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Cultural Experience

In April 2010, a fifteen year old girl came from Japan to stay with my family for two weeks. During the time that she stayed with us, she learned about American culture and shared with us some aspects of her life in Japan. Some customs differed as I had expected, but what surprised me was how similar our lives were to one another’s.

The first night was a struggle. The language barrier and jet-lag from the two day trip prevented any real conversation. Over email she seemed to know more English than in all actuality. We mainly communicated through hand gestures and her electronic translator. I remember going to sleep that night thinking, “What have I gotten into hosting a foreign exchange student?” After about a week of Haruka living with my family, we had gotten better at communicating and had learned many things about her life in Ibaraki, Japan. She lived with her father, mother, younger sister, grandparents, and pet dog. Her favorite color was light blue and she liked Hello Kitty. She rode the train to school everyday which took about half an hour. And like the majority of teenaged American girls, her favorite movie was Twilight. She liked to go shopping and to hang out with friends. Haruka’s life in Japan seemed similar to many American’s.

During her stay, Haruka was able to experience many things that she had never tried before. She discovered that her new favorite food was bacon, and ordered it every chance she had. She was entranced with the 3-D Alice in Wonderland movie. Having seen so many of them, I thought it was strange that Haruka had never seen a 3-D movie before. She even discovered a new genre of music.

Although her intention of coming to the United States was to learn about our culture, she ended up teaching us a lot about her culture as well. She brought candies and snacks for us to taste, and Japanese toys to us to play with. As her English improved and we became more skilled at understanding her, she told us about popular things to do in Japan. We also learned about her religion and about the religious holidays she celebrated. One night, my family took Haruka to an “authentic” Japanese restaurant. What seemed as if it could be authentic Japanese cuisine to my family, was not what Haruka was used to. Although some of the food was in fact “real” Japanese food, there was also an abundance of more “Americanized” food. While at the restaurant, Haruka taught my family what different things on the menu meant and how to speak in Japanese to order our food. Once our food arrived, she showed us how to properly eat the noodles out of the bowl.

Although we only had two weeks with her, Haruka was able to share a great deal about her culture with my family. The last day with us, Haruka gave everyone in my family a present that she brought with her from Japan. This was the last lesson that she taught us about Japanese culture. It is tradition to show gratitude by giving gifts in Japan. The purpose of Haruka’s visit was to learn about American culture and everyday life, but my family and I took away just as much knowledge about Japanese life from the experience.




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Tapp Hallman said...
Dec. 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm:
I just resently made this documentary about my Saudi Arabian roommate who moved here about months ago10.  I want t know what you all think about it.
 
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