During our discussion with our exchange partners, a few differences in where we are from struck me.
The first point of difference was the style of dress. A couple of people said that the way we dress in America is very different from where they come from. It is very common in the US to go to class in very casual clothing, for example, whereas, in a few other places, one will usually wear nicer clothing. I also thought it was interesting how countries in which others grew up are more unified in terms of style of dress, food, or culture, whereas the US is so diverse in what we might consider American food or clothing because many different cultures have influenced those aspects of life. A couple of people I spoke to discussed how women often wear an abaya or headscarf in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which is less common in the US.
I found some similarities between our cultures as well. Learning about Chinese culture was very interesting. I learned how Chinese people often live with the philosophy of Confucianism, which talks about kindness, sincerity, and the importance of family and relationships. This philosophy, although not explicitly taught to me by that name, holds many similar principles as those taught to me by my family and throughout my upbringing. I also learned how in China, politeness is very important, which I would say differs from where I grew up in Connecticut, USA, but again, is similar to what was taught to me by my own family. That is not to say that people are rude where I grew up, but politeness or friendliness is less emphasized than it seems to be in other places, even within the US. I related to a couple of my exchange partners in that they said how their cultures were heavily influenced by other neighboring countries and cultures. Growing up in Connecticut, there is a large influence from New York City, including food and customs. “New Haven pizza,” for example, comes from the influx of Italian immigrants out of New York City that settled in New Haven, CT. Interestingly, I was the only person from the US in my particular group, so I got a very broad range of perspectives which I really enjoyed.
New Haven Pizza: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Haven-style_pizza