Aug 26, 2012

Learning All The Time

8/26/2012 — cori

How lucky we were to be a host family this summer for the St. Paul Intercultural Institute.  This summer has been proof that we never stop learning in life!  We learned so much from having Nao as our exchange student.  I'm forever thankful for this opportunity to have her come experience life with us in Minnesota.  To be honest, I don't know that I could have been as brave as Nao was.  Every single thing she experienced was new for her.  She had  never been to the U.S. before.  I'm pretty sure her culture shock was massive.

One of the most interesting things I learned from her was that she felt Japanese people were very polite but Americans were very friendly.  She loved all the green and trees and lakes surrounding her.  She said she would miss the beauty of the area very much.

As Americans, we are used to giving our opinion, asked or unasked.  In Japan, this just is not done.  You do whatever is expected of you whether you like it or not.  You do not state your opinion.  Even sitting in class all day at Bethel University was difficult for Nao because in our culture we expect student participation and talking.  In Japanese culture, you listen to the instructor who is more knowledgeable than you.   You do not speak.

Nao said that she missed Japanese food the most.  But shockingly, she loved everything we gave her to eat.  I know I would never be as brave as eat anything given to me in a new and vastly different culture. I admire her.  She even said she liked my cooking!  That was the icing on the cake for me.

We appreciated her soft-spoken ways and her flexibility to do any and everything we did.  That included alot of basketball in this basketball crazy house.  She loved playing games with the kids.  She picked up on our favorite card game super fast and was the Uno champion the whole time during her stay here.

I also learned that in Japan they do not show physical affection.  Nao said that she had never seen her mother or father hug or kiss but still knew they loved each other because she felt it in the atmosphere.  Imagine her shock when seeing Chuck and I hug and kiss all the time! Or when I hug on the kids and tell them I love them multiple times a day.  This is a huge cultural difference I had no clue about.  Nao was very kind to let us hug her as much as we did.

We told her at the beginning of her stay that we are a "crazy American family".  I don't think she understood what I was talking about.  By the end of her stay however, she knew exactly what a "crazy American family" was.

It is not the same without her here.  We miss her.  Her place at the table is empty.  Look what a difference 3 short weeks can make in our lives.  We connected with someone from the other side of the world...and we found out that we are more the same than different.  But we appreciated each other's differences and each learned how to "love our neighbor" as ourselves.

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