When people move to another country, some of them decide to follow the customs of the new country. Others prefer to keep their own customs. Which do you prefer? – Chung Hye Won, Year 10, Sayfol International School
Nowadays, lots of people go abroad for their studies, on trips or because of work. I am the same. I am from Korea but living in Malaysia because of my studies. Malaysia is a multi-racial country so there are many customs here. At first, I felt uncomfortable with Malaysian customs but after some time, I adapted to the new customs and I began to understand the reasons for those customs. Whenever I was unwillling to follow the new customs, my parents would remind me to respect other people’s customs. Now, I prefer to follow the customs of a new country because I know that eventually I would feel comfortable with the new way of living, there are reasons why those customs exist and we should respect the lifestyle of another country.
Firstly, we will adapt to the new customs sooner or later. When we first arrive in another country and experience unfamiliar traditions, we may experience culture shock or homesickness but if we adapt as soon as possible, we will minimise our time and energy wasted on it. For example, if a man goes to East Asia and cannot get used to the local food, he will face hunger even though he has money. He will lack energy and he will long to go back to his own country. That will be a real pity. Man is actually the fastest adapting animal in the world and if we do not use our ability to experience a new culture, it would be such a waste of opportunity. On the other hand, if you try to fit into the customs of the new country, you will soon find that you have become like a local!
Secondly, people have reasons for their customs. When I was new to Malaysia, I was shocked because some women here cover their faces with a veil but I soon became familiar with it. My parents told me the reason for that. Those women were Muslims and their religion required them to cover their faces. Religion is one of the most important reasons for the existence of certain customs and we have to respect that. Another reason for existing practices may be the climate of the particular country. For example, the favourite pastime of Malaysians is shopping because of the hot weather. Shopping malls are mostly air-conditioned and people can enjoy the cool air when they are shopping. Once we understand the reasons for certain behaviour, it is easier for us to embrace them.
Finally, we have should respect the customs of the locals when we are living in their country. While I was living in Korea, I expected foreigners to respect and try to understand my country’s customs. I think this is a natural and reasonable expectation. When I think of this, I am reminded of the Korean phrase, “If you go to Rome, you have to follow Roman customs and rules.” Likewise, when we go to another country, we have to behave the same way we expect foreigners to behave when they come to our country. If we go to another country and do not respect their customs, we will only embarrass our own country!
In conclusion, lots of people go to other countries for many reasons but some of them complain the whole time about the other country’s customs because they do not appreciate the opportunity to savour and learn a new culture. I have many Korean friends here who waste their time complaining about various practices in Malaysia. This is my advice for them - Thousands, even millions, of people want to go abroad, and you get that opportunity. Be grateful for that and enjoy the new customs. You will miss them when you leave!