Culture cones with three scoops
If you have ever experienced getting the local greeting wrong, don’t worry, you are not alone. It can be a minefield. This happened many times to me in several greeting situations when I thought they were going for the kiss but it was the hug and now I just drooled on their face then head-butted them in the nose.
I have also found myself on the receiving end of misplaced greetings, hugging a friend who slobbered a kiss into my ear. . It’s always that moment of hesitation, of indecision, that causes bashed heads and awkward embarrassment. Rings a bell?
All this and so much more has to do with cultural behaviors of which we become aware of and start questioning upon stumbling in a different culture. More often than not our own habits, rules, rituals, way of communicating, values, social norms those which we take for granted in our own culture, turn out to be the primary source for misunderstandings and awkward embarrassments in other cultural contexts.
Now how can your children’s curiosity benefit your transition and adaptation when moving to another country? We have all experienced how our children in fact at all ages, view the world different from us by asking questions and making surprising comments.
And it is exactly this curiosity which is so helpful to them as well as to you as a parent and can certainly smoothen the transition. A fun and playful way is pretending they are detectives discovering a new culture. When being in a new, unfamiliar culture there are several cultural scoops to be discovered.
1st Scoop: Arts, money, food, music, transportation, mass media, fashion. Most easily seen in a new culture. Ask your children to search for the difference in the money you use back home and in your new country; what are the differences in transportation; and how does the local food taste differently? How are people dressed differently? You got it by now?
2nd Scoop: National heroes: artists, music stars, celebs, soccer, ice hockey heroes, ect. These are the unspoken rules. What kind of differences do your kids notice when watching the local tv – stations, which are the most famous nationals sports players/ music stars, what are different celebrations and national holidays other that yours?
3rd Scoop: Values and norms/ use of time and space. These are the unconscious rules. Everything which seems to be very natural and day-to-day in the host country while your kids wonder why these people do as they like bringing gifts to birthday parties what are the national ‘rules’ and even more interesting: ‘why?’, commercials, local jokes and sayings, and off course personal distance and ways of greeting among kids and their parents….
This game can be played everywhere, just imagine you put on your cultural detective hat and you bring your magnifying glass and you good to gooo: in a restaurant, at the grocery store, at a party, at the playground, in a car, at the movies, at ect.
We can only enjoy the taste of the second ice cream scoop after having finished the first one, same goes for the third scoop. The process for discovering a new culture is alike. Which unfortunately means just drooling on their face then head-butting them in the nose….
Now dear reader my question to you is: ’Did you ever ponder upon the ‘rather typical cultural’ behaviors in your country?’Maybe foreigners have brought this to your attention by asking you questions on local national behaviors and habits you would know how to answer other than: ’tis is just the way we do things’…
In case you have collected some I would love to receive them, so please feel free to share them by leaving a comment. Many thanks already in advance!