Culturizing outdoor recreation into local culture: the experience from the Chinese students in New Zealand
Among many characteristics that culture has, diversity is one of them. Studies have illustrated how cultural differences exist in groups, regions and countries and how these differences have formed diverse socio-cultural practices among people. However, this seems not the case in the cultural study in the leisure area with two « dominated » situations.
The first one is the western dominated situation, which has been debated in many circumstances. As Chick(2009) argued, when research claimed it was studying the cultural influence on leisure-related activities, it rarely provided clarification on how the cultural groups’ concept of the terminology « leisure ». The potential gaps between the westernised concept and its equivalent in one’s culture of origin could cause misunderstanding between researchers and the participants.
Besides the Western-dominated situation, another « dominate » situation occurred in cultural research in outdoor recreation, which I call the « research dominator » situation. This situation pointed out a research pattern that the researchers intended to designate existing cultural factors as given conditions that defaulted connecting to its members’ behavioural differences. This situation was most common when « other » cultural groups were the target of outdoor recreation research. Under this pattern, the different outdoor recreation and leisure behaviour of Chinese groups have been connected to Taoism, Collectivism, and other social norms for decades. It is not saying this pattern could cause significant errors in research, but more about the possibility of neglect.
What are the cultural elements in Chinese students’ outdoor recreation experience in New Zealand?
How do them influence their experience in local participation?
After coding, three contradicted cultural elements have emerged in Chinese students’ outdoor recreation experience: the value of play, the way of play and the sense of outdoor settings. For Chinese students, outdoor recreation was regarded as a form of play, which had a lower social priority in the culture of origin. Also, the play was supposed to be a casual activity during Chinese students’ dispensable time, it was way less serious than the local practice. Many of the respondents have expressed that they have been overwhelmed by the regulations and knowledge one need to know before participating. At last, China has more diverse outdoor settings than New Zealand. despite New Zealand has easier access to outdoor venues, informants still described the nature dominated outdoor here as « pretty mountains, pretty rivers, pretty boring ».
To respond to these contradictions, informants projected a cultural explanation to explain the enthusiasm of outdoor recreation in the host culture: they culturised outdoor recreation as part of the Kiwi culture.
As many previous studies have discussed, the results showed that the culture of origin did impact Chinese students’ outdoor recreation experience. But, the difference was that it seemed that Chinese students only revoke the cultural elements where contradictions happened.
Through revoking their related elements in their culture of origin, outdoor recreation was culturised as Chinese culture specified and Kiwi culture specified. Thus, a dual-cultural system was formed as the given condition for Chinese students to participate in local outdoor recreation.
This finding could help outdoor recreation providers to understand that outdoor recreation is not a universal shared activity idea but a cultural specified leisure behaviour.