Giving an Australian welcome?

Travelling to a new country to study can be a daunting task for any student. Many different cultures, religions, and languages are some of the barriers that await new students. The scenarios of these international students I found relative to a cross-cultural relations in my own life. In 2005, a Sudanese refugee family of 8 members made the trip over to Australia, and started a new life in my small hometown. These people were in a foreign environment and had to learn all aspects of Australian culture. The struggles the family faced are quite comparative to that of an international student, in that barriers had to be broken down in order to achieve the ‘cultural fit.’

The biggest struggles when moving to another country are the difficulties in adapting to the local language. Most foreigners find the English slang language of Australians very hard to adapt to; a major source of negative cross-cultural relations. ‘International students: negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’, makes note of this saying, “The possession of an understanding and ability to use colloquial and non-formal English is a key to initiating and maintaining social interactions within and outside the academy.” This was also evident with the refugee family, however, the lack of articulation tested other ways in which they communicated, and somewhat heightened them. “As long as you make yourself understood. That is all that matters.” Their rapid improvement in English fluency was also largely due to the effect of numerous hours they watched Australian television. Even viewing cartoons on ABC led to improvement from all members of the family.

Many international students that come to Australia find themselves with little involvement in Australian life outside of their education. Vogl and Kell elude that many international students find it hard to meet Australians due to the “pub and club culture of many Australians.” Many of these international students who come from Asian countries cannot drink alcohol due to “cultural and religious reasons.” International students can find conformity in social and sporting groups. In the case of the Sudanese family, they were involved in the local church, community English classes, and the kids were involved in football teams, as well as attending the local youth group. I believe that this involvement was crucial for them finding belonging in this small Australian town.

International education is a great experience for all students. Some may find this experience more positive than others and there are many factors that can influence the time they spend in the foreign country. The major blame seems to stem from the language barrier, however as noted in my examples there are lots of ways the Sudanese refugee family participated and interacted with Australian culture with only little knowledge of the English language. I understand it can be difficult for international students to associate with local students, however, if the international students make an effort to develop relations with locals, the favour will surely be reciprocated.

Advertisements

Cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation is a huge issue in today’s modern culture. Many celebrities are now representing many cultures, religions and social groups in a way, which is not respectful of the culture’s values and morals. This issue has inflamed in recent years, with the expansion of social media, which allows these celebrities to share these appropriations online to a larger audience. When I was doing research into some examples and instances of cultural appropriation, I found a somewhat common theme. It became evident to me that the large amounts of these cases of misrepresentation were relative to the Islamic culture. Of the research, I found two particular high profile cases in which religious garments, or headwear, were misused by high-profile celebrities, party due to having no knowledge of the culture.

native-american-indian-war-headdress-black-with-spot-feather-p279-1235_zoom

One of social media’s most prominent figures is Khloe Kardashian. She has over 14million likes on Facebook, 15.9million twitter followers and over 30million Instagram followers, and can reach her large fan base easily through the use of these medias. In a photo uploaded to her Instagram, she is seen to be wearing a hijab, with the caption “habibi love”1. It is the context of this story that caused the biggest outrage, rather than the initial photo itself, as Khloe was travelling to Dubai, a country-unlike other Arabic countries like Saudi Arabia- in which it is not compulsory for women to wear burqas in public. This sparked anger amongst the social media community as Kardashian, who does not identify as Muslim, and she was insulted for what many people describe as cultural appropriation. “Someone slap the cultural appropriation out of Khloe Kardashian for making the higab into a fashion statement.”1One person wrote on social media. ‘Reclaiming Native Stories’ argues that for all levels of this appropriation, these people who belong to the Islamic culture “…assert a right to control who can tell their stories and who can use their designs and symbols.”

11325631_1635601116653198_1393897279_n

Another example is from the music industry is Lady Gaga’s leaked song ‘Burqa’. Although the song was never officially released, it was leaked by a third-party, and the lyrics used not only parodies Islamic culture, but also outline damning levels of racism. “Do you wanna see me naked, lover?/Do you wanna be peak underneath the cover?” Her use of these lyrics in the chorus clearly show no level of respect or compassion for the believers of this culture. It also seemingly comes as an attempt to sexualise the burqa; a total contrast to the morals and values in which the burqa is defined.

hqdefault

These instances are prime examples of how the ideas, stories and designs of a culture can be taken out of context by individuals in society. We need to be respectful of other cultures and should be educated to eliminate accounts of cultural appropriation. The people of the particular culture must be the ones to “…control representations of their cultures as a means to ensure cultural survival.”

 

 

References

  1. Johnson, Maisha, ‘What is wrong with cultural appropriation?’, 2015, Everyday Feminsim.
  2. Reed, Sam, ‘Khloe Kardashian receives internet backlash for niqab selfie’, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter
  3. Ziff, Rao, ‘Reclaiming Native stories’