Kia ora everyone,
It’s been quite a while since my last blog post (I wasn’t expecting to be gone for so long!). This is partly due to the lack of appropriate words to get my point across, but also because I was experiencing a whole swarm of new (conflicting) emotions since I last wrote to you all.
When we last talked, I mentioned that I wasn’t feeling very much of a culture shock in Wellington. For the most part, that’s true. I don’t feel as if it is too difficult for me to assimilate to Kiwi culture—I have New Zealand’s prominent Pākehā population to thank for that. For anyone reading this that isn’t from New Zealand (which I assume is almost everyone reading this), Pākehā is the Māori term for New Zealander’s of European descent (aka white people). It isn’t hard to adjust to the culture in Wellington because well, it’s full of mostly white people and isn’t that different from the city I live in back at home. I have the privilege to feel comfortable in Wellington because I am a white American, and I understand that any POC or individual that comes from a place that isn’t heavily populated with white people will not have the same privilege I have while living here. In recognizing this privilege, I’ve learned that being a white person in NZ is not universal. Being a white American is entirely different from being a white European. The places we come from greatly affects how we assimilate into Kiwi culture, and I have found that my POC and European friends have a more difficult time adapting to the culture here.
The issue of cultural differences is one that I have encountered quite a lot since I started living in Wellington. These differences I can see very clearly in my friends from Europe. From the United Kingdom to Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany, the cultural differences between America and these countries have been pretty noticeable and sometimes hard to wrap my head around. I think this may be my biggest obstacle in my time abroad. I thought I’d have issues adapting to the Kiwi culture, yet what really troubles me is assimilating to and being considerate of all the different cultures coming from the other international students around me. I constantly have to remind myself that my thoughts are not universal, nor are they deemed the most “correct” or “right” thoughts. What’s even more difficult is interacting with friends that know English as a second or third language, making some concepts and thoughts get lost in translation. This has led me to have some really eye-opening conversations with friends that I will be forever grateful for. I had premeditated ideas of how things were supposed to be and how people were supposed to act based on where they came from, but when I was really able to get a taste of these different cultures, I realized my assumptions were very far off.
Cultural differences are tough to deal with. I’ll admit, it’s sometimes very frustrating having conversations of racism and whiteness among other social issues with the international students here. These conversations have served as a way for me to be critically reflective of myself and my position in the world as a white, upper-middle-class, American woman. It’s important to stay open-minded when having these conversations and to be aware of how your views are different from others. In this way, it’s easier to get points across, instead of just full-on arguing with another person over cultural issues. It’s also crucial to accept that people’s minds can’t be changed easily, and you can’t always expect to change them either.
I’m glad that these conversations are happening though. I’ve never been so out of my comfort zone before now, and I think this is a great time to learn more deeply about myself and the people around me. I know that if I hadn’t chosen to study abroad, I wouldn’t have been exposed to this new environment and been able to grow so much.
Here’s to more growth in the future.
Until the next blog,