GCD Reflection: Intercultural Communication

On summer break when I was in grade 7, I went to the Netherlands with my friends and their family for 2 weeks. The family was dutch and had no cultural problems. I was the only person who could not speak dutch at all and for a 13 year old, it was a very exciting but a nervous trip.

The day I remember most was when I followed one of my friend to the dentist. He had to get braces so his mother followed him into the appointment room, which left me by myself at the waiting room. I was looking at the television on the wall, which had a soccer game. I felt very comfortable because there was nobody in the room. All of a sudden, an asian man and girl came into the dentist and sat right next to me. They started communicating to me in dutch thinking that I was fluent with dutch, but I was not. I could not reply or even understand their words and I sensed that they were confused with my reaction. I recapped my friend’s mother saying that every Dutch person can speak some English so I should not worry. I was afraid that they will think that I was a weird person, but more than 10 seconds of me being silent, I apologize that I cannot speak Dutch, in English. Although they replied surprisingly, they were very open minded about it and I was very relieved. After talking for approximately 5 minutes in English, they left the room to get an appointment. That 5 minutes felt very long for me and I was very nervous talking to them. Being honest, I was happy that they finally left me alone again in the room.

I am able to talk fluently in Japanese, and living in Japan is very easy for me. The language barrier I experienced made me realize the struggle foreigners have in Japan. My friends I went to holland with do not speak Japanese, and I finally realized how they feel like living in Japan.

From this experience, not just the language but I also learnt the difference in culture. Unlike Japan where people are very quiet and passive, in holland, people talk to strangers frequently and talk a lot in public. This experience has helped my understanding of how some foreigners in Japan act in a certain way. From this experience, I think I was able to become more open minded and tolerant about other cultures.

I talk in Japanese often when majority of my friends are Japanese. From my experience, I realised that I should talk in a universal language so that I will not discriminate the people that cannot communicate in certain languages. I believe that this unpleasant experience I had in Holland has shaped me to become a better global citizen and gain more knowledge about different cultures and language barriers.

Me with my friends and their relatives.

Me and my friends at Amsterdam

Written: May 31 2018

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