My father was the first in his family to get on a plane and go to Europe. Every photo that I have of him shows a thirty-something-year-old man marveling at a historical landmark like it’s the first and last time that he’ll ever see it. My dad’s reactions to these new cultures and places he was getting to experience for the first time was natural and justifiable because they were all new to him. It took my dad at least a year to adapt to Turkish culture when he arrived in Turkey. It was a completely new experience for him; he was learning everything from scratch. The only things he knew about the country before he arrived were the names of a few cities. Fast forward to 30 years later and as the first of my siblings to get on a plane to the US my experience was far from my dad’s.
Growing up in Tanzania, I went to international American schools. This meant that my teachers were American and a lot of my friends were American too. The subject matter of what we learned was mostly American, including Social Studies. This resulted in me growing up in a third-world African country with an American accent. I never knew how different I sounded from my friends who went to public school once we conversed in English until I was much older. Because most of my influence was American, I somehow felt different in my own country. I never felt like I fully fit in with my non-school friends. I loved basketball, they loved soccer. I spoke English most of the times but they spoke Swahili. I loved the X-Box because it was the console that all my school friends would talk about but my none school friends preferred the PlayStation. I was a Tanzanian kid who was raised in American culture.
When I arrived in the United States for the first time to pursue my college education my culture shock did not last longer than 2 days. Thanks to the internet I already knew more about the city of Los Angeles than half the people I found there. I didn’t spend more than 2 quick seconds staring at the tall skyscrapers that I had never seen back home. I wasn’t shocked by anything because I had already seen it and experienced it through the internet. I already interacted with Los Angelenos through Online gaming chats and social media years before I even moved there. I already knew the social dos and don’ts of the city, I knew that it was hard to find parking in the city, and I already knew what spot had the best burgers and what streets to avoid at night. I had access to all the necessary information years before moving there thanks to the internet. A lot of my friends in college only found out that I was Tanzanian after a year or two of knowing me because nothing I did gave me away as someone from a different culture. Because I grew up around American culture, I didn’t need a whole year to adjust to this new place like my father did 30 years ago.
Culture, in brief, is the combination of social systems (in particular where we grew up/were influenced the most) that in part shapes how we view the world around us, which in turn helps determine how we behave in that world (PSU, 2019). National cultural values are acquired during those critical early years of life and become a permanent part of a person (PSU, 2019). The world is becoming multicultural in much faster ways because of the internet. A missionary no longer needs to get on a boat to go to Africa to spread Christianity the same way that an African no longer has to fly to America to experience their culture in an influential way. The internet is doing that in a much more efficient way.
Penn State University. (2020). Organizational Culture Versus National Culture. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2041071/modules/items/27977823
Penn State University. (2020). Overview of Diversity and Culture. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2041071/modules/items/27977816