Student LifeNavigating your way through different cultures

We met with Mr. Long Zhou to chat about the importance of cultural integration.

With his experience in the hospitality industry from China mainland, Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan, Mr.Zhou started teaching in HIM 4 years ago. This year he is leading the Cultural Integration Services to help Swiss Education Group’s students live a more fruitful and satisfying life in Switzerland.

What is your role at Swiss Education Group?
With the Cultural Integration Services, I meet with our students to help them integrate in their life in Switzerland more easily and quickly. For many of our students, studying in Switzerland is their first time abroad, so we need to make sure when they have problems or difficulties, we are always there for them. 

How can you define cultural integration?
Cultural integration is as important as learning the language when we go to a new place. It helps us to understand the people and culture of a country, to have a successful and colorful life and career there.

What factors contribute to a successful integration?
I think there are 3 important factors:

  1. Learning the local language. We can never fully understand a culture without understanding its language.
  2. Meeting new people and making friends. Nobody can live alone. When our network grows, we feel more attached to a new environment.
  3. Being ready to try new things. Some people are always afraid to try new things, but sometimes the key is the very first step. Open yourself up, and then more doors will open for you.

Shaking your head in a horizontal direction in most countries means “no”, while in India it means, “yes”. Can you give us more examples of behaviours that you experienced in the past?
I can give you an example related to hospitality. In Switzerland, we look at each other in the eyes when we clink glasses. But in some Asian countries this could be considered rude when you do it to your superiors. That means a polite gesture in one country can be understood as a rude one elsewhere. That’s why culture integration is especially important for our students who work in different countries and meet with different guests from all over the world.

Could you share with us an amusing cultural shock that happened to our students?
A lot of students are very shocked to see the Swiss 3 cheek kisses especially when 2 strangers meet for the first time. That’s why I always tell them that if they want to integrate faster in Switzerland, they have to kiss more! When they are encouraged to embrace others, they start to find their way.

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