Juggling Culture Shock

If my experience with culture shock has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll just have to sit it out. Still, my head can’t tell my heart to be happy.

Albert Meijer | albert_meijer@hotmail.com

I take my coffee to a table that looks out over the university campus. In many ways, this square could be anywhere in the world: straight-forward brick buildings designed in the seventies, empty design chairs scattered around, patches of grass with tall trees proudly showing their autumn colours. It’s only the people that make it clear that we are, in fact, in Japan.

On the stairs of ‘Building A’, are students who are practicing their dance-moves, like they do every day. In their head, they’re in a J-pop video. Their arm movements are perfectly coordinated. They’re not practicing for a night out though: it is forbidden to dance after a certain time at night. Sometimes, policemen come into clubs to arrest all those who are dancing. I’m not kidding. True story.

In front of the dancers are the jugglers. In deep concentration, they throw their balls, cones and diabolos in the air, for hours every day. It doesn’t seem fun at all, but I find it intriguing to watch them from behind the windows of the cafeteria. Their faces when they drop a ball; their robotic arm movements; the determination to be really good at something, if only at juggling: it’s fascinating.

jugglers

Living in Osaka is not always easy. The amazement at the sight of something weird on every street corner has been replaced by a dull sense of culture shock. It’s not Japan’s fault: Japan is pretty amazing. It’s me.

I see a pattern. The feeling I have at this moment is related to emotions I’ve had in earlier periods of my life, those past semesters spent in foreign countries: the trouble I had with fitting in with the locals on a Swedish island, the frustration over the grumpiness of waiters in Vienna and the deep hatred for Scandinavian winters. ‘Culture shock’ is my middle name.

If my experience with culture shock has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll just have to sit it out: the frustrations about small things will pass, and I can go back to being grateful again of being able to live in a wonderful, new foreign country. Still, my head can’t tell my heart to be happy. Bitching about the peculiarities of a strange country won’t solve anything, but it’s good to let off steam once in a while.

I might never understand the Japanese mindset, but I do know that I won’t care as much about these differences next week. It’s not these frustrations that will stick in my memories. Thinking about Sweden and Vienna mainly brings back good memories: loving friends, sweet romances and crazy adventures. Japan won’t be much different, I think. In three years’ time, I won’t care about those incomprehensible jugglers, or the fact that I can’t shake my badonkadonk in clubs. I’ll think about the people and places I fell in love with. I love you Japan. But it’s a complicated relationship.

If you liked Albert’s article, also read Favourite European Songs : “Dickes B reminds me of my adventures in Berlin”

 

Albert pfAlbert Meijer, People’s Editor
Hailing from Osaka, Japan, Albert writes about the student body of the Euroculture programme. His academic interests lie in the fields of (sub)cultural studies, music science, sociology, and gender and queer studies. In his spare time, Albert likes writing and singing mediocre songs, walking through typhoons, making video blogs and getting stuck in difficult yoga positions.

Indianapolis: upholding “Hoosier values”

Ludmila Vávrová | lidavavrova@gmail.com

What is it that reflects the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana the most? It is the ‘red pickup truck’. In my very first picture of Indianapolis, I captured this favourite car of the ‘typical Indian resident’. I was wondering, why is it so popular here? My American classmates explained to me that it’s like with “Hoosier values”. Indeed, this explanation did not help me at all. But then I had a chance to watch the political campaign ads of candidates running for the office of Governor of Indiana and finally figured out this mystery of Indiana’s culture. John Gregg, a Democratic candidate, explains: “To hold ‘Hoosier values’ means to respect hard work, personal responsibility and faith. These values draw the Indiana community together, from church on Sunday morning until the basketball court on Friday night”. This is the essence of the local people: Hoosiers.

My first pic from Indianapolis: a red pickup truck

Indianapolis: I would say a ‘typical American city’ where everyone has a car, historical monuments are not really historical (at least in comparison with our European standards), and people are very friendly. There is always a smile whenever you meet someone. Indianapolis brings the best of American culture. It is home to the internationally renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway (advice for students coming for the Autumn semester – do not miss the last race, “Indy 500”, at the end of August). Indianapolis offers numerous museums. Do you love fine art? You have to visit Indianapolis Museum of Art with a great collection of European, as well as American, painters and much more. Do you want to return to your childhood? You shouldn’t miss the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – the largest children’s museum in the world. Do you want to explore the history of the Native Americans? The Eiteljorg Museum is the right place for you.

DO NOT MISS!

–          Pumpkin pie, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, real American steak;

–          Travelling to Chicago for a 10 US$ return ticket with the Greyhound bus company;

–          Every Thursday student night in bar Howl at the Moon (1 US$ beer + live music)

IUPUI

The Campus Centre with the University mascot (a Jaguar)

IUPUI is a well-known university across the United States, especially due to its School of Medicine which has one of the largest student bodies in the country. For MA Euroculture students, IUPUI offers a variety of subjects from different departments of the School of Liberal Arts. As far as I know, Euroculture students remain faithful to the departments of Political Science, Sociology, Communication Studies, and World Languages and Cultures. The university facilities are excellent! But considering the amount of money American students pay for a year at the university, it is understandable.

It takes you a few weeks to understand that American classes are far different from European ones. Here is the essence of American success: productive discussion, participation in class, and critical thinking. American students are used to expressing their opinions, so you are expected to talk a lot. If I believed that the only way to gain knowledge was via memorising facts, I was completely wrong. Graduate classes are pretty demanding; you have to work hard throughout the whole semester. In general, graduate students have a regular job while studying, which is why their classes start at 6pm at the earliest. Local students have a lot of experience to share; for every class they work 100 % and beyond. The best you can do to combat your student culture shock is to get involved, jump out of your comfort zone, and make yourself known.

However, American students do not travel much or do not travel at all (many of my classmates have never left the state of Indiana), but at the same time they are very friendly, helpful and open to international students. They seem to be very interested in talking about different cultures, do not hesitate to invite you to a Thanksgiving party, and offer to drive you anywhere you need (because they are afraid of local public urban transport).

Ludmila Vávrová, Olomouc/Indiana Correspondent

Ludmila is from the Czech Republic, and studied Economics and Management for B.Sc. and European Diplomacy for M.Sc. She studied Euroculture in Palacky University, Olomouc and the University of Strasbourg. She is currently doing a research track in Indianapolis with an interest in finding image/word arguments during the 2012 presidential election campaigns in the US and in France. Ludmila is a girl with a dream, mostly involving Czech beer.