Rita is one of our fabulous Winter/Spring interns this year.
When coming to the states for college; and then, interning at WOOD TV8 / WOTV4 Women, she noticed some major cultural differences between home… and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Below, she shares three of the differences that have affected her time here…
Growing up to an Egyptian mother and a Greek father (deceased) between Egypt and Greece had me set up for a life of multicultural integration and involvement from the get-go. Traveling has always been in my blood, and to me that has been one of my most precious aspects that make me who I am today.
Like everything in life, there’s a lot of highs and lows with living in different countries for certain periods of time. Honestly, one of my lows is having to leave family and friends, which results in missing out on being able to physically be there through thick and thin. On the other hand, one of the highs is being able see more of the world, and how it functions in other culture. It’s exciting and truly life-giving!
Upon graduating high school in Cairo, Egypt, the plan was to take a semester off to travel then start university in Cairo come spring. As tends to happen often, plans fell through. Thanks to a family originally from West Michigan living in Cairo, I got connected and accepted to Cornerstone University. Long story short, I ended up in the US, in West Michigan, for the first time as a freshman.
I often get asked what are some differences between Egypt or Greece and the US, and I usually give a couple of answers from my long list of ones. Personally, I am a big advocate to highlighting similarities as much as differences.
For the sake of not making this article drag, today I will write about three differences in hopes of giving a different perspective.
Not sure how credible this theory of mine is, but I think that you know you’re fluent in a different language when you’re able to get the humor. Here’s the thing, humor is very important to me. My relationships and friendships that harbor lots of fun, along with serious heart-to-heart aspects of course, are the ones that stay the strongest and most consistent.
My junior year of college was a year of reaching my peak with branching out with friendships and friend groups at school. I met so many people and would get together for game nights on a weekly basis. I wish I could have counted the number of those gatherings where I just felt so held back from showing my funny and playful side.
Now don’t get this the wrong way, I always enjoyed my times, and I obviously would go back. But, I noticed I just could not spit back the same kind of humor my friends were.
At some point, though, after watching all of The Office, I was able to get and make references so that highly improved my humor game. Score!
Since I have been pursuing internships and jobs, I have had a legit conflict in my mind concerning how to show respect to my employers while being an ambitious initiator and learner. Let me unpack that a bit.
So, in Egypt, typically to show respect to people of authority, I would rarely look them straight in the eyes and would barely be outspoken. This would translate as being passive and even dishonest here in this culture, while it is meant to communicate respect and acknowledgement of the authority’s expertise.
At my current WOOD TV8 internship, I have definitely had this topic fresh on my mind. As an intern, it is my opportunity and responsibility to initiate in order to soak up as many learning experiences as I can. That requires me being a direct initiator with what I want to do and with idea contributing in the workforce – something that pokes at my comfort zone.
Actually, me writing this article is a result of opening up a bit about my thought process and taking on the initiation to put those thoughts into words.
To me, there’s plenty of time in five minutes to brush my teeth, slap some mascara on, grab breakfast, wash my dish, change shirts last minute, slip shoes on, look at my hair in despair because curly hair can’t be tamed and finally uncoil my earphones for my usual walk and jams. I pretty much just described to you my steps before I head out the door for class/internship/work every morning… that get accomplished in five minutes, of course.
Anyways, since freshman year till now as a senior, I still waltz in to class few minutes late if I get distracted on the way because of people, or if I really need to grab a snack between the packed schedule. Being punctual is something I have come a long way in, and I am still working on because of being intentional with respecting other people.
Now, I don’t want to blame my time leniency on my culture, but there is definitely less punctuality in everyday life in Egypt – from getting to work to going to a birthday party. Instead of looking at that as a right or wrong issue, I like to look at it as values being placed in different priorities (people-oriented versus task-oriented, for instance).
The United States is the third country I’ve lived in and I am curious to see what’s next.