10 October 2011

Foreign Students and Culture Shock

So I am here in Buffalo for my seventh year now. I have seen several people come and go. And during the beginning of the academic year, there are always new faces on campus, such as new foreign students that are arriving in time for their new environment.

As I see these new people in a new environment, I wonder, and sometimes, I look back at how I was when I first came here in Buffalo.

There's always the issue of culture shock. I wonder what kind of culture shock I had. Because I see new people and definitely see culture shock in their faces. For example, I know of one who never knew the system of banking here for example, and never knew how personal checks worked. He thought that one can get personal checks from the supermarket. Of course, I instructed him how to get personal checks, that this is actually something from the bank, and not something that you can simply get from the supermarket.

Of course, how to write a personal check is also new, perhaps.

There's also the issue of housing. New people do not know what to expect from furnished apartments. If an apartment is furnished, would you expect it to have a mattress? A refrigerator? A washer and dryer? How about a vacuum cleaner?

I am not sure how I was when I was relatively new here. I never felt like I was lost or anything, but sometimes I see new people and I feel like they would be very vulnerable to people who are probably bad, people who are opportunistic, and people who just seek other people's harm. Scams, for example, are one thing that new people are easy victims, which is why I always see emails directed towards foreign students warning all of us to stay away from these scams and other traps.

In any case, I always wonder what things new people here find interesting and new, overwhelming, and hard to understand. Perhaps one of them is food, which is why I always see foreign people in the Chinese and Indian restaurants here. I know my Chinese roommate already remarked that he doesn't like the food here. And he also doesn't trust the dryer, and dries his clothes by air all the time.

(Stone Corridors, from my Machu Picchu Series)


  1. I didn't experience a huge culture shock right away like Westerners can experience in, let's say China. But I definitely noticed the little quirks, such as the lack of pedestrian space, the food (lots of microwave meals!) etc. When it comes to banking, I was new to credit cards because they don't exist in France.

  2. Zhu,

    Yes, there are always the little quirks. Now that I have been living in Buffalo for 6 years now, I cannot remember the little quirks I might have noticed when I first came here. But that is different when we moved to Japan in 1995, when not only was there a language barrier, but it was also the first time we moved that I was quite conscious of.