Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Okayama University
Good health is critical for studying abroad. Eating is one of the essential behaviors to maintain our health. To improve healthy eating education during studying abroad, we asked international students in Japan to (1) describe eating-related changes, difficulties and the coping, and awareness and behaviors, after coming to Japan, and (2) provide numerical evaluations and those reasons to eating related matters. We then identified the framework for eating related problems and extracted relevant factors for inclusion in cross-cultural dietary education. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21, 14, 10 Chinese, Korean, and Western students (current and former), respectively. Chinese students had low cultural distance, but showed difficulty in adapting to eating in Japan and reported lower satisfaction with about eating in Japan than in China. Many reported eating cheap and convenient foods, showed turbulence in eating, and talked about few nutritional awareness. Korean students experienced little incongruity, and enjoyed Japanese food culture. They exhibited high awareness regarding health and beauty. Notably, nutrition in Korea and pleasure in Japan were significantly evaluated better. Korean students regarded coaction in eating as important, and they were highly active in cultural exchange. Westerners who had greater cultural distances than did the other two groups felt attached to Japanese culture and food, but reported some confusion, due to cultural differences. They tended to evaluate Japanese foods as healthy. Western students showed no significant differences in satisfaction between eating in Japan and those in their own countries. Overall, six elements should be addressed in cross-cultural dietary education: basic knowledge of healthy eating, respecting original culture, acquisition of cooking techniques, practical information about food, assuming stages of support, and considering eating’s social function. Support offered international students may depend on their cross-cultural adaptation and acculturation, and any individual differences in their cross-cultural experiences.