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Op-Ed: Voices of Diversity: Culture shock

To quote our head advisor, Johnny Horton, “America is organized like American football, and everywhere else is soccer.” Now, when we look at sports in America and other countries, his quote makes sense; things are different in America in comparison to other countries, which in turn leads to more culture shocks.

Seattle Central is a college that has a lot of international students, and along with international students entering every quarter, comes cultural shock. It’s astonishing how there are a variety of cultures in the world, and each is so vastly different from one another, so what may seem normal to you may not be normal for a third person. I am an international student from India, and a lot of things in America have shocked me. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this voice of diversity – my culture shock.

Let’s start with a basic one, drivers being on the left side of cars. In a few countries specifically – India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the United Kingdom, the steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle, unlike America and others, where the majority of users have left-hand driving systems. Being from India, I’m used to witnessing a right-hand driving system and not a left-handed one. Free right on a red light was also new to me as I was more used to a free left on a red light. Additionally, I have never noticed as many crosswalks anywhere else as I have here in America, and to my surprise, people follow them and not just show their hands and run across the street. Now that we’re talking about the streets, it was in America that I had conversations with random people on the street about the weather, culture, and so much more. 

Now, moving on to restaurants and college, I realized my appetite is really small as I cannot finish a single portion of food served to me in America, while in India, I could. So here it becomes leftovers, which then last me at least two to three meals. Student discounts were also a concept I had never known. College was the BIGGEST culture shock I ever had for so many reasons. We never had so many student clubs, and most often, the voices of these student clubs were suppressed, so realizing that our opinions have a platform was a happy surprise. The amount of activities and events done for students is astonishing, as I was used to having probably one event a year. In India, we had to get permission from our teachers for the littlest of things, like drinking water, using the restroom, etc.- but here, I have seen people walk out of class and say “bye” to their professors, who wave back without questioning why they are leaving. Additionally, I have seen people have casual conversations with their professors and even text them informally, which is not normal to me. 

Another culture shock I faced in America more or less brought back my faith in humanity; sometimes, when a person has forgotten their wallet or doesn’t have enough money to pay for their food or drink, the staff is extremely understanding and gives it off for free or at a discounted rate instead of suspecting that the individual is lying. Once, a woman paid for her drink but spilled it a block away from the shop, and came running back to ask if they could make her another one. Without any hesitation, the barista made her a new drink, which was on the table within 5 minutes.

In conclusion, America brought me a lot of culture shocks, some big and some small, but I’m finding my way around them, as most are positive, and learning to deal with them as the new normal. Being here made me restore my faith in humanity, and trust in honesty. I hope it does the same for you too, and I hope this article helped you understand that it is extremely normal to face culture shocks, especially while getting used to a new place. There are a lot of international students out there, and we hope you understand that you are not alone. Though we, your fellow international students, may not feel like your home to you, we hope we can help you feel at home.

Good luck and never hesitate to reach out!


Vrindha, an international student from India, is fueled by her fervent love for diverse art forms such as dance, drama, music and theatre. Eager to immerse herself in new experiences and broaden her horizons, she sees her involvement with the Collegian as a gateway to both sharing her passions and delving into new realms of knowledge.

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