As a student of Erasmus Mundus advanced master programme, EGEI, I experienced two foreign studying destinations. First country was People’s Republic of China and the second one was Belgium. Both of these cultures differ a lot from either Slovak or Czech culture, where I have grown up and currently live.
When I visited China for four months my impressions were very mixed. I was in a group of students from the Czech Republic and I could barely find a person who could speak English, that complicated our situation in substantial way since none of us from our group could read Chinese characters. Moreover, if we were lucky and we met a Chinese person who spoke English, there was a high probability that they did not talk to us even if we asked them kindly, because Chinese people tend to be very shy. This made our trip much more adventurous!
In the academic environment I found that my Chinese classmates were very hardworking, even more than hardworking! I could see that these students experience high pressure in relation to their academic results caused by their parents and economic situation.
Overall, I would characterize my stay in China as a powerful experience, it made me realise why China has such a powerful economy since it is driven by people who have hard work and determination which is not often seen in other European countries.
Belgium was a “different kettle of fish” when compared to China.
The country was much more familiar to me, since it is still in Europe! But, I observed that people in Belgium had different ways of thinking. For example in school, they approached their study more responsibly when compared to the Czech schools, they also rejected any form of cheating. I like this approach of honestly and responsibility.
Personally, I found Belgian people as masters of compromises, since due to their multi cultural society they were able to accommodate all differences and took their time to understand each other’s points of view. Also, they seem to me to be on the one hand very noble on the other hand somewhat conceited.
Business Culture guide as part of the http://businessculture.org describes Belgian behaviour with a lot of details and I can simply agree with the description provided according my experience. In particular, making extravagant physical gestures such as hugging is very inappropriate for Belgians at the first meeting.
I think I benefited tremendously from both study trips. By engaging in international study, it helped me to be more able to get along with foreign people from various countries. Based on my experience I realized that it would have been very useful for me to know prior to the trips information such as – where should I look for accommodation, what kind of transportation is the most suitable, what to expect from academic environment, what facilities for studying can I expect, cost of living in the specific area, language matters such as whether most people speak English and so on. Therefore, when I discovered the Business Culture guides for the 31 European countries, which includes all this information and much more, I think that businessculture.org would have been a great practical tool prior to my trips.
For my future trips I will be more prepared since this business culture website gives me a brief overview of a specific country. In addition, I can find information that is most necessary to have before you go abroad. Especially, I find good hyperlinks provided in these web pages that give more information if you need, so you do not have to browse somewhere else and you have it all in one “place”. On the other hand, I would have like businessculture.org to have extended to more countries not only Europe!
By Peter Víťazka,
Slovak student studying in Czech Republic. Currently student at Erasmus Mundus advanced master programme “Economics of Globalisation and European Integration”