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My culture counts too!

8 August, 2010

Why is it that we’re expected to follow someone else’s culture when we’re in their country (or even their household) but we don’t consider it polite to ask them to do the same? I think I’m saying this less as a Westerner and more from my own more personal cultural heritage.

For instance, I would never tell someone they were being rude by not excusing themselves from the table, slurping their soup or sniffing loudly. Yet I’ve been rebuked for not removing my shoes in a Swedish household, and I’ve seen people chastised for talking on their mobiles on Japanese public transport.

I think the problem is not that ‘they’ won’t conform to ‘our’ culture, it’s that it’s in our very culture not to make a fuss; we have just been affronted by certain behaviour but all we can do is express our feeling in disapproving glances without ever addressing the problem.

It could also be that we (as part of the broader Western culture) have no sense of cultural pride. And to be honest, why would we, if it includes eating takeaways in front of the telly, getting drunk off our faces every weekend and being too uncomfortable to show the small kindness of sharing an umbrella with someone in the pouring rain?

Being engaged to someone from a different cultural background had really opened my eyes to things from another person’s perspective, and I hope I can learn enough from this experience to be able to stand up for my own cultural beliefs and be proud of them.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Phoenix permalink
    8 August, 2010 21:48

    Not everything’s about culture. Given that some habits can be considered as cultural thing but as far as eating in front of a TV goes…

    …A person who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones at the neighbour’s house.

  2. 8 August, 2010 21:51

    Like flowers of different hues, various cultures when strung together in a joyful harmony make a wonderful garland.

    Narayanan

  3. Zawmb'yee permalink
    8 August, 2010 22:58

         I like your post’s cheerful ruminations about culture. Charming.
         I don’t know much about blogging. I just recently took over my friend Doug’s Poetry Blog temporarily. I grew up in a secret cave society where we use the Utd’mbts language, a concept and picture language. I thought I knew quite a bit about our culture, but ever since I’ve become an apprentice to Utcoozhoo, our shaman, and since I was made temporary High Priestess, I’ve been shocked to learn how much I don’t know about our ancient civilization. I only just found out that there is a secret palace that I didn’t even know about. The more I learn about our culture, the more I think that it will be totally incompatible with the rest of the world. Utcoozhoo wanted me to assimilate into the up-top world, but also learn about the ancient world below.
         It’s a struggle, but I like your charming approach.
             Best Wishes,
    Zawmb’yee Nuje
    http://mojoepoe.wordpress.com

  4. 8 August, 2010 23:33

         Yes, you’re right: you shouldn’t have been rebuked for not removing your shoes in a Swedish household. I was rebuked once for throwing a shoe with a Swedish meatball in it. I was told I must hold onto the shoe and just let the meatball fly like from a slingshot, and told I must not hit the family dog. It was required that it land in the open mouth of the host only. These odd customs are difficult to understand.
         I enjoyed your post. Thanks.
    Doug
    Free-Verse Poetry

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