Week 4- Reflecting on Cultural Competence

We are now just about halfway through the program now, and so far it has been an amazing experience. With every day that I spend in Europe, I grow to love it more and more. I value traveling and experiencing new and different cultures very highly. I think that traveling is one of the best ways to grow and develop as a person. When you step out of what is familiar to you, it forces you to approach different things that are new to you, which causes you to learn and grow. Many people get stuck in daily routines and get very used to doing and seeing the same things all the time, and I believe that this causes people to become stagnant with their development as a person. My interest in traveling and exploring new and different cultures is one of the main reasons why I decided to come to Berlin in the first place.

This past weekend my love for traveling was reinforced once again. Myself and some of the other Pitt students on the program decided to travel to Prague for the long weekend. I did not know much about Prague, but I would basically travel anywhere because I feel like every new place has something to offer to you. Because I did not know much about Prague before going, I really did not know what to expect from the city. Having no expectations for the city in this case proved to be great for me because it would be hard for me to be disappointed in a city that I have no preconceptions of. Once I arrived to Prague I was immediately blown away by the city. It is definitely the most beautiful city I have ever since so far in my life and everywhere I turned I was being infatuated by the views of the city. There multiple locations that offered amazing views of the entire city and it was a sight to behold.

One great thing about Europe in general is the access that citizens have to be able to travel easily and cheaply throughout the EU. To get to Prague we took a bus service called Flixbus, and it was surprisingly nice. In America, much of the public transportation and buses are not very nice and not a pleasant experience to have, but this does not hold true to Flixbus. They managed to stay on time even when having to make different stops in different cities along the way to Prague. The bus itself was also quite comfortable and I did not have any issues while on the bus.

When experiencing all these new cultures, it is quite easy to pinpoint some stark differences in the cultures. Some things are pretty minor and are easy to adjust to, whereas other differences are much harder to get used to. Personally, one of the differences that I have been struggling to assimilate to is that Germans give compliments much less frequently than in America. I don’t think this is a bad thing, rather I think it is a good thing because it gives compliments more meaning to them when they are given less. In America, it is very common to be complimented frequently by others to help to motivate you, but in Germany this doesn’t really happen. The reason this has been difficult for me is because while working at my internship it is rare that I get a lot of positive feedback on my work. I’m not seeking to be showered with compliments by any means, but I am used to receiving positive feedback so that I know I am doing the right thing and that my work is being done right. I remember being warned about this before starting my internship by the woman who ran our orientation. She said that if your boss says nothing about your work then you should take it as a compliment because that means that there is nothing wrong with it. I have been trying to do my best to keep this in mind at work.

One advantage that I have compared to many of the other Pitt students that are on the program is that I have been to Germany before and I have experienced their culture pretty extensively in the past. This has allowed me time to assimilate to much of their culture over time, rather than this being my first time experiencing these differences. I also believe that nowadays there are much less stark differences between the cultures of the US and Germany. With technology growing and American influence continuing to spread throughout much of the world, people and their cultures are becoming more alike. I remember the first time coming to Germany, I was nervous because we were told about all these differences between the Germans and Americans, but I quickly realized that the kids my age in Germany were very similar to myself and other Americans my age.