  I went back to being my sweet, adorable self.

At the end of the day, it’s all about respect.  Today I can look back and laugh about experiences like the one I just described.  It’s all in a day’s work.  😉


About Deb Sistrunk Nelson

I’m a journalist, communicator, educator, mom, and wife. Sometimes these different facets of my life collide and make for crazy conversation. I’m a news junkie and a voracious reader on virtually anything related to media. When I’m not writing for business or pleasure, I tutor kids and adults. I also teach English as a Second Language. It’s one of the great thrills of my life.

Posted on May 7, 2013, in Adventures, Challenges, Communication, Culture, Culture Differences, Learning Curves, Memories, Respect and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Hmmm…a very interesting article! So, direct communication is always helpful, no matter what cultural context it is. Also, it brings understanding between diverse cultures as well, as it happens in the blog incident.
    Deb, you are a brave girl!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kausarbilal. Yes, I do find that direct communication is always helpful. At the same time, however, I do try to respect other cultures. It’s all a part of the journey. I appreciate your feedback. 🙂

  2. Oh wow! Culture does play a big part! On how genders respect one another and even communication. I’m sure he didn’t mean harm but he was close to catching a good ol American smackdown. lol jk but at least you could experience that to share with us and now you can laugh about it, great piece!

    • “A good ol’ American smackdown”??? LOL!! Winnie, I’ve had the cultural adventure of a lifetime. What I experienced was an interesting blend of communication and cultural differences. I’m glad we have opportunities to celebrate our differences. Thanks so much for your insight.

  3. Lovely read my dear and life is all about experiences and I’m so proud of you Deb. You are indeed brave yet gentle and how beautifully you have handled your self in this distant land. All the best back in America :-).

    • Thank you, Sanjini. It means a lot that you’re proud of me. 🙂 Korea has given me the experience of a lifetime. I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to learn so many new things.

  4. It was really heartening to know the adventure of a woman. My first impression of you was a brave and bold woman and thank you for saving it.
    Yes I agree that culture differences do matter. But there is one more thing which matters the most and that is the briefing one gets from their Councillors before embarking into some other country. I have the honour of serving with the UN organization and by virtue of it I had interaction with many expats. Some how this was my impression that many of them were wrongly briefed or the person who has briefed them was not current on the subject. With the result that with all our efforts to close the gap with positive measures, they remained distant and hence did not enjoy their stay and work at Pakistan. Those who ignored the briefing and kept it to their judgement became good friends and enjoyed their stay and all the benefits of a new country and its cultures.
    Thank you for sharing

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