Understanding of Culture

values of the East and the West: My experience of being a stranger to the United States

I have never felt so challenged and different from my social environment than when I arrived at the United States to continue my studies from Korea. As an international student in the U.S., I faced the reality that I am about to interact and meet people who are not only physically different from me, but are also culturally different from them. Having grown up in a dominantly-collective Korean society, my values and attitude reflect Asian culture, wherein the individual puts high regard and consideration for his/her community than the self.

As a newcomer in the U.S., I realized that beyond my family and Korean community also established in the country, I cannot easily assume the behavior and attitude that I have always been comfortable and familiar with. Strangers rarely smile at you, and I felt embarrassed when I find myself sitting next to a classmate who seems to not acknowledge your presence at all. Sometimes, I also feel my being different when I am in a crowd where majority of the people are Americans; the eyes that stare at me shows no attempt to conceal his/her thought, which tells me, “you look different from us.” Interacting with other people is not that easy, especially when people seemed hesitant to talk to me, mainly because they think that I cannot speak nor understand English.

Indeed, my adjustment period in the United States is full of pressures, tensions, and reflections (on my part). I reflected about what I must do in order to integrate myself with the American culture without losing my individuality or changing my attitude to adopt new ones, which I am not familiar, even comfortable, with. As time passed, I.

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