And how did you spend your eighteenth day inside?  Me, I made some progress with “The Uniform Part II: Casualwear Edition”

(But imagine that the shoes in these photos are actually the boots mentioned below, which cabin fever compelled me to buy, and which will be delivered into my hot, trembling little hands just as soon as the world stops ending)

We just watched Zombieland.  Today I dragged my cart through the snow to Giant.  I exercised at some point yesterday.  I think that’s all I’ve done recently.

That, and homework.  I’m all caught up on reading assignments because doing my reading is more agreeable than starting on my papers.  And you know, whenever Ryan’s sitting on the couch, using his fancy new Mongolian language iPhone apps and getting spittle everywhere while he practices his voiced alveolar lateral fricatives, it makes me feel like I’m already falling behind.  This is basically how I felt when we first got to Korea – he bought a couple of language books immediately and was all over them like scum on a pond, while I just kind of floated along for the first month, wondering what all the signs meant and mumbling some kind of sad, apologetic English-Konglish-Spanish patois of my own making.

But!  I realized that I don’t have to feel this way.  I may not be getting a jump start on the language but I am earning a master’s degree in TESOL, damn it, and this is preparation enough.  Right?  Yes.  That and outfit planning.

Anyway, some of the stuff I read yesterday seemed relevant re: our upcoming situation, and I thought I’d share.

Until recently the method used to improve chances for successful intercultural communication was just to gather information about the customs of the other country and a smattering of the language.  Behaviors and attitudes of its people might be researched, but almost always from a secondhand source.  Experts realize that information gained in this fashion is general, seldom sufficient, and may or may not be applicable to the specific situation and area that the traveler visits.  Also, knowing “what to expect” often blinds the observer to all but what confirms his or her image.  Any contradictory evidence that does filter through the screens of preconception is likely to be treated as an exception and thus discounted.

A better approach is to begin by studying the history, political structure, art, literature, and language of the country if time permits.  Even more important, develop an investigative, nonjudgmental attitude and a high tolerance for ambiguity — which means lowered defenses.

(Barna, “Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication”)


As most societies are male-dominated, this loss of control can often be much more unnerving for men: they feel they need to take control, to guide, to make the decisions — but in the foreign language they can only go “…ah…glub, glub, ah…er.”  This may be one reason why in general, women seem to “handle” foreign languages a little better: they have more experience being in vulnerable situations where they have little control.

(Brady, Culture Shock and Self-Esteem)


The presence of anxiety/tension is common in cross-cultural experiences due to the number of uncertainties present and the personal involvement and risk.  Whether or not the reaction will be debilitating depends on the level of activation and whether the feeling is classified as being pleasant (thought of as excitement or anticipation) or unpleasant (anxiety).  Moderate arousal and positive attitudes prepare one to meet challenges with energy, but high arousal, caused by a buildup of continued moderate stress, depletes the body’s energy reserve quickly and defense must be used whether or not the person wills it.  If the stay in a foreign country is prolonged and the newcomer cannot let down his or her high alert level, the “culture shock” phenomenon occurs.  Illness may result, the body forcing needed rest and recuperation.

(Barna again)



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2 responses to “

  1. “investigative, nonjudgmental attitude and a high tolerance for ambiguity”

    Hey, sounds journalisty! You should be well equipped for that.

    The gender differences in foreign language acclimation is interesting. I’ve definitely felt that dude-ish frustration before. Thankfully most folks in Mexico had better English than Spanish-ish.

  2. You mean I should be well equipped to impose my liberal agenda everywhere I go?

    I thought the gender quote was interesting, too, and when I read it I started to congratulate myself for being so oppressed and long-suffering. Then I realized that although I do let Ryan hold the communicative reins in foreign lands more often than not, it’s not really because I’m a lady. It’s because I’m lazy. A lazy lady.

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