There is a story going around about a little girl who had two apples, one in each hand. She offered her mum one if she wanted one. Her mum said: “Sure!” The little girl then proceeded to take a bite from each apple. The mother was shocked and a little bit annoyed that her daughter was silly enough to do such a thing. Seeing the surprise on mum’s face, the girl responded: “Mummy, I wanted to see which was the sweeter one so I could give you that one!”
It is so important to understand each other and not judge or feel insulted. How often do we go to places and find things offensive, when in fact the other party may actually be trying to be quite polite! If we find ourselves caught up in a situation especially with a person from another culture then take a minute to reflect where they may be coming from. It may save you a lot of grief!
One girl mentioned in one country that the gentleman escorting her to a venue opened the door and then entered through it first. She was offended. “No ladies first?” she huffed and puffed! In fact this Asian boy was actually thinking he was being polite as he entered first in order to hold the door open for her and allow her to enter at her own ease.
In Korea for example, having naked toes especially in intimate gatherings would be, well, akin to showing a cleavage! It’s not quite polite. Make sure you put on some socks if you go there!
Also in Asian countries they would probably find us foreigners rude as we pass things with only one hand. It’s customary there to give things, and I mean everything, even your till receipt, with two hands, or at least one hand holding the arm that is giving it. It’s a form of respect and courtesy.
Here’s another example! Slurping your soup in one culture will give the message to the cook that you actually love the soup! Whilst in another country it would be considered rude and very bad table manners!
Some cultures just don’t like to say “no” to you, and so instead say “inshallah” (God willing), or yet others say yes to everything because it’s too impolite to say no. In other cultures one would want to know …is it a yes or is it a no? They want to know exactly where they stand so that they can respond accordingly.
So I think the point is made! It’s very easy to misinterpret, misunderstand and make assumptions.
It’s also arrogant to think that we are right all the time. We may be ‘politically correct’ in our own country, but go somewhere else and it may be a whole different story.
There is always more than one way to do things. But if we have blinkers on we may never see that.
Open the heart, free the mind, be open to learning about other cultures and their ways… it’s humbling, and at the same time heart-warming.
And by the way, next time an Indian shakes his head from left to right, he actually means to say YES!!
It’s Time… to put aside the prejudices and accept the differences. And make sure you are wearing the right attire in the right place!
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK