My 14 years in the Czech Republic has made me aware of how important it is to get to know different cultures in today’s world. I have had the privilege of living in different places in Asia, US, and Europe both as an expat’s wife and working myself as well.
When I first went to US from Taiwan 44 years ago, my impression of Americans was very tainted by Hollywood movies and war stories. So, American to me at the time was either flamboyant or military.
Within days after I landed in San Francisco (my first trip out of Taiwan), I had an unexpected mentoring from my hostess. She was a lovable middle age lady with very kind heart. She soon realized that I had never left home to experience real life outside, and she made me to understand that I am a real person in my own right and need to be responsible for myself. I can go to a bank to open an account and get a check book to pay for purchases as there is no parents that I can go to for everything I need. She was very patient with me to teach me how to be a young grown up, and to live in this new country of mine. She treated me as her own family. (I house sat for room and board).
I would never forget this help from the lady as it had set the tone for my life onwards. I am not afraid anymore and I know Americans are not all movie stars or soldiers. They are hardworking and down to earth people.
Most recently, I sponsored Kutna Hora mayor Ivo Sanc’s participation in the 5th International Conference of Slavic Language, hosted by National Chengchi University (Department of Slavic Languages & Literature). Many scholars and practitioners from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Czech, Macedonia, Turkey, Belarus, etc., and from most important universities in China, Taiwan, and Korea, have a first-hand experience with mayor of an 11/12th century city, and vice versa. It is amazing how this little thing i did have brought different people closer together.
We all talk about everything global, like global village, global economy, border less, etc. We all live under the same roof and are all interrelated through social media, global supply chains, world bank, etc. Yet, under the same common roof, each individual still has his or her umbrella. Each must fight for his or her own survival and at the same time to live with different umbrella. This is so visible every time when I landed at San Francisco airport that I no longer can differentiate people by race, religion, color, language, etc., anymore. Everyone is individual and each lives with others without prejudice. It is simple a human instinct to be able to live with others with different background. There is no negotiation taking place or compromise to be reached. It simply happens as everyone is working to survive in the given environment and mutual understanding is part of everyday instinct.
In today’s fast paced world, very few people would have the opportunity to learn different cultures and new environment like I did. Yet, with moments of notice, many would be involved in or moved to different countries, not always by design. Misunderstanding of people and lack of knowledge of local culture have become an obstacle to achieving our assigned objectives or even a source of frustration. Worse, people could become very resenting and resigning.
There are situations where people are not tolerate of each other, or taking advantages of the ones who have difficulties to new environment, both in business or personal sense. I believe it may also be the root cause to bigger political issues between nations.
Complaining would not help. Understanding differences and finding ways to bridge the gaps (compromises without breaking principles) is fundamental for us to manage issues and to enjoy whatever the world is.
I have been very fortunate in this regard with help from people with good heart and intention. Not everyone would have the same experiences that I had when I first went to the States. This is the reason I want to share my experiences in bridging the divide between different cultures. There are many others do share with the same experiences and feelings as I do. I am sure together we can help many more people who are facing the challenges.
By Maureen Chang
To be continued…
Mrs. Chang came to the Czech Republic with her husband in 2000. Unexpectedly, she got into activities as urged by her friend, to renovate chateau, to build a golf course, to publish a magazine, and to build a unique business model, a brand.
Mrs. Chang, ex-General Director and founder of Casa Serena, dedicated 12 years of her life in the Czech Republic to accomplish her commitment to the project and fulfil her commitment to her friend very much single-handily. She had done what only few people tried. It has been very hard but rewarding. She had to learn everything there is to know for her project.
A journalist by training, Mrs. Chang plans to apply her experiences and knowledge to promote the
tri-culture center hoping it will lead to a better world for everyone.