Study Abroad 2016 — A Culinary Comparion of Intercultural Communication in France & Spain

{Shattering Expectations}

I can’t believe it, but my program has come to the end. Final presentations are being given, reflection essays are in the works, and we’re all mentally preparing ourselves to be jet lagged for probably forever. As I look back on the time I’ve spent studying Intercultural Communication in France and Spain with a focus on Islam in Europe, most of my experiences don’t match up with the expectations I had at all. One of those shattered expectations was this dish:

I really didn’t know what to expect when it came to Spanish cuisine, but it certainly wasn’t this. Huevos Rotos (or “broken eggs”) is an incredibly popular dish in Spain that consists, in its most simple form, of two fried eggs with cured ham over French fries. Yum.

I didn’t see this dish coming. It wasn’t on my top ten list of foods to try. I had actually never heard of eating eggs over French fries, but it was so delicious! 10 out of 10, would recommend.

The final intercultural communication theory I want to focus on in this last post is one that is applicable every single day of our lives: expectations violations theory. This concept is centered around how we react when our expectations are not met. Whenever something happens that we don’t see coming, we will react in one of two ways: positively or negatively.

Example: I went to Paris expecting a romantic atmosphere all the time where I would stroll from bakery to bakery all day eating crêpes and other delicious pastries. When I got there, though, I found a bustling capital city with people rushing to work, extremely obvious security in all public places (i.e. bag searches under the Eiffel Tower and army officers with automatic weapons patrolling the metro), and visible poverty throughout the city. Granted, there were a lot of bakeries. But all in all, my expectations were not met exactly. My response had to go one of two ways, positive or negative. Without thinking much about it, I had a positive response and saw Paris in an entirely new, more human light. I’m thankful that I had this response and continued to love the city of lights.

We don’t always respond positively though, especially when we leave our reactions up to the subconscious. Instead, we could come to dislike a certain place or experience just because it wasn’t what we expected. It’s my firm belief, however, that by keeping this theory of expectations violations in mind, we can actually choose our reaction. Whenever we find ourselves in a situation that doesn’t meet our expectations, we can choose to step back, reflect on it, and process through the experience to find the positives and not let the unexpected ruin it for us.

The group I traveled with was full of unexpected moments, but in the best way possible!

This theory is incredibly important in intercultural communications as we are often faced with the unexpected, but it also applies to our every day lives. So the next time you try something new, take a moment to reflect on it and choose to seek out the positives instead of leaving your reaction up to chance. Who knows, you might discover a new favorite way to eat fried eggs!

Fun fact of the day: put eggs on your French fries. I’m not even kidding.