It is interesting to note that people from all over the world have such different cultures and values in which they hold so strongly to. The story I am about to tell happened to me not too long ago, during my 6 month stay in the US.
It was the end of the term and I had about a month to travel around before I headed back home. So a friend and I decided to make a trip up to Canada to see the Niagra falls as well as other major cities like Toronto and Montreal. When we first arrived in Montreal, I chanced upon a quaint little shop that sold souvenirs and other intricately-designed items so without hesitation, I dragged my friend inside to take a look. I came across a small vase which I really liked but there was no price tagged on it. With the vase in my hand, I took it to the lady at the counter and asked:
"Excuse me, how much is this?"
"Vous parlez français?" the lady replied with a frown on her face. Not understanding what she was saying, I hesitated a little before answering:
"Sorry, could you.." Before I could continue, the lady interrupted me, this time sounding a little more frustrated.
"Vous parlez français? No English, French only!" She rolled her eyes after saying that.
I stared at her in disbelief and was a little outraged by the way she treated a tourist. Afterall, I was going to buy something from her shop! Shouldn't she be a little bit nicer? What struck me most was that the English she spoke sounded entirely perfect! My friend, upon seeing the commotion came up to us. Thank God he knew French, and he asked the lady for the price on my behalf. Being already turned off by the lady's attitude, I managed a weak smile, put the vase back and walked out of the shop. My friend then told me that the people of Montreal, even though knowing English, only hold French as their common language for communication because they were once a French colony. I was surprised and I blamed myself for not doing my homework.
So I thought the rest of my stay in Montreal would be smooth-sailing until one day later, I witnessed a blatant racial discrimination. My friend and I wanted to take a bus to somewhere in the city. As we were walking to the bus stop, we saw that our bus was just about to leave! Panicking, my friend dashed as fast as he could to try and stop the bus, while I on the other hand tried to catch up with him.
Then, the most unbelievable thing happened: The bus driver, on seeing 2 Chinese people running after the bus, stopped the bus after driving for a distance and opened the front door. But the minute my friend caught up with the bus and stood by the door waiting for me to catch up, the driver stared at my friend, closed the door, and drove off! My friend stood by the roadside, dumbfounded and we both didn't know to laugh or to cry.. We found out later on from friends living in Canada that the only reason why the driver did that, was because we were Chinese.
So there you go. The first time in my life I was being racially discriminated. And it didn't feel good.
Moral of the story: Do not go to Montreal. Ok I'm kidding!
Real Moral of the story: We should always do our homework each time we know we will be facing people of different cultures. Intercultural behaviour if not handled properly, might result in conflicts and arguments or may even create a mindset that will condemn that particular culture. This is especially so when we are travelling abroad and interacting with people of different races. Sometimes, it is hard to pinpoint who is to blame for people behaving the way they do. The best way would just be, to take everything with a pinch of salt and embrace every experience!