The year 2020 is my fourth year living in France.
The reason I came to this country was probably a little bit different from other TBS students. Four years ago, I got transferred to the Paris branch of my old company, even though I had never visited France before that.
The truth was that I was actually hoping to get transferred to the US branch instead, and it was only by chance that I got selected for Paris. However, I was happy to take the opportunity and boarded the flight from Japan. Then my Japanese-French culture immersion began.
Japanese Garden in Toulouse
As most students have experienced, getting used to French culture took time because people’s mentalities and habits are different from where I grew up. For example, in France, debate and argument are encouraged, whereas, in Japan, the culture is such that people tend to follow other peoples’ opinions. Because of this, in the beginning, there were times when I was scared of peoples’ behavior both in the office and in the streets.
However, my idea of the French culture has changed with time. I have since made some friends who indeed have strong opinions about what they believe, but at the same time are really thoughtful towards others. They made me realize that I was scared at the outset because I was making assumptions about how people should behave, despite being in a totally different cultural context.
I have since learned not only the differences but also the similarities between France and Japan. For example, people in both countries tend to have high consciousness for food and art culture, the way people relate to each other. Moreover, as you can see from the Japonismes event, which was held in Paris in 2018, both countries have a keen mutual interest in each other.
When we encounter new cultures, we often understand the situations based on the cultures which we grew up with and make assumptions from that. This way of thinking may make our life harder sometimes, especially when we are in foreign countries if the reality does not match the expectations.
The important thing when we face cultural differences is to:
- Understand the situation without making any assumptions.
- And respect them because there is no right or wrong in the context of culture.
Author: Riho Sasaki is a Japanese student at TBS in Toulouse currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Communication, Marketing and Management.