Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Little Mermaid: Day 1,624

I am actually not in front of my computer as this post goes live.  I should be at my future in-laws' house getting ready to celebrate my first Christmas with them.  Technology allows me to schedule this post to go live in the future.  YAY!

The other day, I had "Part of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid" stuck in my head.  Why, I have no clue, especially as it has been years since I've seen that movie.  At any rate, one line stuck in my head. "Betcha' on land, they understand. / Bet they don't reprimand their daughters."

No, this post has nothing to do with my parents.  What it does have something to do with is cultures.  When we haven't had the time to live in a culture and the only exposure we have is through "gizmos and gadgets aplenty," we are bound to have assumptions about that culture without really knowing.  And there are two paths those assumptions can take.  We can assume that the other culture is like our culture or unlike our culture.  Ariel (The Little Mermaid) assumes that the "human culture" is unlike "mermaid culture" where, apparently, daughters are reprimanded.

I am a "gizmo and gadget" of US culture.  My can opener is another.  As are a couple other things which I can't think of right now but that my fiance has asked "What's this?  What's it for?"  Sometimes my neighbors ask questions which seem weird to me.  Sometimes their questions reflect their culture so much that I completely don't understand what it is they are trying to ask.

I still remember when one of my neighbors felt offended that I wouldn't buy one of her weavings.  I didn't have the money for it and, quite frankly, I didn't want it.  However, "I don't want that" sounds too much (in my head) like "That's an ugly weaving you've made;" so, I simply told her that I didn't have money to buy it and didn't know when I would.  She said something like "Well, when do they send it?"  And I was like "Who send what?"  "Your parents," she replied.  "They send you money to make sure you have what you need."  And I'm thinking, "Look, lady.  What my parents do or do not send me is none of your business.  If you must know, my mother sends me a care package once or twice per year, and I see them once or twice per year and always bring down a bunch of stuff.  While I'm there, they provide a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and a reasonable amount of gas in their car for me to use.  It is rare that my parents actually give me money, not because they don't think I need being cared for but because they feel that for the most part they have taught me to care for myself."  As for what I actually told her, "Oh, no.  The culture there is very different from the culture here.  I'm an adult and my parents expect me to care for myself.  They don't send me money, and I haven't taught many English classes this week."  (When she insisted I take it and pay her when I did have the money, I insisted that I prefer to not owe anyone money and that if I had the money in the future, I'd go to her house and look at her current work.  I haven't seen or talked to her since...and I still don't have the money or the interest.)

Anyway, this neighbor did the opposite of Ariel in the Little Mermaid.  She assumed that the US culture was the same as the Guatemalan culture.  And I think the assumptions we make are mostly based on whether or not we see something as a good thing or a bad thing.  If it's something we perceive as good (on some level), we assume that other cultures are the same.  If it's something we perceive as bad, we assume other cultures are different.  Don't get me wrong.  It's not bad to reprimand your daughters, but when a girl is 14 or 16 or whatever, she does not want to be reprimanded, and it is bad in her opinion.  At the same time, parents sending their adult children money could be a good thing, but it could also easily be a bad thing as the child doesn't necessarily learn to be an independent adult...which really isn't an issue in this culture as families tend to share more, but I won't go into international financial success in this post (or probably ever unless someone really wants to hear about it).

Anyway, I ramble a lot, but basically we take the parts of our culture that we like and apply them to unknown cultures and we take the parts of our culture that we don't like and assume that other cultures are different.  And then when we get to really know the other culture, we somehow are surprised when the other culture doesn't work out the way we figured.  And sometimes it's a good surprise...and sometimes it's not a good surprise.

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