Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reverse culture shock

I had my first reverse culture shock today. My first class was with the students from the Arbeitsamt - When people are unemployed, they can apply for free "enrichment" classes whereby the government pays for their courses. My school offers courses like these.

I walked into the class, realized that most of them are new so I went on to introduce myself as well as the country where I came from - Singapore.

Student: "Oh, Singapore is a cold country!"

Me: "Beg your pardon? There´s summer all year round"
(thinking that he probably got Singapore mixed up with some other random country).

"No no, I´m not talking about the climate. I´m talking the people. They are so unfriendly, impolite, not smiling, ......."

"How long were you in Singapore?"

"2 weeks"

"On holiday or business?"

"On holiday"

"Well, if you don´t know any locals there, or have any friends to bring you around, people generally don´t go up to a stranger to make small talk. My German husband automatically gets to know my entire family and friends through me...."

Silence with a disgrunted look on his face.

I continued with what I wanted to say....yes, so I´m Pris, from Singapore. Singapore is clean and green. My hobbies are swimming, blogging, cooking..... Now please find out something about each other in pairs and introduce each other.

"No, Singapore is NOT clean, its dirty, ugly, horrible etc..."
Came the unexpected reply.

By this time, I was trying so hard to hold my temper. What did I do to this guy to deserve such insults and horrible comments about the country I come from? I´ve only met him 2 mins ago!

I shut him by saying, "Singapore IS clean and green meiner Meinung nach" - according to my personal opinion.

FYI, this guy blurted out all his negative comments in front of the entire class, with no sign of respect whatsoever, for the fact that he knew that I´m from Singapore. I was sooo taken aback by his comments.

I know that Singapore isn´t perfect, but its not deserving of all these comments from a person who only spent 2 weeks as a tourist in Singapore, who knows absolutely nothing about the culture or people.

And this person refused to listen whatsoever to what I had to say - to hear the point of view of a native Singaporean?!? I couldn´t help feeling patriotic rage rising in my veins.

I thought that I might have been over-reacting, but as the class progressed, I realized that he´s really the epitomy of negativity.

Whatever he said dripped with sarcasm and dampened the entire atmosphere of the class. You know, the type of person who is done with the exercises the fastest, but is tongue-tied when he has to present his answers to the rest of the class.

And yes, I know I should forgive and all, but I needed to vent. I told my hubby about this incident and he said,"Now, do you understand how I felt when you kept going on about Germany this, Germany that?"

For which I defended myself saying,"I would never go to a German, someone whom I´ve never met and bitch about Germany, pointing out all the worst of the country, which is not even true???"

But yeah, I saw his point. And I truly felt sorry. I think after staying in Germany for more than 3 years, I´m learning to accept the differences in culture more.

I´m also watching my tongue more whenever I meet a nasty German or have a bad experience here. A few black sheep doesn´t make the entire flock bad.....

And there are SOO many great Germans here, whom I´ve had the privilege of getting to know - you know who you are, who´ve helped me to feel more at home here.

So yeah, here´s officially saying Sorry to whoever who might be personally upset by my "not-so-diplomatic" comments about Germany esp. during my first year in Germany.

Quoting from a book I´m reading now
"We aren´t here to change or judge the culture. We´re here to introduce them to the One who created them and their culture. God will make the necessary adjustment in their culture in order to redeem all of its intrinsic beauty. We are not here to change peoples´cultures. Plus, I have learnt so much from them (Germans) and their sense of priorities that our Asian culture would do well to heed" Art Sanborn in "A walking miracle"

I like Germany and Germany´s beautiful....almost as beautiful as Singapore. hahah. Nah, I must say I really am learning to appreciate Germany more for what it is. A beautiful culture and people created by God and loved by Him.

And for me, its home as here is where God wants us to be.


belinda said...

Hey Pris, I get what you mean totally.. I had the SAME experience as you! It happened last year when I was talking to 2 of my colleagues, this guy from one from our neighbouring countries, and another European girl. Boy he was criticising Singapore like anything moaning it's the worst 3 years of his life, so many rules to follow, he was constantly unhappy, blah blah BLAH and I was shocked beyond words (how can anyone hate Singapore that much?!) As you said, I was also filled with "patriotic rage" haha and tried to stand up for our country but I didn't retort back as well as I wanted to be, which I regret till this day. I hope the European girl didn't get too confused. Anyway, have chosen to forgive him altho I think someone shld tell him that he shld feel at least grateful coz if not for his stint in S'pore, he might not even get a chance to work here in London! bleah...

Pris said...

Hey Bel! :) Yay! I´m not alone in this. Yah man, it was so difficult for me to stomach all that stuff from the guy. But I know that I don´t have to take it personally and everybody´s entitled to their opinion...still, I love my country lah....
I think the guy you met was pretty extreme leh. Worst 3 yrs of his life...hmmm. I guess maybe he had a really hard time, but is it Singapore´s fault???

Beau Lotus said...

Would you believe that I wanted to do my postgrad in Europe so that I could know more about their culture and be able to defend Singapore better because we get attacked all the time? Know your enemy like you know yourself...

Singapore has her share of faults, but after living more than a decade overseas, I really think that she is a wonderful country and I am so lucky to be born there.

Anyway, you have already been tolerant. You could have told him in his face that one reason why he's unemployed could be his negative spirit and pettiness.

Pris said...

Hey Serene,
That´s hilarious! Made me laugh! Yeah, know your enemies to defend yourself better.

I don´t get that many negative comments about Singapore except the usual chewing gum and death sentence issues.

But this was the first frontal attack. Thanks for your vote of confidence! I just hope that he would keep his comments to himself the next time I see him in class.

Grace said...

What yr student described doesn't sound like Singapore. Maybe he mistook it for some other SEA countries he visited. U should test him on where he stayed,ask him about a few places of interest. I won't be surprised that he can't answer. If he was indeed in Singapore, maybe he was travelling on such low budget that he landed up in some cheap hostel in Little India or Geylang and only moved around that area. By the way, it is strange for a tourist to stay 2 wks in Singapore unless he is using it as a base for travelling to other surrounding countries. As for the "cold" reaction of Singaporeans towards him,it could be due to his bad behaviour or something about his outward appearance that makes Singaporeans shun him.

Manis said...

kanasai lah tt guy...weldone babe for telling him off. i read his comment also my blood boiling. cannot give face lah this guy. hope you feeling okay now.. eh do u hv to face him everyday in class???

belinda said...

yeah precisely "the worst 3 years of his life" is so extreme. I think maybe he likes to chew gum, spit and litter everywhere, hate the cleanliness and our efficient public transport system.

Pris said...

Hi Grace, Thanks for your comment! :) Yeah, if I see that guy again, I´ll see if he brings up that Singapore issue and will proceed to bombard with him qns to see if he really was in Singapore. Well, appearance-wise, he isn´t special looking...more like an ah-bek type of look.

Pris said...

Hey Manis
No I don´t have to face him everyday- thank GOD!!!! I might have to see him again maybe once a week if I get his class, but that´s manageable lah. I meet all sorts of weird people in my job. But a LOT of nice ones too.

Pris said...

Bel - I had to laugh when I read your comment! hahah. That´s what I tell people too. If they are "normal", living in Singapore isn´t much of a problem. Who goes around littering and spitting? Oh well, a lot of people in Germany spit but mainly in bushes...so that´s ok lah, in my opinion.


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