One of the main perks of being an international student in a foreign country is, of course, the exposure to many different kinds of cultures. At KAIST, the composition of foreign students is dominated by Vietnamese, Pakistani, Indonesian, and supposedly Chinese – although so far I’ve only met one Chinese student, or maybe that’s because they have similar appearance to Korean students. As for now, my roommate and most residents of my dorm came from Pakistan, and most of my labmates are Koreans. These are just some of the new experiences that I got from mingling with people from different countries.
Due to the majority the dorm residents being Pakistani, it also serves as a moslem community. Yet this also means that someone will knock on your door loudly when it’s time for Fajr prayer. There’s also this one time when suddenly someone came into my room, and start preaching about religion. Not that I’m opposed to preaching about Islam, but coming into my room without prior notice is a bit uncomfortable. Also, because my dorm is meant to be used by foreigners in the first place, I sometimes get visits from missionaries.
Because of room sharing where one room is occupied by two persons, I have to deal with my roomate’s habits from time to time. Now I don’t know whether people from Pakistan do speak loudly or it’s just my roommate, but he speaks really loudly when he’s with his friends and when he’s on phone. I can actually hear what the person on the other side of his phone’s saying because he sets his phone volume really high. Good thing that we both sleep with the light off.
At my lab, it seems that it’s common for people to eat together at lunch or dinner. So whenever we’re eating out, everyone at the lab eat together. Also, sometimes we play rock paper scissors where the loser get to treat everyone else. But still, nothing out of the ordinary.
The thing that really shocked me is when I actually go to the swimming pool. Back in Indonesia, even in changing room we still have individual changing booths and showers where we can change to our swimming suit. Well but here it’s normal for people of the same sex to be full nude in the changing room. Yes, I think I got an emotional scar the first time I got there :D. The problem doesn’t there. I got scolded once for going into the locker room without drying my swimming pants first – there’s no direction on how to use the drier, mind you. But actually this is where I’m impressed. I got scolded by a person that’s neither cleaning service or swimming pool staff. And after scolding me, that person actually taught me the proper way of using the drier etc. This shows that people here care for public facilities. Bust still it would be better if they don’t go full nude in the changing room :D.
Being drunk is also a problem. I already knew beforehand that Koreans are heavy drinkers (yes, it’s famous). But I would’ve never guessed that there would be a time where I see a student getting dragged by their friends before finally puking on grass.
And there’s.. PDA! While in Indonesia you rarely see anything beyond holding hands in public, it’s quite common here for public display of affection. Cuddling is pretty common, and even worse they’re doing it on dorm lounge. Darn you happy couples.
Although so far the culture shock is from other cultures, my Korean friends were also shocked by what I did. It was one time when I decided to take off my shoes because I need to take wudhu on the restroom. Apparently they don’t understand why I need to take my shoes off. But after some explaining, they just accepted it. But sometimes I still feel the curious glances of Koreans whenever I’m taking wudhu at public restrooms or did salat at some empty corners hahaha :D.
I guess it’s common thing that whenever two different cultures meet, some mismatch are bound to happen anyway. We all just need to accept that other people and other cultures have different sets of values, beliefs, and way of doing things. The more the merrier :D.