“In a multicultural, diverse society there are countless ways in which people negotiate the everyday lived experience and reality of diversity”.Randa Abdel-FattahAccording to the last report published by “The times 2016” every year millions of Latin Americans are fleeing abroad to acquire higher professional and personal qualifications in Asian countries mainly China and Malaysia since both nations offer great and advanced educational programs to foreigners students interested. Generally speaking, cultural adaptation is the process of “adjusting the native ways of thinking and behaviors to be consistent with the local culture” (Kotler, 1982). To adapt to a different culture is to face a big challenge and to follow a new system of rules in the specific group, which requires an open mind (Waldron, 1994).
Moreover getting the opportunity to live in these countries as a International Student from South America , challenges and daily life situations confront them in such as way that finding balance requires to face stages of cultural adaptation and break out of cultural barriers like religion, language, traditions, behaviors, beliefs and political rules.In addition during this research we will study and analyze the differences of China and Malaysia both Asian countries yet very different in many aspects. To aim this research there will be interviews to South Americans from Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Chile, whom has been living in China and Malaysia for more than one year in different educational programs, the main goal during these interviews is to understand and explore what are the main issues as a Latin while living in China a country of economical stability yet political and social restriction and Malaysia, the second country in the world with wide multiculturalism yet restricted by religion and social norms including main differences and biggest difficulties understanding locals and living accordingly while challenging each one’s own culture and beliefs. 1.2 Background of Study Its well known how globalization through time has been imposing the familiarization between different cultures, in order to obtain better understanding, acceptation and analyzing process between the differences and advantages when adjusting and adapting to new cross-cultural environments. To non-Asian foreigner students the continent of Asia has been always the source of cultural diversity and historical enrichment. 1.2.
1 South AmericaThe population in South America is highly diverse, finding a common pattern in the culture would be difficult as we can find descendants from Africa, Middle East,Europe, Asia and so on. However a large majority can trace their roots back to Spain, Portugal, Africa and South America itself commonly known as the native people of Latin Countries. Culture involve expression of feelings and warm personalities, meaning that demonstrating the expression of what is important to them and the creativity is a highlight among South Americans. South Americans are also known for being passionate which is commonly seen within its traditional dances such as: Salsa, Merengue, Samba, etc.Family is an important part of the culture yet there is a low power distance when it comes to expressions of ideas, feelings and desires which can be easily talked within adults or young people.
1.2.2 China China is an extremely large country, and the customs and traditions of its people vary by geography and ethnicity. A person who has been involve in Chinese culture may say that Chinese people are conservative and this explains why it is so difficult for China to accept modernization though through the time it has been changing meanly in the big cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou where international are becoming part of this new cultural modernization on the other hand a person holding Chinese culture by the tail may say that the substance of Chinese society is its family system and this accounts for the failure of some modern politicians’ attempting to establish communal life; finally those who hold Chinese culture by the ears will say that Chinese people are spontaneously artistic, and this is perhaps the reason why they have been underdeveloped in scientific thinking. Everyone has a different interpretation of Chinese culture according to the situation, because there isn’t a concrete definition of one’s culture characteristics since it is definitively base of the background, nationality and personal experience of those involve in the cross-cultural adaptation.1.2.3 MalaysiaIn Malaysia lies a land of many cultures, wonders and attractions; the country is one of the pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in Asia.
It’s diversity and wealthiness has moved towards a pluralist culture based on a vibrant and interesting fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customsMulticulturalism is the base of the Malaysia gastronomical paradise and it is also a home to hundreds of colorful festivals. It’s no wonder that Malaysians love celebrating and socializing with one another. There is a slide influence of British, Middle East, India and China costumes among the people this is why to foreigners it is the paradise to a real cultural engagement with understanding and adaptation.
1.2.4 Stages of Cultural Adaptation by Antropologist Kalervo Obeg l The honeymoon” also called Initial Euphoria or Excitement:mainly based in the superficial involvement from the person to the hosting culture; usually at this stage the person tents to intrigue the similarities and differences of the new culture and the home culture sending unconscious signals of excitement to the brain such as:”I am not gonna have problem adjusting”.l “Cultural Shock” or irritation and hostility stage: during this stage the subconscious focus on negative facts , differences, stereotypes and prejudice creating feelings of frustration, helpless and stress.
At this stage the person tents to miss home more than usual, homesick seeing small differences like major catastrophes. l Gradual Adjustment: a stage of humor and perspective, at this point there is more familiarity with the new culture and cultural cues become easier to read, there is more comfort and less insolation beginning to prefer some aspects of the new culture from the home culture. The brain is more conscious to deeper learning.
l “Feeling at home”: The last and most important , adaptation and biculturalism takes place, feeling like home and the cultural aspects of the new culture does not longer affects because appreciation come about. 1.3 Problem Statement Anthropologist Kalervo Oberg suggested that cultural adaptation is subjected to four main stages in order to adjust to a new cultural environment, 1.The honeymoon, 2. Cultural Shock, 3. Gradual adjustment, 4.Feeling at home. Moreover there is a large number of students and scholars attending educational institutions abroad ( Hayes 1998; Taylor 2005) being the key to spread global intercultural understanding.
Students sojourners are probably the best researched group of cross-cultural travellers as they tend to b easily accessed as research participants (Yuefang Zhou, Divya Jindal 2008). Every year South Americans are leaving their countries to find and explore new countries and it’s culture, new educational opportunities are brought to International students in China and Malaysia allowing them not only to learn but also to share and create multiculturalism. Nevertheless adapting has never been easy to anyone even sharing same traditions and beliefs but more when there are huge cultural differences. According to Berau of Educational and cultural affairs “Exchange programs(Year)”. The degree of “shock” depends on such factors as length of study abroad, flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity, degree of difference between home and host culture, prior experience abroad and his or her expectations. Culture shock is a normal part of study abroad. Everyone goes through four similar stages when adapting to a new culture.
Some of us are able to go through the process quicker and with less stress, while others go through these stages and find it difficult to adjust.Symptoms of culture shock can include: homesickness; depression; feeling lost and out of place; frustration; irritability; and fatigue. Celebrating festivities such as birthdays, Christmas, New year will be never been the same when you are living abroad because student’s life will be changing constantly and continuously moreover the emotional, psychological and physical change will reach to a point of plentiful and successful adaptation or there will be always a constant need and desire of going back to ones roots and finally belong somewhere.The research will find out the process of belonging and adapting in cross cultural environments specifically China and Malaysia two different countries with different languages, religions, social norms and behavior, on the other hand as part of Asia these countries shares similarities that withstand South American life style. Overcoming them is a challenge that many are willing to take accepting that a persona will never be the same after such learning process 1.4 Purpose of Study Discovering,understanding and analyzing period’s of time that each stage mentioned by Anthropologist Kalervo Oberg takes place during the cultural adaptation of an international student from South America while living in China or Malaysia and the main characteristics during each period, whether difficulties, personal lessons and challenges as well as advantages, similarities of each country and differences. Most of South American countries are characterized by having democratic countries, endowing freedom of speech and cultural openness when it comes to social behaviors between male and female even further between families, lectures and elders.
This research goal’s is to focus how and what is the process to overcome cultural barriers in China, a country of political and social restriction with religions taboos as well as sacred traditions and Malaysia an official Muslim country yet a multicultural place where three different ethnics, Malays, Chinese and Indian are able to live with each one’s culture and beliefs. Furthermore when facing loneliness, depression, irritation, and confrontation between the original country life style and the hosting country what are the main cultural barriers: language, religion, gender equality, traditions, political, educational and economical systems. For instance, in keeping with their collective cultural tradition, students China are usually taught to be compliant, remain quiet in class, and withhold expressing their thoughts or asking questions until invited to do so by their teachers. However South American counterparts, are often expected by their professors to take the initiative in asking questions and expressing their opinions. And so International students need to temporarily abandon the classroom behavioral norms appropriate in their home countries and quickly find ways to adapt to new norms of academic behavior.
(Ho, 1989; Kim, Atkinson, & Umemoto, 2001). Likewise in Malaysia Lin and Yi (1997) mentioned that international students face common as well as their own unique problems such as racial discrimination, language problems, accommodation difficulties, dietary restrictions, financial stress, misunderstandings, and loneliness. Furthermore, coming from different cultures, international students cannot escape from cultural shock and are often with astounding difficulties (Pruitt 1978).
According to Pedersen (1995), “culture shock is the process of initial adjustment to an unfamiliar environment” (p. 1).