A Melting Pot of Cultural Insights

By: Janiel Shamarah Bryan- Greenheart Exchange Work and Travel participant and Ambassador Scholar

I have met many people while here in the United States on the Summer Work Travel program. My job has been the main facilitator of these exchanges, and I can confidently say I have met various people from across the world.

I have learned so many things from different individuals, and I have even learned way more about different religions and cultures! For example, at the St. Anthony’s Catholic Church I learned about the Catholic denomination and observed their usual communion and church services. I must say, they are a bit different from the ones in Jamaica. Additionally, at my primary job, I learned about the Chippewa Native Americans, who inhabited the neighboring areas over ten thousand years ago, from a guest who was a descendant of this tribe. This was terrific, as we engaged in a whole discussion about our family trees and ethnicities.

I am also working a second job, and feel privileged to work with people from Romania, Poland, the United States, India, and more. It feels like a melting pot when I am at work, as I am able to learn about the differing cultures and compare our similarities and differences. From my Polish and Bosnian friends, I learned some about the European education system. For example, they told me that students wear casual clothing from kindergarten to the university level, which is not the case in Jamaica! Instead, we wear uniforms to represent the school we attend and only wear casual attire for university. This came as a shock to my Bosnian friend, especially, who compared this to a prison! I, on the other hand, defended our use of school uniforms, as it makes us look more uniformed and is cost effective.

Through my Bosnian friend, I have been able to meet other Summer Work Travel participants from Serbia, Russia, and Austria. This was very interesting to me, especially since they all had similar behaviors and opinions, such as smoking, drinking, and atheism. I am, however, able to filter this striking difference between us and still be good friends with them, as they are really warm people who always greet me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek! I have realized this is not popular with my American friends, who indirectly and unconsciously establish a need for personal space.

I am grateful for the opportunity to observe the behaviors of people from various cultural backgrounds with differing outlooks on life. It brings a much-needed exposure to things that I am not accustomed to, and it broadens my outlook on society and life itself. It also makes me appreciative of our individual and collective differences, as this facilitates a learning process for each party! I must also add that I have met some really nice people while here in Mackinaw City. They all greet me with a genuine and warm smile, whether they are customers or residents, and that has only made my experience here even more worthwhile.

Do you want to make friends from around the world and learn about different cultures just like Janiel? Head over to Greenheart Exchange’s website and learn how!