Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 5. 1964.
Asian Student Describes Fellowmen
Asian Student Describes Fellowmen
Anybody who denies that cordial relationships between overseas students and New Zealand students are not ideal is simply deceiving others, and what is appallingly pathetic, himself too.
I do not claim to be an authority on this subject, neither do I think that authenticity is relevant but I had always been inclined to the belief that the trouble lies in a general lack of understanding on both sides. It is therefore to advance this understanding that I am endeavouring to put forward a general picture of overseas students classified into different groups, mainly according to their habits and behaviours. I do not propose to suggest any solution (not that I have any) for I do not think that a conscious awareness of what we are like has a greater effect than any solution.
The first problem which should be obvious to everybody is the great differences between the cultural backgrounds which each and every one of us possesses. This, in my opinion. Is always a bar to verbal communication which is undeniably the road to closer friendship. It is usual to find that, conversation suddenly stops dead after a few remarks about the weather and the wind.
The other problem is that of language. Those who have English as their mother tongue would hardly feel it but in the main, every time one of us speaks there is a mad scramble for words going on inside the brain. Sometimes the scramble is lost in a cloud of dust and the result is stagnation in conversation; other times we give up totally and the same result ensues. With those two forces working in us it is no doubt that we are found in groups each peculiar in its own way.
Let me begin with the normal group. The people comprising this group are those that can get along well with both Kiwis and other students. They are easy to talk to usually understood easily also, and possess what would seem a keen desire to make many more friends. But their field is limited and apart from a number of close friends in their own department of study they completely shut themselves up. Here then we have the foundation of a clique. But this feeling of comradeship only lasts as long as they are actually on the campus during the day and after that—in the evenings and the week-ends—what happens to their social lives? They simply seek the companionship of their own countrymen. We could ask many questions as to whether such superficial friendship is beneficial or even desirable and we would get diverse answers. And if we are to tell ourselves that this is the case because we are a little bit fearful and a little bit dreading of such an integration, would we believe ourselves?
Next we have the highly sensitive group. If you think the electric wires running across farms out in the country are "high-tension", then you are obviously unaware of this group. Here is a group proud of their existence and always one step above you on the ladder. Their egos know no limit and when it comes to the question of morals you could in all probability be Christine Keeler or Old Sin himself. If you are contemplating on indulging in a joke with them it is usually a good policy to think twice, and if they relapse into their own mother tongue to ignore you, you know you have failed hopelessly. But it should be a consolation to know that some of us suffer the same fate amongst ourselves too.
Who was it who said "Romance is the spice of life"? Somebody did but if you relate it to the next group (the socially uncommunicative group) they would probably substitute "vice" for "spice". Here we meet up with a group that is completely out of touch with the joys of a soft spoken word, the fantasy of a ball-room atmosphere or the comfort that is always there for the asking, but very dangerously in close touch with the "monastery" be it the Christian kind, the Buddhist kind or the hermit kind. These students are very interesting and friendly, and as long as they are not branded as social parasites you are ensured of a good friendship. But if you can understand that to them dating a girl is like carrying an elephant on their shoulders (heavy burden), that dancing promotes abandonment of studies and that whistling at girls reveals a complete disrespect of the female species (which they are probably right), then you can probably understand why the kind of social life I mentioned is like a kind of disease to them.
Lastly, we have the submissive group. It is most distressing that there should exist such a group, and a horror to know that they have a strong backbone too. They are those students that will submit to anything that will not offend the Kiwis. Fair enough, who would want to offend anybody, but if the intrusion is one that concerns one's basic rights then to give in is certainly a surrender of one's manhood. It is a total submission of one's will to another just because one feels that one must do so to show the Kiwis that we know how to show gratitude. And these students are ironically the very same students who secretly desire to set an example for their contemporaries.
I realize that my submission on all counts is rather vague but the theme it is meant to convey must be very clear. However, the foregoing is not meant to give reason for Kiwi students to be more critical of overseas students. It should be noted that remarks like "Why can't they be more like us?" are very unsound remarks usually uttered with ignorance and narrowmindedness. How would a Kiwi in a different country feel, if the same remark should be made about him? Admittedly Kiwis in Asia are able to adapt themselves quite easily in a different society but that is only because they have the colonial powers assisting them on the one hand and the society willing to accept them on the other. Apart from a handful of people who genuinely desire to accept us does the society here possess a similar attitude?
After all that, one would naturally be tempted to ask if not overtly than secretly, to which group I belong. The answer is not mine to give. Think about it.