Cultural misunderstandings

I chose to wear my new sweater instead of an actual jacket yesterday and on my way home at the train station a man pointed at it and asked me about the design on it.

This led to a short but interesting conversation, since my stop was the first one.

He was an immigrant who has been in our country for 15 years. The man told me how difficult it still is for him because of the way people here are as part of our culture. He said he came from a place where everyone was loud and talked to everyone, people were open, and it was normal to start conversations with strangers. Our behavior is culturally the exact opposite to that.

So, coming here was a culture shock for him.

Most people who grew up here are not loud, or open to conversations with strangers, they like to be left alone on the public transportation or anywhere, really. People are very reserved over here and he told me that for a long time he had thought people were angry or against immigrants, but now he knows that is not always the case, people are just quiet and reserved because it is part of our culture.

I find it always interesting to get someone else’s perspective on things like this. And learn how it gets interpreted and where the misunderstanding may lie.

And of course there are the people who are against immigrants, but even here it is important to make the distinction as he had pointed out too.

Most people aren’t against immigrants per se, they are against the ones who don’t even try to understand our culture and be a part of it, the ones who only profit from our system but do nothing to take part in our society and just expect to only receive and give nothing back in return.

People tend to forget that not everything people do is a personal slight against you and sometimes it is just a person’s character or, as mentioned above, the way a different culture behaves. This doesn’t mean everyone is against you or racist or angry. It is just the way we have been raised for generations. Mind your own business, behave, don’t make a fuss, and be polite.

Understanding the culture you are a part of is very important in order to understand the behavior and whether the problem lies with you or the society you are in. I would say most of the time it is probably you, interpreting a situation according to your feelings and not trying to understand the situation as a whole.

Coming back to my original point, he had assumed for a long time that people were angry at him for being an immigrant, simply because of the way our culture behaves, yet it had little to do with him or his immigration statues, it was a simple cultural misunderstanding. He talked to people; he learnt more about our culture and he now understands nine times out of ten, the way people behave has nothing to do with him.

It was a great conversation. I tend to have some of the best conversations with strangers on a train.

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