Cultural Differences, Cont.

The topic of cultural differences is really just one of my favourite things ever.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me.  I am not sure why it’s such a passion, but possibly moving all over the place all my life contributed to it.  For the last couple of years I have been recommending the Great Courses series on cultural intelligence by David Livermore.  I still recommend it as it is deep and extensive.  I have read two or three of his books and did not find them nearly as helpful.

But as I mentioned in his post a couple days ago, my husband and I are totally enjoying another audio book on customs and cultures.  It’s Foreign to Familiar, a Guide to Understanding Hot and Cold Climate Cultures.

We listen to audiobooks on our way to the larger town where I take my Korean class, most of our kids and grandkids live, and where we go to church (also where the husband runs grubhub deliveries sometimes). It’s about a 40 minute drive, so we get a good chunk in.  Last week the author (Sarah Lanier) included some information that absolutely, totally, completely floored me, and I have to admit I didn’t think it was possible.  She knocked the wind right out of me.

Imagine that you are standing with a group of two or three people, and you want to ask one of them out for lunch, but not the other two (the reasons are not mean, just assume they are legit).  Can you do it then and there, or do you need to invite your friend privately?
Imagine that you are standing with a group of two or three people and you are invited to an upcoming birthday party at the home of somebody you all know, but you don’t know for a fact if everybody else is invited.  Do you bring it up or is that rude?
You’re having two of the group over for dinner next week.  Is it rude to start discussing your dinner plans in front of the two who are not invited, or not?

I thought there was only one possible answer to each of these questions.  That answer is, of course it is rude. OBVIOUSLY, you do not talk about most social events in front of people who aren’t invited to them- there is a touch of leeway.  If it’s a wedding where it’s widely known only immediate family can come and you need to nail down a detail for a ride, maybe it’s okay.  But you don’t gush about how excited you are to go somewhere that others are not invited to go.  You don’t issue invites to part of a group but not the other.  You don’t make small talk about what gift you’re getting for a birthday party that others aren’t invited to. It’s just totally rude and inconsiderate.  Everybody knows this, right? Almost everybody.  Let’s not be rude about those who don’t know better, bless their hearts.

I thought that any other answer than the one right answer was basically just rather a sad self-reveal that one has been very badly brought up, at least in this one area.  “Oh, dear.” I would think.  “Your mama forgot to tell you this so now you don’t believe me.  She’d be so upset if she realized.”

I thought anybody who behaved in a way that revealed ignorance of the correct answer was cause for a private little tsk tsk and a more public compassionate tolerance, and some future vigilance and preventative action to prevent being placed in awkward situations through that poor person’s ignorance (through no fault of their own) of proper manners and consideration for others.

I actually once got into, not exactly an argument, but a… tense moment or two over just such a situation.  A friend started to talk with me about some logistics of the two of us arriving at a party and I happened to be with a couple people who were not invited. I quickly cut my friend off and redirected the conversation.  I honestly just assumed my friend hadn’t realized they weren’t invited to the upcoming party and she would be embarrassed to make that mistake, so later in private I said something like, “I hope that didn’t seem awkward,  but I don’t think you knew A and B aren’t invited to that party, and I knew you wouldn’t want to talk about it in front of them so I changed the subject.”

My friend goggled at me and asked why on earth she wouldn’t talk about the party in front of them just because they weren’t invited.  I goggled back, and gasped, “But it’s rude to talk about a party in front of people who aren’t invited,” and she rolled her eyes at me and looked like she thought I was ridiculous and said, “It is not.  Who told you that?  It’s not rude at all.  Why would it be rude?”  I don’t remember what I said, but I know I tried to get out of the discussion as quickly as possible so I didn’t end up insulting her parents who had neglected to teach her this basic etiquette.   I shut my mouth but I still felt sorry for her.

Sarah Lanier says that it is a warm culture idea that it is rude to talk about upcoming invitation type events in front of people who are not invited (In fact, in some hot climate cultures, if you’re talking about an event in front of people that’s kind of an open invitation).  Cold climate cultures have an entirely different set of expectations and standards and this is not an issue there, and it’s not considered rude at all.

Really, to be more accurate, I think you can’t even say it’s not considered rude, because for something to be ‘considered’ rude or not rude, some thought would have had to be devoted in that direction to begin with.  It’s more that it’s just obviously taken for granted that sometimes people are invited to things other people aren’t and this isn’t an issue to be upset about or arrange your conversations around.

I remain flabbergasted.  I mean, I can now accept on an intellectual level that I have been unjust to far too many people in my acquaintance for far too many years and I am embarrassed about that.  I can get that it’s never even been an issue for them in their culture.   But I still honestly cannot wrap my head around the idea that, once somebody points it out to those who never were taught, that still,  they cannot see that it was obviously always an inconsiderate, or at least thoughtless, thing to do.

See that?  That’s a cultural assumption.  If you agree with me, we share some of that same cultural air, and if you think that’s kind of crazy and my attitude there is obnoxious, then you have lived and breathed a different cultural assumption and each of us just cannot get outside of that cultural assumption far enough to really  get the other point of view.  Each of us probably thinks the other just doesn’t really, truly believe what we believe.  We’re brainwashed. We haven’t thought about it carefully enough.  We’re just ….

human beings informed by our own culture and its shared assumptions and values.

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Epstein Medical Emergency

He was found in his cell, blue, unconscious, from either assault or attempted suicide.

I don’t know if anybody really believes in the suicide idea.

This is something I’ve only seen on Twitter and haven’t taken time to confirm, but I have seen it from a couple people I trust:  Also, his cell mate is a former police officer convicted of killing several people and disposing of their bodies in his backyard and last week he was found with a cell phone.

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Cultural Differences- Warm vs Cold

My husband and I are listening to another audio book on customs and cultures.  It’s Foreign to Familiar, a Guide to Understanding Hot and Cold Climate Cultures.   I really like this one. It’s shorter than Livermore’s, but doesn’t totally overlap.  There are additional details for different countries.

The author tells a sad story about a co-worker of hers who came from Lebanon and worked in the U.S. for 8 years and thought nobody liked her.  In her culture, when you are invited to do something, you say now several times.  It’s rude and forward to accept the first invitation.  So when American co-workers invited her to go eat lunch with them, she said no.  They left for lunch without her.  They invited her a few other times, she thought they were just asking out of politeness so she declined, and they proved they were just asking to be polite by not inviting her three or four more times for that same lunch.  She was lonely.  That is what prompted the author, who had lived in many cultures, to write the book and start teaching about these differences.

I am taking a Korean class for a few weeks- I am the only American.  My three classmates are all from different Asian countries. There was one other American, and he dropped out because he didn’t think it was efficient and focused on grammar enough, which is kind of very American of him.

Last week after class we were talking lightly about cultural differences.  I don’t especially remember the specific example, but it had something to do with relationships vs efficiency, and direct vs indirect communication.  Probably she shared some information on Korean manners related to language, and the others shared how it was similar in their homes, and, they noted it was not like that here.  I asked if they had read much about the cultural differences talked about how much I had blundered in the Philippines by just getting in a cab and saying where I wanted to go instead of stopping to greet my driver, to ask how he was, to explain that the person with me is my daughter, and I am from America.  I told the story so they were laughing at my blundering, which was my goal.  As almost a throw away comment, I pointed out that it’s different in the southern U.S., that there communication is less direct, less focused on efficiency, and more like many Asian cultures in many ways.   I remembered to mention this because when my husband and I were talking about this he had mentioned he would really have to temper his push for efficiency when he visits his co-workers in Malaysia this autumn.  I agreed and told him I felt like he could temper it here, too, as I do not always appreciate his drive for efficiency, either.  “When she talks about this and time, I don’t feel very American,” I said.  He agreed, but pointed out that my roots are southern.  So I mentioned that the south is more relationship based as well.   My teacher got very animated and said, “OH, this helps so much!  I lived in Texas for a few years and then moved here, and all of a sudden it feels like nobody wants to talk to me anymore, they are all so busy, and… ” She laughed, “nobody compliments me anymore!”

Of course, then I had to tell her Texas isn’t considered the South by people in the south or in Texas.
“Well, then, what is Texas?” asked a classmate from Singapore.

I thought a moment.  “Texas?  It’s just Texas.  All by itself.”


Incidentally, if you are a wanting to give your kids more exposure to multiple cultures and peoples and are interested in diversity at all, for any reason, I strong, strongly suggest that rather than stocking up on poorly written ‘message’ fiction, or on superficial things like having a dinner where you cook tacos and have a Mexican flag on the wall*, please use a resource like Livermore’s Great Courses on cultural Intelligence or From Foreign to Familiar- something that digs deeper and discusses the real differences that hinder effective communication, that make us miss signals we are given or give signals we didn’t mean to, that cause serious cross cultural misunderstandings (I’ll be blogging about one shortly).

Don’t misunderstand me.  I am not really sneering at having a countries of the world dinner night.  Its cool, it’s fun, it’s a great way to stretch horizons.  But it is not a good place to stop.  We need to truly understand on a deeper level, and getting into a study of cultural differences and what they mean in regard to behavior is vitally important.

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My apple tree

We planted several fruit trees about six years ago.  We had several.  But a couple of them just died.  A friend who came over to ‘help’ chopped down the healthiest one by accident. He’s no longer a friend, but that isn’t why.  He turned out to be a bad guy in other ways (not to us, personally, but it was later revealed that he had molested his own daughter, so I don’t feel the least bit guilty about disliking him).  Another of the last people in the world anybody would have ever suspected, including me this time.  But I digress.

 

There is one surviving tree, and the tags disappeared forever ago so we don’t know what it was. It has never produced fruit.  This spring after our return from the Philippines, it bloomed prolifically and was beautiful.  The daughter who lived in our house while we were overseas told me it had bloomed the two previous springs but produced no fruit, so I expected nothing.

Currently, it has about half a dozen of these beauties around its branches and I am swooning in delight.

Of course, it’s also being swarmed by Japanese beetles that need to die.  But my tree.

My pretty little tree.

My hardworking, survivor of a tree.

My fruit-producing tree.

The first tree ever that we purchased and planted and have seen bear fruit.

It’s really a special feeling, a combination of pride, gratitude, and wonder.  Plant a fruit tree.  Don’t waste time.  Do it now.

And whilst you wait for it to take root, grow, blossom, and finally, after ever so long, bear some fruit, think about all the growth happening where you cannot see it.  I had lost all expectation of ever seeing any fruit from my tree.  It was just going to be a shade tree from what I could tell, and not all that useful in that regard, since it’s on eastern edge of our yard so the shade in the hottest part of the day falls over the property line into the cornfield.

Plant a fruit tree.  Learn to wait and be patient, with yourself and with others. In today’s instant gratification, self-entitled, self-centered, call-out culture, people throw away friendships and budding friendships far too soon, assuming too quickly somebody is toxic, not worth keeping that friendship, not worth loving and protecting because they aren’t always comfortable or easy to have around.  Relationships get discarded, burned to the ground because ‘I don’t need that in my life.’

Maybe.  Sometimes that is the safest thing to do. But maybe the safest thing to do is not always best (I am not speaking here of abusive relationships, please don’t risk your life or your kids).  Maybe they need you in their life.  Maybe there is more growth than you realize, where you can’t see it.  Maybe.

If you have to cut somebody out of your life, do this.  Put them on your prayer list in a serious, meaningful way and be sure you pray for them sincerely, asking God to love them and bless them and nourish them.   If you can’t do that, consider that possibly you need to do some serious growing yourself. Possibly you are playing the role of a Japanese beetle in somebody else’s life.

Don’t have that prayer list you refer to regularly?  Then we know there’s some serious personal growth needed, don’t we?

Plant a fruit tree. Do some praying.

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Epstein’s Passports

Epstein is asking to wait his time for trial in his multimillion dollar mansion. The judge decides today and the answer had better be no.

I’d heard he had a passport under a different name from Saudi Arablia, which was weird.

Turns out he also has one from Austria, under a different name, and he used it in the eighties!

Who is this guy and where did he really come from?  I begin to believe the most conspiratory story of all, that he wasn’t just a blackmailer, he was an operative, a spy, for another country.  Ugh.  Catch them all and throw them into Gitmo or something worse.

Update: Epstein was denied bail, which is excellent news.  There are also new allegations that he was involved with minors again even while he was supposedly serving his previous sentence (the one where he spent the night in cushy quarters, and was allowed to ‘work from home,’ i.e. spend all day long unsupervised in his mansion every day).  This surprises nobody at all.  Creep.

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