Ustinov Global Citizenship Programme

Lost in Translation

By Iqbal Ahmed

The Ustinov Intercultural Forum (UIF) at Durham University hosted ‘Lost in Translation: A Café Culture’, an intercultural event, on 15 November 2017 to discuss similarities and differences between Japanese and English culture. Ayako Terui, a marketing postgraduate student from Japan, and a member of the UIF team, hosted the event.

“‘Lost in Translation’ was designed to discuss social and cultural issues and pop cultures that are dominant among the younger generation today”, says Ayako. Her interest in coordinating intercultural events began when she was an undergraduate student at Waseda University in Japan where she organised events to help Japanese students connect to the world. The event last week in Durham provided Ayako with the opportunity to re-learn her own Japanese roots through discussions and engagements with students from other countries and her understanding of the difference and similarity of Japanese culture with that of others. “Japan’s culture is very strict – it is very traditional and there are fewer opportunities for women”, says Ayako. “After spending time in Sweden and now in the UK, I have learned to appreciate my freedom but at the same time I have I have learnt to appreciate more of my own culture.”

Learning and discovering were central to ‘Lost in Translation’. Ali Darius Khan, a Physics postgraduate student from Pakistan came to the event because Japan feels like ‘a home’ to him. He lived in Japan and for him this event was an opportunity “to reminisce and to try and understand how people perceive Japan from the outside”. For Darius, this event presented many details about Japanese culture that made him understand it even better. “Ayako dug beneath the surface and the points she made were very authentic in the sense that she talked about the Japanese culture that Japanese people experience in day-to-day life. It really reminded me of my friends in Japan and of life in Tokyo”, he explains. “From the perspective of a Pakistani, the importance of respect, manners and politeness in Japanese culture is not unlike that of Pakistan”.

One of the main reasons that drew Ayako to organise this event was her interest in the Western culture. “I wanted to learn and speak English better”, she says, “But I also wanted to go into the world by myself to overcome the difficulties”.

‘Lost in Translation’ proved to be more than just getting lost in a foreign culture. It provided opportunities for students to discover and learn about themselves by comparing their own cultures to that of the others.

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