Learning and observing how people do things is always interesting, and sometimes awkward. Sometime ago, when arriving at the home of American friends, we were asked to remove our shoes. This, of course, before becoming a more common practice here, in the States. But, our friends originated from an Island culture, therefore, a common practice for their household.
During this visit, the discussion came around to comparing these small, but important, cultural differences. Our friend said, “At home in Singapore, it’s so much easier to visit neighbors and family because we know what is expected from home to home. Here in the States, each home varies as uniquely as the people we visit. We’re never quite sure what to expect.”
Isn’t that true? Think about it.
Beyond the removing of shoes, maybe its being taught the customary eat-everything-on-your-plate before leaving the table, where another household practices leaving a morsel. I learned from another friend her home had the rule, “children seen and not heard” at their table.
Customs barely noticed on a conscious level when entering the homes of our friends and acquaintances may cause us to take offense, or feel “odd”, not realizing there is a cultural thing going on.
We’ve all experienced it. Just visit another State! I’m not talking about accents as much as those seemingly little things that we giggle over. Here, we ‘bag’ our groceries. There, they put their food items in a ‘sack.’ Here, we wear anything, anywhere, anytime. There, they have a different outfit for each occasion. Here, we have an abundance of Asian, Mexican, Lebanese, and other fusion favorite dining choices. There, they enjoy deep fried chicken, catfish, or hominy grits.
In reality, we often equate cultural differences with traveling out of country.
Argentina was where I went on my first visit out of the U.S. I was there just a short three weeks, but it was eye opening just the same. The smells, the graffiti, the heat – oh, the humidity!
While window shopping at the local mall, I saw and felt the absence of the colorful people from my own city. In this populated area, were Olive colored and dark hair patrons. When making a visit to the local WalMart (yep!) it really hit I was someplace different. As I spoke to my friend – in English – people around us turned to look. This made me laugh! In my home city and community, we are so used to different languages spoken, we rarely turn to look anymore. Here in a city in South America, I became the object of someone else’s curiosity!
Note to self: laugh often, don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t take offense too easily.
Because – CHINA
- don’t drink the water or brush our teeth with it
- only wash or boil our fresh fruits and vegetables
- take our shoes off upon entering a house.
- Chinese are quite friendly, but, forget about personal space
- A polite handshake when meeting someone is more appropriate than a hug
- When presenting a gift, expect it to be refused two or three times before acceptance
- Even then, it will not be opened in our presence
I can read about and hear from others who have gone before about this amazing part of the world. It won’t become reality until…I’m actually there.
The anticipation is growing. Our travels to China are soon to become reality.
Tell me what interesting cultural experiences you have experienced – here, or abroad?