We all have different personalities–active or quiet, introverted or extroverted, aggressive or empathetic, cheerful or serious. Some people maintain a strong sense of themselves and stay consistent, while others are more flexible and change over time or in different places. But is one of those tendencies better? Should we always “be ourselves”? Or is it better to adapt? As an international student studying halfway around the world in a culture very different from where I grew up, for me, this is not just philosophical.
Normally people aren’t faced with this decision in an obvious way. Nor do we often care what a visitor chooses to do, whether it’s following their way or following others ideas. However, we are forced to consider this when we work in groups. In group situations you might know that others’ ideas are better than yours, yet not feel comfortable following those ideas because they are not your style. We often get more satisfaction by doing things our own way.
In European countries, children are typically taught that they should make their own opinion known. In contrast, children in Asian countries usually learn that they should adapt to the opinions of others and behave differently depending on the environment they are in. There is a big discrepancy between these two continents. While there is a lot of variety among individual people, generally speaking, European cultures have a high respect for respect independence while Asian countries enhance safety so they except to change their lifestyle depend on the situation. The question is, is one of these tendencies any better than the other?
One thing that never changes is our basic values and preferences. To illustrate, I conducted a survey with my school’s other international students. We come from different countries and we’re all are on our way to becoming principally Canadian someday. I have ten Mexican friends, five Chinese friends, two Japanese friends, and a French friend.
I received diverse answers when I asked them the question: “What kind of work in class do you like?” In general, my Mexican friends work quickly, so they prefer to work individually. My Chinese friends like to work in a big group and my Japanese friends just want to work with a partner. My French friend is decisive and likes working by himself. Even though we are receiving the same education from a Canadian school, we are still have own way to do everything. We do not change our work habits because we know what we’re good at and what makes us comfortable when we work.
In another instance, my aunt has been in Canada for over thirty years. She is almost completely Canadian, she speaks English very well and she is open-minded. Moreover, she follows CBC radio everyday and she likes to watch Hockey more than anyone else I know. However, anyone who has the opportunity to talk with her knows that she still keeps Vietnam’s style and culture relevant in her everyday life. Even though she can speak English, she usually speaks Vietnamese at home, that’s how she teaches her children their culture and language. Furthermore, she hasn’t missed a Lunar new year for thirty years. From that evidence, I truly believe that our basic values will not change.
On the other hand, our improvement is based on change. If you want to better yourself every single day, you need to learn how to accept and recognize your weaknesses. This comes up personally for me–it is never easy to accept your downfalls. Although it’s was hard, I had to do it. That is why people change themselves when they come to a new country. I used to really like the way I spoke, I was confident in my ideas and didn’t care much about what others thought. I always found ways to protect my opinion without acknowledging the good points others had. However, when I came to Canada, I recognized that sometimes there are better ideas than mine. Canadians still have their own thoughts, but they listen to me anyway. Consequently, I changed. I try to understand others ideas and I agree to follow their views when I recognize their merit. In many classes, we discuss various problems. I’m pleased to do that but whenever we have different ideas, I find it difficult to handle. In contrast, my Canadian classmates handle differences of opinion very well because they are open minded so I think I should learn from them. Thus, I suppose that being flexible is a good way to improve yourself and integrate into society.
So, should you always be yourself or change to adapt to a new environment? It seems to me that we should always be ourselves in the sense of keeping our basic values, and still, at the same time, keep an open mind to others ideas, remaining flexible and willing to change.