What a diverse and complex planet we have created. Strip it back to its basic raw form and we have land and sea. Climate and environment dictated by the sun and wildife/sealife appropriate to that climate etc.
A melting pot of diverse cultures, religions, beliefs, languages and levels of respect for life. Each of the diverse groups originating from its own land, sea and climate/environmental influences. The advent of communications has spawned a feeling akin to a global village with information readily available and transferable at the swipe of a finger. Oh and of course there is man’s other great addition, war.
Man has picked up the original formula for the planet and thrown it into a giant drum, similar to those used in bingo halls, and mixed it all up over the years until now when we have the Giant Panda, unique to China, sitting in articially created bamboo haven in London, England etc.
The world is not a village of any kind and we fool ourselves if we think that. The strength of that raw individualism of birthright is alive and strong, albeit with greater strength in some areas than others. Cultural uniqueness does remain and long may it do so.
What spawns this rather “off the wall” Gill comment on life?
You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to conclude that my nigh on two year stay living and working in Moshi, Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, has influenced my words of today. Similarly, the fact that I am now (loosely speaking) entrenched and part of the furniture within my sons household and life in Bergen, Norway, I have been here for one month now, has also influenced my words.
Most that have experienced the acute withdrawal symptoms of leaving Africa as a volunteer will be nodding their heads and empathising with me, thinking that they know what I will say next. So much waste, no concept of real “need”, lack of respect for the simple things, fast paced, no community spirit, unfriendly blah blah blah.
What has hit me most (OK I don’t deny all the above including every blah blah that you can imagine) but what has hit me the most is the cultural differences of each individual country in Europe. The laws and ways of life in each country spawn a different set of ideals, a different way of behaving, a different expectation from situations.
We accept them readily and easily and never label them cultural differences. That phrase refers to the extreme surely? That phrase conjures images of scantily clad men and women with paint on their faces and crazy jewelery adorning their upper arms, ankles and ear lobes. You cannot say that greeting people by kissing on both cheeks (Spain) or kissing three times (The Netherlands) or a formal if brief shake of the hand (you guess!) is a cultural difference. But yes it is, and it is indicative of a deeper meaning to the phrase.
The laws of each country demand different responses to many things and that creates different expectations of the people who live there. For example alcohol and driving, being thrown into prison as a result of having had a single beer with chums before driving home has a massive impact on the way the people of that country expect others to behave. The point is, that the laws influence the attitude to alcohol, this is just as much a cultural difference as learning to eat solely with your right hand. But because we pop across borders freely and easily in Europe we don’t label these things as cultural differences.
Whilst alcohol laws is not an issue I have encountered, the example is a broad one to which we can all relate, but yes, I have had to learn to adapt in the face of starkly different attitudes to general life which would not be present in either Spain or England. My immediate reactions to such instances has been:
“Jeez, get real. What would you do if – insert appropriate example of Tanzanian life -!”
Step outside the European/Western zone for any length of time and immerse yourself in the ways of another region of the world and you will notice these things.
Maybe as a long term ex – pat (I have lived outside of England for sixteen years now) I sense these things more acutely, I don’t know.
Or is this philosophising is actually more about my need to make some serious life decisions personally, maybe…
“Dare I commit theses thought to words thus breathing life into them?”
… maybe Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania seems like home for me now and therefore I suffer culture shock when I leave?