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Intercultural Challenges
More intercultural challenges
Melbourne Polytechnic
-37.742439, 144.997687
Topic Group working with people from different cultures

I am a Finnish exchange student in Melbourne Polytechnic, Australia. This city is known for being very multicultural and it can be seen in my school too. My classes are full of people from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Mauritius, Germany - you name it. There are only few Australians and only one girl from Finland besides me. Because of these many cultures that are mixed together in class it is important to be open-minded and have cross cultural awareness. I have noticed differences in behaviors of all cultures but I haven’t really had any real difficult situations.

However, I once had to do a presentation with two Indian boys which was different than what I’m used to. They are rarely attending classes because they are working at the same time with their studies. Because of this, it was difficult to find time for making the presentation together. Finally, we managed to find one hour that suited for everyone. In this situation I found it helpful being open for other’s ideas and not get irritated at any times. For us Finns it is normal that exchange students don’t work during the exchange but for Indians this is different. For them it is weird if someone doesn’t work. I found out about this on my first day of school so it was easier to deal with it later on. Because of the lack of time I had to be flexible and agree that more work had to be done at home.

Before going to the meeting, I searched some information about Indian culture from the internet so that I knew how to behave with them. I did this because I haven’t worked with Indians before this. Group working was different than the one that I’m used to in Finland. Indian boys didn’t want any small talk but they were very well focused. They seemed hard-working because they had done research before coming to the meeting and they had notes with them. However, they weren’t that keen on presenting their findings. Because of these factors, I took a role as a team leader. I felt like the Indians just wanted to get things done but still not take a big role in a group. Because I didn’t know these people from before and they seemed a bit reserved, I tried to be more social. Maybe the Indians weren’t sure how to behave around someone from Finland but it shouldn’t matter. 

It is okay not to feel completely yourself around the cultures that you don’t know much about because something that is normal for example in Finland might be rude in India. This is why it is somehow alright to be a bit reserved at first but you should be able to communicate with everyone normally and still stay true to yourself. There were some things that we would have done differently in the presentation but everyone in the group presented their ideas and then we decided the best options by making compromises. Flexibility and openness are the things that I needed in this situation the most. 

At the end presentation turned out fine and everyone were happy with it. We had to do the presentation the next day. In Finland when we do presentations at school it doesn’t really matter what we’re wearing. Of course it is not desirable to wear short shorts and a top for example but still there are no rules about it. But for these Indian boys it was very important to wear nice clothes when doing a presentation even though it took only 5 minutes and it was for our class mates. They wanted everyone to wear formal clothes and showed up wearing a suit. I found this very weird because this is not what I’m used to. But because we talked about wearing formal clothes before, I was prepared. I was wearing jeans and a nice shirt which wasn’t as formal clothing as the boys had but still better than shorts and a top. Once again I had to leave my old habits and be open for new ones. This turned out to be a good thing because we got a lot of good feedback from the teacher about the clothes.

All in all, this whole situation of how to make and do a presentation wasn’t that difficult situation. I was doing fine because I stayed open-minded and didn’t just want to do things the same way as in Finland. At the end everyone was happy and we got good feedback. After working together, we became friends and now it’s easier to move on to the next presentations together.

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