Growing from Differences

By Megan Watson Marketing, Communications and Stakeholder Relations Intern 

This week, I had the privilege of attending a Community Orientation Program for Expatriates (COPE) session focusing on American banking procedures and social customs. COPE is an 8-week program that meets twice a week and facilitates newly relocated professionals and their families as they settle in Indiana.
It was interesting to see this side of the transition process, especially after just returning from a semester in southern Spain. I remember feeling very thrown off by small things that I didn’t realize could operate differently than the way I knew. For example, running on “Spanish time” means you may not show up to a party until 30 minutes to an hour after the scheduled time. Also, you have dinner at 10 pm and should eat enough at lunch to keep you full until this late hour. These things took time to understand and grew out of a process of frustration, anger, and annoyance with this new way of living. I wanted dinner at 6 pm and I wanted someone to be ready for a meeting at the exact moment it was supposed to start. Through patience and a lot of endurance, I began to understand that my way was not necessarily RIGHT and it was not the only way that worked. We accomplished our to-do list even if the meeting started a few minutes late and I was still fed even if it was later than I was used to. 
Now, as I’ve returned home to Indiana, I understand how American customs can be confusing to someone looking from the outside in. I know they aren’t familiar with American “Checking” and “Savings” accounts or the concept of a “Potluck Dinner.” They don’t know what a “Tailgate” is and have questions regarding the gifts they should give to the hostess of a dinner party they have been invited to. I caught myself giggling more than once as the COPE participants jotted down notes but not because they didn’t know what “B.Y.O.B” meant. I was laughing because I had asked very similar questions just months ago to a stranger I would later call my “Mama Española.” Through my experiences as both a confused study abroad student and a reestablished Hoosier, I have learned one thing: there is no right way to accomplish something. 
Throughout the world, people are completing tasks in unique and different ways and it is their right to do so. We must respect each other for our differences and do our very best to learn from one another. So whether you’ll be eating at 6 or 10 pm tonight, bon appétit!