Sep 25, 2021
[Column] Intercultural adaptability is necessary even inside Japan

Monthly column in Asahi Newspaper Hokkaido version
September 25th, 2021. Noyuri Mima

 I came to Berkeley, California, on the 14th of this month. I will be staying at the Artificial Intelligence Research Lab of the university here for six months as a visiting scholar.

 In advance, I received a guidebook from the university, which includes visa procedures, a guide to daily life, and a map of the campus. Particularly interesting is the section on “Cultural Adjustment.”

 To have a successful experience in a different culture, we should know the values of the majority culture in that country. I thought that some of the elements for successful intercultural adaptation are necessary even inside Japan. They are as follows.

 Open-mindedness. The ability to keep one’s opinions flexible and open to new stimuli.

 A sense of humor. In other cultures, many things can make you cry, angry, distressed, or embarrassed, so the ability to laugh them off can help protect you from despair.

 Ability to cope with failure. People who go abroad are often those who have been successful in their home environment. Because they have rarely experienced failure, they may not have developed the ability to tolerate and deal with it.

 This seems universally true of people who tend to be “authoritative.”

 Curiosity is a manifestation of the desire to know about people, places, etc. This skill and personality trait is important because we need to learn many things to adapt to new environments. Communication skills, flexibility and adaptability are following this.

 Behind these are the values of the American culture that change means progress, improvement, and growth and that it is positive and good. It also says Americans believe that formality is a show of arrogance and superiority and that we should be casual and equal in our relationships. I feel the difference between this culture and that of other East Asian countries, including Japan.

 When I told the people around me that I was going to the U.S. this time because I would be away from Hakodate for six months, there were two kinds of reactions.

 One was, “That’s fantastic. It’s great to challenge yourself at any age. I’m cheering for you. I support you.”

 The other was, “Why do you go to all this effort at a time like this? You don’t have to go through so much stress.”

 Even in Japan, it takes about three months to settle down when relocating, but even more overseas. So now I realized that coming to the U.S. was not only for proceeding with the research but also for developing the elements mentioned above.

 So, how will my intercultural experience look like in six months?