Views on Culture and Being a Foreigner (Lyon, Beaune & Annecy, France)

Week 7 of Global Entrepreneurship Program

This is a long-ass post, but was totally necessary. This week’s theme is all about culture—cultural learning experiences, cultural differences and culture shock. First and foremost, I hope that no one ever gets offended by anything I say on my blog. I try my best to filter what I write here, but I am a very open girl with a lot of strange thoughts, and I really want this blog to be as raw as possible. Nevertheless, this is MY blog and I’ll do as I please, but if I do offend anyone, I apologize in advance.

Expanding Network:

So this week, I tried to engage myself more with people outside of my program. I love my Global Entrepreneurship Program group, but at this point, I am practically attached to them by the hip. We have all the same classes, we live together and some of us even travel together. It was just a nice change of environment to get away from all of them this week.

For one, I was hanging out with more French people this week. Even with the French people in my program, we speak English so I feel like I don’t do anything to improve my French at all. With my volleyball team however, everything is in French and often times it’s hard to understand them when they are speaking about topics outside of volleyball-related things. So it’s a bit of an extreme contrast. However, I met a friend who fits right in the middle and has been the most perfect French tutor ever.

My friend and I met about a month ago at the French Buddy party, but we’ve only started to hangout since the Le Petite Paume event last week (La Petite Paume is like Yelp for Lyon). The funny part is that we didn’t hangout because I didn’t know who he was at all. We met for like maybe five minutes before I left the party. He on the other hand, remembered exactly who I was and chased me down at the Le Petite Paume event to “reintroduce” himself. That was really sweet of him. He’s been so amazing to me by investing a lot of time to help me improve on my French and it really has!

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 12.57.13 AM
The French Toast kind of says it all…

 

 

Why I Like Being a Foreigner:

One thing that I’ve really noticed about myself since I’ve been here is how much I love being a foreigner. It makes me feel so unique. It was the same feeling I was getting last year in Korea and I really loved it (yes, I am Korean, but I can’t even tell you how many times people have mistaken me as a Mexican, Filipino, half American, Hawaiian, etc.). Being the same/similar to people around you becomes really mundane and boring after awhile. Sure, it’s nice to relate to and communicate with people in your environment, but at the same time, I like the challenge of being the “new kid on the block.”

Being in a foreign country is really an exciting challenge to me—you learn to adapt and people really do go out of their ways sometimes to help you adjust. I feel like in the US though, I am just another person aiming for the same goal as the person next to me: achieving a successful career at the cost of my own true happiness and taking no prisoner on my way there. When I travel though, I feel like I am someone very special that others want to get to know. The best part is that when I am a foreigner, I don’t feel the need to compare myself to those around me, but rather, build myself more as a person through the experiences I encounter. As much as I miss being in the US right now, I also love not being there for this reason.

It’s really nice to be outside of the “bubble” that everyone lives in back home. What I mean by this is that, in America, too many people have this constant work mode mindset. All they do and care about is work, work work and more work, and if you’re not ahead of the game, then you are way behind. I think this is especially true in my case since most of my closest friends from college are in investment banking or in law school. I am surrounded by people work minimum 80 hours a week. I am surrounded by people who are already applying for the job positions they will have two years from now.

Though they have never verbalized it, I know that my friends condescend the path that I have chosen for myself. They think that anything that is not conventional and within the Fortune 500 realism is not worth the time investment. That, is the “bubble” way of thinking. That, was the environment that I was stuck in before I came here.

world-according-to-america
The irony is that despite how hard so many Americans work… there are still so many ignorant ones out there. I think this does a great summary representative of their mindsets.

Being in France is almost like being in an alternative universe for me. People here are so lax about everything. It’s especially like that with my program, since there are so many people of different educational and work backgrounds, most of whom come from lax cultures. We all have different work ethics and different paces of understanding and learning. Like I mentioned before, in the US, people are so used to working the minimum 40 hours per week—that’s actually considered to be the low-end of the spectrum, whereas in France, the law only permits people to work 30 hours per week.

I have actually never been so used to spending so much time in my room. I remember my last semester of college was just a one big blur because I was working so much. I had work from 8am until lunch time, then class from lunch until dinner time, went to the gym, did my homework and then passed the fuck out to do it all over again the next day. Here, I have all the free time in the world. In some ways, I love it because I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. In other ways, I feel like such a waste of space. I am definitely not used to having so much free time in my life. I really frankly don’t know what to do with it…

Cultural Differences:

Other cultural differences I’ve noticed this week has been about Asia. As a person who has been raised in both Asian and North American cultures, it’s very easy for me to distinguish and explain the differences between the two. The most surprising thing for me though is people’s reactions when I tell them about these cultural differences: there always one person who says that I am being racist towards Asians… Um well, the last time I checked, I AM ASIAN!!!

Anyways, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of Chinese in the GEP program who are really starting to come out of their comfort zone. I remember in the first week of the program, they were all very shy and only really stayed within their own group amongst the other Chinese. Now, I am beginning to notice that they interact with the non-Chinese a lot more and they also speak more frequently in class. It’s easy for me to understand why, but I often catch myself constantly having to explain to others why this is so. In short, in most Asian countries, we are taught that being outspoken is rude and is a bad reflection of your family. We are taught to only speak when spoken to. We are taught to learn by reading and listening to lectures, not from class discussions or group projects. Basically, we are put away and suppressed to stay within our comfort zone.

My parents have definitely been more lenient about my upbringings and have raised me in both the Korean and North American standards. It sounds really pitiful to the people of western culture, but this is the Asian norms. Of course, there are many exceptions and cultural changes being formed, but this is just my general take on this topic.

Male-Dominance (Ignorance?):

This week, I’ve also noticed that there are still so many people my age who have the male-dominant-society way of thinking. It seems that in the US, it’s only really in the southern states where people think that men and women have different roles in life. Even so though, women are empowered to do as they please. I was shocked to find out that people my age are still very adamant about having a male-dominant society. I thought that was more of the old generation of thinking. For example, this week I went to Annecy (scroll below for details and photos) with a guy friend from Greece. During our train ride there, he told me something on the lines of, “in Greece, women don’t lead. Women don’t want to lead. Women can’t lead. Women should not lead.” I seriously CANNOT stand when guys are sexist in front of me. I am by no means a feminist, but I grew up knowing so many strong women and a lot of idiotic men. That was seriously the longest most frustrating train ride of my life. It was like trying to throw paper at a wall of bricks hoping that they’ll stick. NOPE.

A list that my friend Jersey had put together, hilarious!
A list that my friend Jersey had put together, hilarious!

 

Beaune:

Our first GEP class trip and we went to a small town called Beaune. It’s a wine town and we went there to learn more about luxury wine brands. We saw how wine is made, did some sampling and had yet again, another incredible French gastronomical lunch. Here are some highlights:

City of Beaune
City of Beaune
Inside one of the wineries
Inside one of the wineries
GEP on the bus
GEP on the bus
"... I wonder if I can fit in here"
“… I wonder if I can fit in here”
Wine tasting in Beaune
Wine tasting in Beaune
GEP girls jump!
GEP girls jump!
Inside one of the wineries
Inside one of the wineries
GEP in Beaune
GEP in Beaune

 

 

Annecy:

This is the trip I took with my friend from Greece (he’s in a different Master’s program). Transportation getting there and back was a complete disaster. We left early morning to catch our train, but we missed our bus so we had to hitchhike TWICE to get to the train station… Well, even with all that effort, we missed the train and had to wait for the next one. Even on our way back from Annecy, our train broke down and added an additional 2 hours to our travel time.

View of the Lake Annecy
View of the Lake Annecy
Inside the town
Inside the town

Well other than that, it was honestly the PERFECT day to go. We went just for the day and I was blown away at how beautiful this place was. It’s a big touristy town on the boarder of France and Switzerland, with a huge lake and mountain as its backdrop. The town has such a movie-eque European charm to it and everything about this place is just so adorable.

Me and my friend Greece
Me and my friend Greece
View of the Lake Annecy
View of the Lake Annecy
Chateau D'Annecy
Chateau D’Annecy

We spent the day just walking around. Literally that’s all we did and we both had wished we could stay longer to swim in the lake and go bike riding, but for the time we spent there, it was perfect.

Me and Greece upon arrival
Me and Greece upon arrival
View of this everywhere
View of this everywhere
Feeding the wild animals :P
Feeding the wild animals :P
Thiou
Thiou

 

Anyways, I think that’s about it out of me this week. It’s 3am here so I am done with all my stories. Here’s the last thing I do want to share. It’s this photo that I took when I went out with my French tutor friend. I think it was my first time really exploring Lyon at night (besides going to bars). We went to the river across from Hotel Dieu and up on the Cathedral de Fourviere for this AMAZING view:

View of Lyon from Basilica of Fourviere
View of Lyon from Basilica of Fourviere

 

xoxo from Lyon,
Jinny~