Discover Studying Abroad

#SmartStudent: How to be funny when you're studying abroad

Our new #SmartStudent series brings you simple tips that help you ease into life as an international student and be a responsible resident of the country you have chosen to study in
BY Cherryy Chauhan |   20-06-2017

Travelling to a distant country is one thing. Living in it and adjusting to the culture there is a whole ’nother level of daunting. What with the cultural adjustment, missing home, making new friends, and academic workload, a sense of humor is a lifesaver for any international student. While there are no hidebound rules for what’s funny and what’s not, here are some simple tips to ensure that your banter doesn’t become your bane (or the bane of those around you).


  1. Steer clear of ethnic stereotypes

    Stereotypes of other groups are insulting, and can create a hostile atmosphere in your dorm or lab. If your joke rests on your audience accepting that an ethnic group is stupid, clumsy, or untrustworthy, not only is it likely to fall flat, but your colleagues are going to conclude – quite reasonably – that you’re an awful person. If friends joke about their own ethnic or national group, it’s not a license for you to disrespect that group. As a guest in another country, it’s on you to show respect to all the ethnicities living there.

  2. Notice the cultural differences in humor

    One of the most fun and educational aspects of studying abroad is becoming a global citizen, interacting with your local community, and adapting to the culture of their country. Use the opportunity to become aware of cultural differences between your sense of humor and that of others – wry, slapstick, sarcastic, understated, and so on.

  3. Sexism, homophobia and transphobia aren’t funny

    As with ethnic or religious groups, stereotypes about women and LGBT people are considered degrading and insensitive, and can also be interpreted as hostile behavior. Depending on your university’s code of conduct, you could face disciplinary action if someone files a harassment complaint. Remember that such complaints are taken more seriously in some countries than in others.

  4. Body shaming is uncool

    This refers to jokes and remarks about people’s physical appearance or things they can’t help – their size, the shape of their hair or nose, gait, mannerisms, speech patterns, and so on. Even if such attempts at humor do not lead to disciplinary action, they could hurt someone deeply. And they will certainly lead people around you to conclude that you are immature and insensitive. Don’t do it.

  5. Think twice before pranking someone

    A good prank consists of a proper setup and the right intuition. These are the monopoly of no nation or culture. But there could be a gap between people’s definitions of funny. So think carefully when playing a practical joke on someone.
Related stories:
#SmartStudent: How to be a good roommate
How to talk about race
“Don't call me Aunty or Uncle!”
The tug of two homes
How to get the most out of studying abroad
Check out our blog posts on student life!


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