Monday, April 7, 2008

various cultural trainings

This weekend I stopped at the sarong/jewelery/etc local shop, held by a Lebanese man. The shop is very successful, he has very nice and unusual items for sale, and is a master of picking the right colors/designs for you. Women send him money and ask him to send them something that would fit them. He is that good.

Anyways, what makes the shop special is that man. Because he is so warm, welcoming, friendly, including everyone into the circle. He is like a sunschine that radiates warmth and welcome. There is some intangible quality that says: HI! I am so glad to see you! Isn't it wonderful to be here together, to be alive! Let's celebrate! Let's talk, let's be together! He is into singing and playing guitar, so he does that for his customers. People love it! He has about 400 people who signed up to buy his CD, and has been invited (all expenses paid) to sing in Alaska, New York, etc. even before his CD is out. Not to mention all the celebrities that stop by and drop their business card.

This sunshiney, welcoming, throw-the-red-carpet quality is a gift to everyone. It is very middle eastern. I know, I am from around there. Enjoying life and being family-like, personable and openly welcoming to everyone is very middle eastern.

The next day I went into African American community. I will say "black" although it is not black - it is anywhere from latte beige to nice oatmeal golden to dark coffee brown. Well, there might be one who is almost black. So far I have seen only one person who was truly black. Anyways, it is how they feel on the inside, not what they look like.

And boy, how do they feel! That community is not welcoming or friendly. They are very sensitive and standoffish and show offs. In some ways I am their customer too, because I pay them for classes. However, their attitude is: I am better than you and you are in my class for me to show it, so kiss up to me or shut up. Gosh, that doesn't feel good at all. Only a die-hard for the class will hang out. Their approach is based on showing off. If they somehow figure you are "weak" then they kick you. If you stand strong, then they stay away. I often have a desire to bail out of there, it feels so unpleasant. I wonder why am I there and if there is a better place for such classes.

The true Africa is very smiley and warm and friendly. Happy. Africans have something which is genuinely happy, deep inside, in a very light, warm way.

These are all stereotypes in some ways and there is much more to be said about bad and good of each culture (e.g. middle-easterners can get very proud and chop you up, African-Americans can be very fun loving and are usually good friends to each other).

These cultural traits are prevalent in the cultures and we are trained in them as we grow up. Everyone knows about East European melancholy, Japanese inscrutability, French eating, and so on. Those traits are true, to one degree or another. Want it or not, we have it. Good luck in dealing with it :)





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