Today I spent some time reflecting about ten years ago and how it relates to intercultural experiences. Of all the different intercultural experiences I have encountered, my most memorable one was my time overseas in 2005. While I do a lot of intercultural work in my current life and live interculturally in many senses, my month in Europe was full of surprises and good experiences. I was graduating from high school and my father took me to Great Britain, Holland, Germany, Prague, and France.
Out of those thirty-something days, my most memorable moments were checking into a hotel in France, checking out of a hotel in Germany, staying at a bed and breakfast off the Rhine in Germany, and staying at a bed and breakfast in the English countryside. My experience in France was negative, as I was shocked by the treatment there. There seemed to be a general distaste for Americans, and my father and I almost became ill staying in a hotel that put a physical lock on the heating rods and just offered extra small blankets for warmth in the Winter instead.
My two experiences in Germany were both pleasant. The first one, checking out, my father asked me to check out because I knew some German and he knew none. I walked up and, in English, asked to check out, and was greeted warmly in English as a response. I then got to explain to my father that English is taught as a second primary language in Germany and that the country is fluent in English. My second experience in Germany was staying off the Rhine with Americans who immigrated to Germany and became German citizens. Learning how pleasant their transition was provided further encouragement. In England, we stayed with an elderly couple who offered us tea and crackers, as well as catered to every possible need, including those that we did not convey but they had observed.
This brings back many memories of my trip, with both highs and lows. Overall, travelling between cultures and barriers showed me how greatly different each nation is, despite their close proximity to one another. There is more to culture than one’s skin color, geographic location, and language – there is a difference in worldview, how others are treated, and how religion thrives (or dies) in each location.
In Germany, there were many old stone Catholic churches with Protestant congregations replacing them, whereas in France religion was not as easily noticeable, at least in Paris. In Prague, there were just as many Buddha statues in the stores as there were Christs on the cross, and off the English countryside, more of an agnostic or sometimes pagan approach (particularly near Stonehenge and where Camelot was once located, despite the chalice of Christ being rumored to have been lost in the Glastonbury Abbey).
Also published on Medium.