Cultural differences, cliques in school, are in every cafeteria. The smart people sit over there. The pretty people sit there. The footballers in the middle gregariously demanding all the attention.
Sometimes divided by appearance
while other times belief, interest or personality.
Humans divide themselves into tribes. A primitive survival instinct, we have done this since the beginning of time for safety and security.
The funny thing is that we don’t really do it all that well. It’s a work in progress.
SEEING THE UNSEEN
Our son was in 4th grade when we moved to Texas from Minnesota. Within the first few weeks he said, “The kids are nicer here.”
It wasn’t that the kids were actually nicer. The Texas kids used a rule of respect for everyone that was similar to our son’s definition of nice.
Every community has a way that it acts. Hence the stereotypes.
People fall in line with what is acceptable in public, even when they disagree.
“HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM”
Sometimes the cultural differences attack your rules or sensibilities.
While living in Minnesota, I met a woman born and raised in Philadelphia. She had been in Minnesota about 3 months when she asked me,
“Why are they looking at me?” Carol said.
“What?” I responded.
“At the grocery store. Why are the looking at me?” Carol asked again.
“Minnesotans will make eye contact as an unspoken greeting. Sometimes they will even ask you if you need help when you look concerned.” I explained.
“Why? I don’t like it. What do they want?” she asked with real concern.
“Nothing. It’s just what they do.”
Carol was truly unnerved. Being from the Northeast, she had been taught since childhood to keep your head down, get your business done and keep moving. Eye contact meant trouble or harm. That Minnesota Nice thing was hard for her to understand and adapt to.
OBSERVE AND LEARN
Moving around the world or even 30 miles from where you started, expect to find cultural differences from extreme to subtle
Knowing the rules of behavior and watching people in action helps you form an understanding of where you are. To get back to living your way, this is imperative.
° How do people greet each other?
° What are some of the colloquialisms?
° What do they reference on a regular basis?
° How does the accent affect your perceptions?
Whatever you find different, ponder it. Where does it come from? Why do they do that? Is this part of their cultural history or something more recent? What are the most important issues of the local community and the larger city?
An extreme example are the serious racial problems in Baltimore. These problems have plagued this community for over 100 years. Everyday language, attitudes, rules and expectation here both perpetuate and fight the conflict.
You might find yourself scream thinking,
“WHY CAN’T PEOPLE BE NICE, GET OVER IT
and MAKE THE COMMUNITY BETTER?
Isn’t that what everyone WANTS???”
Yes and no. How do you change what is ingrained within the culture of the community?
CAREFUL JUDGING OTHERS
Coming from a like-minded community with a similar value set, causes most people to harshly judge those that live by divergent values.
Judgement creates separation and isolation.
Remember that no matter where you land, though never perfect, people are mostly good and honest. Approaching the new community with this truth creates an expectation of finding good people and creating strong connections.
Whatever you ask, your brain will provide an answer;
whatever you look for, you’ll find.
Tony Robbins Facebook May 2016
SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN BE UNDERSTOOD ~ Stephen R. Covey
Understanding is about choosing to learn about people before we judge or try to change them or a situation. No one takes well to be challenged or belittled. Working to understand shows respect.
Respect is a polite attitude, is not agreement.
Make an effort to understand others, even where a contradictory attitude or belief could be divisive. We agree 100% with very few people in life, showing respect allows us time to find something we agree with.
This patience and curiosity may also provide a perspective and the space to create a real solution to cultural differences, like that of Baltimore.
CULTURE, YOURS vs. NEW
Culture is communication through words, actions, attitudes, and tone.
What are you communicating and what are they communicating?
Are either of you missing the point or misunderstanding intention?
The Cultural Differences worksheet give you a place to explore the differences between your expectations and this culture’s norms.
Immerse yourself in your community to find them all, especially the new language.
- New York “Schlep”
- Atlanta “Ya’ll”
- Minnesota “You betcha”
- Southern California “Dude”
Ultimately, you will find commonalities and your place in the new community. You will create a support system that encourages and allows you and your family to thrive.
Identifying the differences is the starting point to making this home.
If you have any suggestions to help others please email me at Annette@ReloMoms.com. Together we live great Relo Lives!!
A ReloMom currently in the wilds of Texas, working to encourage and inspire others while seeking another adventure.
Silent Language by Edward T Hall talks about how the secondary or unconscious culture moves with us from place to place and how it affects our sense of self and our interactions with others.
Avoiding Election Infection: How to keep your influence in a divisive world by Andy Stanley