My 14 years in the Czech Republic has made me aware of how important it is to get to know different cultures in today’s world. I have had the privilege of living in different places in Asia, US, and Europe both as an expat’s life and working myself as well.
When I first went to US from Taiwan 44 years ago, my impression of Americans was very tainted by Hollywood movies and war stories. So, American to me at the time was either flamboyant or military. Within days after I landed in San Francisco (my first trip out of Taiwan), I had an unexpected mentoring from my hostess. She was a lovable middle age lady with very kind heart. She soon realized that I had never left home to experience real life outside, and she made me to understand that I am a real person in my own right and need to be responsible for myself. I can go to a bank to open an account and get a check book to pay for purchases as there is no parents that I can go to for everything I need. She was very patient with me to teach me how to be a young grown up, and to live in this new country of mine. She treated me as her own family. (I house sat for room and board.) I would never forget this help from the lady as it had set the tone for my life onwards. I am not afraid anymore and I know Americans are not all movie stars or soldiers. They are hard working and down to earth people. Most recently, I sponsored Kutna Hora mayor Ivo Sanc’s participation in the 5th International Conference of Slavic Language, hosted by National Chengchi University (Department of Slavic Languages & Literature). Many scholars and practitioners from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Czech, Macedonia, Turkey, Belarus, etc., and from most important universities in China, Taiwan, and Korea, have a first hand experience with mayor of an 11/12th century city, and vice versa. It is amazing how this little thing i did have brought different people closer together. We all talk about everything global, like global village, global economy, border less, etc.
We all live under the same roof and are all interrelated through social media, global supply chains, world bank, etc.
Yet, under the same common roof, each individual still has his or her umbrella. Each must fight for his or her own survival and at the same time to live with different umbrella. This is so visible every time when I landed at San Francisco airport that I no longer can differentiate people by race, religion, color, language, etc., anymore. Everyone is individual and each lives with others without prejudice. It is simple a human instinct to be able to live with others with different background. There is no negotiation taking place or compromise to be reached. It simply happens as everyone is working to survive in the given environment and mutual understanding is part of everyday instinct.
By Maureen Chang