Gegar Budaya

“I winced at the truth of the friendly American veneer. “Nice to meet you,” “Drop by,” “See you soon,” all sounded like authentic invitations for further contact. And yet the words were without social substance. – Rebekah Nathan

Beberapa waktu lalu ada dua temen di facebook yang posting sebuah tulisan di Facebook. Artikel itu menceritakan tentang bagaimana susahnya membuat (real) American friends. DI artikel itu ada beberapa hasil survey yang dilaporkan. Antara lain:

“Although 27 percent said they had three or more close U.S. friends, 38 percent said they had no strong American friendships. Seventeen percent reported one such friend, while 18 percent said they had two.”

“Over all, 38 percent of international students surveyed were not satisfied with the number of American friends, and 27 said they were unhappy with the quality of those relationships.”

Secara garis besar, gw bisa mengangguk2 mengiyakan sebagian besar bagian di tulisa itu. Memang keadaan seperti itu yang biasa dialami International students di US.  Artikel lengkapnya bisa dilihat di link ini.

Menurut gw  budaya dan bahasa yang menjadi masalah utama tentang susahnya berteman dengan orang US.  Kemampuan berbicara bahasa Inggris (hard skill – bahasa) and kemampuan untuk menyesuaikan diri dengan budaya mereka (soft skill – budaya).

In term of bahasa, emank susah untuk bergaul kalau skill bahasa kita pas2an. Mereka ngomong suka super cepet and kadang pake bahasa2 slang or idiom. Untung ngomong as fluently as them juga kadang dibutuhkan buat bisa nyambung. Alhasil I am still super struggling in this part. Even gw masih belon bisa melafalkan “th” or  “sheet” dengan benar. Kalau gw ngomong “sheet” yang keluar kaya orang sini ngomong “sh*t”. Hahahah

Dalam budaya, emank orang US rada unik juga. Some people say that they are super superficial. Gw dulu pernah nulis tentang itu, terutama dalam hal greeting. Tulisannya ada disini.

Beberapa waktu lalu gw baca buku yang berjudul “My Freshman Year”. Buku ini ditulis oleh seorang Anthropologist dari Northern Arizona University dengan nama pena Rebeka Nathan. Cathy Small (nama sebenernya) menyamar sebagai mahasiswa tingkat satu (Freshman) untuk mengamati kehidupan mahasiswa di US. Nah ada satu chapter yang berjudulu “As others see us” yang memuat hasil wawancara dia dengan 16 mahasiswa international di NAU. I can totally relate with what those International Students spoke about. Since I already experienced some of them. Ada empat budaya yang menurut gw lumayan central disini including superficial greetings, ignorance, independence, and maybe hypernationalism (yang terakhir ini ga terlalu sih). Di bagian bawah paling tulisan ini gw kutip beberapa quote dari mahasiswa2 International yang di wawancarai ama si Cathy Small.

Budaya and bahasa. Dua monster besar yang harus dilawan International students to make (real) American friends. Kebanyakan (termasuk orang Indo) akhirnya lebih memilih untuk kumpul dengan kawan sebangsanya lagi karena kondisi ini.

Walaupun menurut gw, once you can make (real) American friends, they can be very nice, true-hearted and faithful . It is just a long and not easy road to make one.

Superficial Greetings

“…I have been here for two months and I am still very confused by the customs. American students are so friendly and so nice. They are so open about wanting to get together, but they never take my phone number and they never contact me again. When I see a woman I met two days ago, she does not seem to know me or remember my name.” – a Japanese student

“There are some surface things about American friendliness. Like ‘How are you?” A girl asked me that one day when I was feeling sick, and I answered that I wasn’t too good but she just went on like I had never said that. Maybe it’s a sign of caring to say that. But in Germany ‘How are you?’ is the actual start of a conversation rather than just a hi/good-bye.” – a German student

Ignorance. It is only “us” and “them”

One Asian student told me how, in her linguistics class, the teacher had told the class that the native speakers should try to include international students in their groups for the study project. “But when we formed the groups,” she recounted “nobody even responded or asked us to be  their groups, so the international students had to make their own group.” – Rebekah Nathan

“Well, mostly nobody asks me anything about Japan. Some Americans don’t care about other worlds. They don’t ask questions.” – a Japanese student

“What I miss most,” admitted one student, “is to have someone to talk to, to feel that someone else is interested in you.” A Mexican student agreed: “I’ve met people who are interested in me, but for a lot of other people it’s …’whatever’! My car mechanic is more interested in my life and my background than other students.”

“I tell people that I am Muslim, and they take for granted that I’m an Arab. How can they not realize that not all Muslims are Arabs when they have many Muslims here who are American” – a Malaysia student

Individualism and Independence

 I like the American system. My roommate is just my room-mate. In [my country] I would be worrying and thinking all the time about my roommate. If I want to go to dinner, I feel I have to ask my roommate, “Have you eaten yet? Would you like to go to dinner?” I must ask her about her classes and help her if she has a problem. Here I have a roommate and I work separately. I don’t have to care about her. It’s easier” – Reiko (a Japanese student)

Another student responded to my question about friends with one of his own. “What do you mean by ‘friend'” he asked, “my version or the American version?” A French student responded quickly to my query about friends: “Sure I have friends. It’s so easy to meet people here, to make friends.” Then she added: “Well, not really friends. That’s the thing. Friendship is very surface-defined here. It is easy to get to know people, but the friendship is superficial.”

“In Mexico, when someone is a friend, then regardless of the situation, even if I would get in trouble, I would help then. American people are always busy. ‘Oh I like you so much,’ they say. But then if I’m in trouble, it’s ‘Oh, I’m so sorry for you,’ ‘So sorry for you’ doesn’t help!” – Maria

Hypernationalism?

“American seem to think they have the perfect place to live, the best country, the best city. I hear that all the time. I used to think you just got that from politicians, but now I see it’s from regular people too.The patriotism thing here really bothers me.”

“They don’t accept other cultures.” – one Japanese student

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