We are living in a rich and vibrant multicultural world, so it’s great that you want to understand cultures other than your own. There are a few ways to do this and one of the best ways to experience and understand other cultures is to actually live among them. It might take a while to save for, but planning a trip overseas to a country you’re interested in can be the best way of opening yourself up to new cultures. Below is a story from Saw about his journey in Taiwan.
Saw’s Taiwan story
It’s difficult to encapsulate the wild range of emotions that I’ve felt during the days when I was in Taiwan into words. I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions from being homesick, nervous to being excited and slowly falling in love with this beautiful country.
There are Germans, Canadians, Hong Kong`s, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian,Thailand, Korean and Czech Republic in the project. A major challenge that I faced was the cultural shock that I experienced while first arriving in Taiwan. I found subtle cultural differences in Taiwan from Malaysia which although is expected, still needed some getting some used to. However I was able to overcome this challenge through the help of my new friends whom I’ve gotten extremely close with. They come from different countries and cultures but I’ve realized we all have the same heart.
English was one of my biggest challenge in my entire project. Basically in the first day living with them, I can’t even understand what they said and the topic they were discussing. Canadians’ english speaking was so fast and unclear as the accent from canada is strong. Oh my goddddd. That was my toughest week I’ve been through. I tried my best to communicate with them because we need to live together for more than 6 weeks. Luckily my english understanding was getting better and better throughout the weeks. In the last week of the project, I can understand all the stories he was trying to tell me and I can even reply him with English alone.
Besides, I found out something interesting in Taiwan. This kind of thing doesn’t even exist in Malaysia and I hope Malaysians are aware of this and change it. I found out the attitude had by Taiwanese when Taiwanese finish their food in restaurant, they will clean by themself. All the shops in Taiwan has prepared the wardrobe by separating the rubbish and the plate. After they clean, they will eventually place their plate to the wardrobe. The most obvious example we can use is Mcdonald. In Malaysia’s Mcdonald, Malaysian will not clean it after eating. The Mcdonald full time staff had to come out of their counter and clean it for the next customer. But in Taiwan’s Mcdonald, the staff will only stay behind of the counter. They would not care about cleaning. From this, the attitude of Taiwan is similar to the Japanese’ attitude.
In the FiFA world Cup 2018, we knew that after Japan lost the world cup, they clean the whole reserve room and leave a “ Thank You” word in the room. In the last few days of my program, my Taiwan friend brought me to watch a movie called “The Meg”. I found out that they even clean the Cinema themselves. All the popcorn and drinks needs to be thrown by ourselves outside the Cinema. OMG! None of the Malaysian even did this. Even myself, as this was my first time throwing my popcorn box myself. From this exchange journey, I would change myself to have a more discipline attitude. I hope that we, Malaysians can achieve this one day .
I wish to all the youth will try to utilize all the time before we step into the real world or the realistic working lifestyle. Abroad experience is a must for the youth. Be able to learn different cultural experience and leadership to build up and improve on ourselves. Time to change everything, change our attitude, change to become a new Malaysian.
Be proud of yourself. SAYA ANAK MALAYSIA.
Saw Xue Yuan
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
The key takeaway is that everyone, no matter what their cultural background, has different opinions, habits and ways of life. The sooner you accept that everyone is different, the easier it becomes to understand and embrace cultural differences.
Original story from Saw Yue Xuan (Student I Universiti Malaysia Sarawak)
In AIESEC, we believe in developing leadership through practical experiences in challenging environment, and we do this by delivering cross-cultural exchanges. We have created thousands of stories ever since we started in Malaysia 50 years ago. Here’s just one of them.