Support our Nation today - please donate here
Culture

My experience of culture shock as an international student in Wales

18 Feb 2022 5 minute read
Muskan Arora

Muskan Arora

Stepping out of the London Heathrow airport, I recall the adrenaline rush in my body and slight goosebumps on my arms.

I had travelled for over eleven hours carrying all the inhibitions, doubts and excitement along. As I located the Cardiff University’s welcome team, I was ready to reach Cardiff and taste the true essence of freedom. The eighteen-year-old me was ready to fly.

My first day in Cardiff was a rollercoaster of emotions, as I was missing my family but was excited to experience a new culture.

I went to a restaurant on Queen’s street and sat there on the table waiting for the waiter to come and take my order but after receiving some odd looks from the people around, I raised my hand and said, “I am ready to order!”.

Their baffled look explained I had done something unexpected. I got up and went to the counter to ask how I could place the order. I was asked to pay even before I received my food, which first got me thinking of the diversity I was about to experience.

As I got out and started walking towards my accommodation, I saw people smile at me and I thought maybe being a foreigner in a country gets you this attention.

It took me a couple of days to fully unpack and settle in, and I clearly remember wondering how I could get groceries at home without walking so much. All the apps which offered to do so were expensive and I thought I’ll walk into the first grocery store, ask for the manager’s number and directly place the order with him to get it delivered in the future.

Little did the 18-year-old me realize how hilarious this conversation was going to be.

“Sorry, but I do not understand what you are trying to say!” said the confused manager at Tesco.

My friend who joined me right after clarified that they had hardly any relation with delivering groceries.

Back home in India, you develop a very personal relationship with the store staff and give them a call whenever you need something and it is delivered at your door without any additional charges.

In India, there was always a hesitant relationship between a teacher and a student but attending my first lecture made me realise the importance of having a healthy relationship with your teachers.

I felt that there were never ‘too many’ questions you could ask or give a wrong answer in class, which motivated me to engross myself more into academic work. This eventually encouraged me to build relationships with my classmates.

Meaning of friendship 

Nonetheless, I faced a major cultural shock when I realised the different interpretation of a community and meaning of friendship in the Indian and the Welsh Culture. For instance, all my flatmates are from different parts of Europe and I have hardly even seen them cook together. In fact most of them enjoy cooking alone.

Whereas, back in India you cook your meals together. You share your meals and have conversations over dinners every day; be it with your friends or family.

Though here in Wales people often like to keep to themselves, they will show up for you whenever and wherever possible.

Indian culture promotes the feeling of community and togetherness at all times; so much so that in Wales not having people to check up on you every day feels odd sometimes. This is also reflected in the family dynamics of people in Wales. Most Welsh students I know seem closer to their parents as friends. It seems more common for young people to move out from their parents’ house and into the world in their early twenties

The opposite happens in India, where parents want their children around them, even after they start working or get married.

The connection, the shelter and the feeling of belonging an Indian community provides is unparalleled since everyone has been brought up with the mindset of staying together no matter what happens.

But there is also a stark drawback, where parents’ approval of their respective partners is important to a level where it becomes toxic. The quality of conversation with parents in India might not necessarily be as high as that between a Welsh parent and child.

I particularly enjoy living in Wales because of how accepting and warm people are to different cultures and lifestyles. The healthy work culture and inclusion by people makes it very easy for any person traveling from abroad to settle in Wales.

During my time in Wales I’ve learned that there is definitely is a stark contrast between the Indian and the Welsh culture.

The most enduring lesson I learned is that the beauty of Wales’ culture is brought out by its people.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

16 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
arthur owen
arthur owen
7 months ago

This young woman has been very lucky in her encounter with Welsh people and our culture,not everyone from abroad has been so fortunate.

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
7 months ago
Reply to  arthur owen

Got any evidence for this because my mum came to Wales from Poland to study and she got accepted by the locals straight away in the tiny village she was living in. And this was in the 70’s.

arthur owen
arthur owen
7 months ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

I did reply to you yesterday but Nation Dot has chosen not to publish it.Hope for better luck this time.

arthur owen
arthur owen
7 months ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

You can also reference today’s story about growing up in a Chinese takeaway.You do Wales no favours closing your eyes to these things..

MUSKAN ARORA
MUSKAN ARORA
7 months ago
Reply to  arthur owen

Indeed, I’ve met some wonderful people here in Cardiff!

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
7 months ago

All the best to you Muskan, hope your studies go well and that you continue to enjoy Wales, croeso!

MUSKAN ARORA
MUSKAN ARORA
7 months ago
Reply to  Ed Jones

Thank you!

Ayushe
Ayushe
7 months ago

Muskan you have beautifully expressed these bitter sweet experiences. I’m glad someone is talking about it, doesn’t make me feel alone! More power to you and your work.

MUSKAN ARORA
MUSKAN ARORA
7 months ago
Reply to  Ayushe

Thank you!!

CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago

I’ve seen that Muskan is here in the comment section so I’ll take my chance to ask you a question: have you had any experience of Wales outside Cardiff and, if so, does that factor into your view of Wales? Your article, which I enjoyed reading very much, seems to strike me as your impression of Cardiff and Welsh students as opposed to “Welsh culture”. I’d consider this as an imperfect snapshot (not totally different) of Welsh culture. It’s a bit like someone visiting Newcastle-upon-Tyne on drawing conclusions about the English when what they’ve really seen is Geordie culture. Diolch… Read more »

MUSKAN ARORA
MUSKAN ARORA
7 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Hey, yes! I have been to other places in Wales and summed my whole experience as one. Nonetheless since I’m a student, a part of the Welsh culture for me included my university experience too.

Last edited 7 months ago by MUSKAN ARORA
Helen Owen
Helen Owen
7 months ago

I loved reading about your experience, I hope you get to visit our international Eisteddfod in Llangollen! , it’s the perfect example of how welcoming wales is to other cultures!

MUSKAN ARORA
MUSKAN ARORA
7 months ago
Reply to  Helen Owen

Thank you!!

Joanna
7 months ago

Beautiful article. I am glad you had a good experience while studying in Wales.

MUSKAN ARORA
MUSKAN ARORA
7 months ago
Reply to  Joanna

Thankyou!!

Michael Patterson
Michael Patterson
6 months ago

The part where you state “The quality of conversation with parents in India might not necessarily be as high as that between a Welsh parent and child.” I think is an over generalisation. The rest of the article I feel portrays your own experience pretty well.

Last edited 6 months ago by Michael Patterson

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.