Mr. Help – Being an Asian girl in Europe

Dear Mr. Help,

We are girls from South Korea, Mainland China and Hong Kong. We’ve encountered several problems while living in Europe as students of MA Euroculture and need your help.

1. Just call my name, correctlySouth Korea (Eunjin Jeong, Euroculture 2011-13)

Mr Help Eunjin
If only I could be called correctly…

Hello, Mr. Help. My name is Eunjin. I have a problem with people not knowing how to say my name correctly. I’ve tried many things and even told them to call me “Engine”. But how long do I have to be the compartment of a car? I do not want to use an English name like some do because I want to keep my Korean identity intact. It was okay until I went to Sweden for my third semester of MA Euroculture. Then, disaster began. They started to call me “Eunyin” and, very painfully, I’ve received several emails with the title “Mr. Jeong”. Should I give up being called correctly in Europe?

2. Could we have a heart to hear talk? – Mainland China (Lili Jiang, Euroculture visiting student from Sichuan University, 2011-12)

Mr.Help Lili 2
If only we could be all cool…

Hello, Mr. Help. My name is Lili. My problem is different – it’s about the social life of my Chinese friends. I have the feeling that most of my Asian friends don’t like hanging out with European students, as they are afraid of the cultural differences. China is no different in this matter. Every time I invite my Chinese friends to a party, they always ask me if there will be other Chinese friends or Asian friends. But, on the other hand, I know that they are also looking forward to making new friends, getting to know different cultures and fitting in to the university. They once told me that their language skills are sufficient for communicating with European friends, but it’s just very hard to advance to heart to heart talks after small talk. I think it’s a big loss for both sides. What could be the solution to really help my Chinese friends to overcome this?

3. It was just noodles!!! – Hong Kong (Au Yeung Shek Ling Hilary, Euroculture 2010-12)

Mr Help Hilary 2
If only I could cook freely…

Hello, Mr. Help. My name is Hilary. I also have a problem. When I tried the WG or flat share culture in Europe, I was nervous at first but enjoyed it very much later: my flat mates taught me how to live in the local way which was great. But nothing is perfect. Well, as a home food lover, yes, I cooked food from Hong Kong for myself and my friends very often. But is it really necessary to give me negative looks when I cook food from my home? I know that European and Asian eating habits are very different but I had eaten lots of European specialties during my stay in Europe: venison, escargot, lapin, etc. If I love European food or not is not important: that I tried them is important. (Actually, I love them, especially escargot!) It really upsets me when my flat mates make disgusted faces and criticise my food without even trying a bite. IT WAS JUST NOODLES!! What can I do about this?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Desperate Eunjin, Lili, and Hilary.

Dear Desperate Eunjin, Lili, and Hilary,

mr helpHi, Eunjin. I really understand your problem. For Europeans it is difficult to pronounce your name correctly. Even if we try, it probably doesn’t sound correct to your ears. I suggest you choose a nickname for your time in Europe. It should be a nickname which fits your personality and feels like it belongs to you. Your problem with being mistaken for a male is quite easy to solve. I would suggest putting an e-mail signature beneath your e-mails in which you call yourself Ms. Jeong.

And Lili, I know exactly what you mean. I often had the same experience when walking around campus, meeting Asians or being in Asia as a European. I think there are several reasons for this. One reason might be that the party habits of Europeans and Asians are quite different. As I noticed, Asian parties generally start earlier and the biggest part is eating. For us Europeans, it starts late and is mostly about drinking, which I think probably makes a lot of your friends quite uncomfortable if they are not used to it. Another reason might be that it takes a lot of courage to overcome the initial shyness of meeting somebody who might not understand everything you say. But I can assure you that it is that way for both sides. A possible solution for you might be to combine the Asian and European way of doing something together. You could organise a culture evening where you first start with an Asian meal and afterwards go out to a party. You should especially tell your friends that most European students would love to talk to an Asian person about a lot more than just superficial small talk. Maybe a good way to get in to a ‘deeper’ conversation is to ask a question about something in European culture that you don’t understand.

Finally, Hilary. I think it is the biggest plus of the WG culture to learn something new about whoever you live with. So maybe your flat mates didn’t understand that part about living together. Of course they don’t have to love everything you cook and, as a person who knows Asian food, I can even understand if they think it looks or smells strange, but I cannot understand why they wouldn’t want to at least try it. You could invite them to a dinner where you cook some Asian food? I know from experience that most Europeans love Kung bao ji ding (Kung Pao Chicken) and Asian noodles, but need somebody to tell them what it is and what kind of taste they should expect.

Mr. Help is from Germany. 

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MISS HELP… Packing!

There are some problems we all encounter regularly as Euroculture students. When Wikipedia doesn’t tell you the answer, when your coordinator just shrugs and your friends know no remedy, ask Miss or Mr Help. If you have a question for them, send it to editors@euroculturer.eu to get rid of your problem!

Dear Miss Help,

I am a Euroculture student in my second year. Up until now, I moved three times, not to mention the short trip to the IP conference in the University of Deusto. Every time I start packing, I go crazy. I have so much stuff and I need it all! What am I going to do without my flippers when I live so close to the beach in Bilbao? And how am I supposed to survive the Polish winter without the fifteen very warm and nice sweaters my grandma knitted for me? My internship employer wants me to dress decent so I need to pack my suits as well, not to mention the fancy ball gown I was planning to take for the IP gala dinner!

Please help me, I dread the next packing day and I know my fellow Euroculture students have the same problem because I read “I hate packing!” on Facebook all the time!

Sincerely, Desperate European Nomad

Dear Desperate European Nomad,

Yes, in most situations packing can be a distress, especially when today’s airlines (and we all know which specific one I mean) charge a fortune for even an extra kilo. I will teach you how to master the technique of travelling lightly. The trick (and it actually is no news) is to know what is necessary for your stay in whichever country you travel to, but most importantly you need to be realistic and be harsh on yourself.

I suggest that you start off with piling everything you think you need to bring on the bed. It could help if you make a list of things and then slowly go through the list several times, each time deducting two or three items. Really, there’s no need to bring your whole make-up bag or all of your chargers for laptops, iPods, mobile phones, etc. for a three-day-visit to your friend’s place in France. Instead, check if your friend has chargers that you can borrow, or leave your laptop behind because there are probably internet cafés over there and if you have a smartphone you probably have all of these functions in one. When it comes to make-up, only bring the basics (or if you dare: go au naturel).

However, the biggest issue seems to be that people always pack too much clothes and pairs of shoes. As you start to learn how to pack lightly, think back on the trips when you brought too much, and try to remember what you often packed yet never used and promised NEVER to pack again.

The trick here is to try to learn how to combine the smallest amount of garments with one pair of shoes and not bring half your closet.

A smart way to pack is also to think layers! Layers allow you to combine and also make sure that you stay warm when it gets cold in Krakow or stay cool if the weather is hot in Bilbao.

When you move for a longer stay, leave books and dictionaries behind (you always have access to online dictionaries, Google books, not to mention libraries). I bet there is a book shop if you desperately want books on your shelf. Also, you will receive a lot of course materials during the semester. For those who crave feeling at home in their new homes: IKEA exists worldwide!

If you think Miss Help was very helpful, also read MISS HELP…Long-distance relationships!