Myanmar 2013I love to travel. Experiencing new cultures is so fascinating. I'm envying members of my family who are off on trips from Spain to Thailand. Not that I'm going to sit at home all year. A visit to Victoria, BC and a visit to Atlanta are part of my future plans and I'm sure those trips would be plenty exotic enough for many. I believe I may have a new way of looking at them, too; because, right now, I'm learning about cultural anthropology. It's fascinating how strongly people hold their own cultural expectations. I know that being objective and not judging another culture that differs from my own isn't particularly easy. On the other hand, being aware that one has cultural biases is half the battle.
I think I may look at my future trips to other towns and cities in North America with eyes more wide open after studying this subject.
As someone raised in Canada, I already am aware of a lot of uniquely American ideas and how I have adapted to USA culture. In fact, it was at a visit to my old high school, many years ago, when former classmates remarked on how I thought like an American, that I decided to become a citizen of the USA, rather than just have a green card.
Yet, the differences seem slight and can easily be overlooked on just casual inspection. Also, having been raised in Canada, I'm always surprised when I notice that something seems different. Brand names may be the same but hamburgers taste different at McDonald's and Cheerios probably have a slightly different recipe in Canada. I have to smile that I'm always looking for the nonexistent toilet seat covers in public restrooms when I go to visit there. "Chips", that is, "french fries" for folk in "the States", like in England, are accompanied with vinegar. You ask the waiter for an extra serviette, not a napkin. Food and food service are areas where we often notice cultural differences. After all, people must eat; so, that part of a culture we observe frequently when we travel.
Some things one does not understand can be confusing when visiting a new place. My husband was shocked at how our son was treated on a trip years ago in Greece. He did not understand why this teenager was given the best seat at the table, why everyone fussed over him, why the cook brought out and peeled figs for the boy. The valued place of "the son" in a Greek family was a new concept.
In fact, I have dozens of stories from our travels.
I just do not look for differences as often in areas close to home; yet, even the suburbs have different cultural patterns than the city.
I appreciate authors who notice details. They make their stories ring true when they get the subtleties correct.
As for me, I am pretty sure I miss a lot of clues and end up with my foot in my mouth or other such faux pas on many an occasion. Humankind the world over tends to have a sense of humor, though, and I hope my ability to laugh at myself eases a lot of the tension.
At any rate, I hope to keep looking at what makes us different and interesting. Maybe a keen eye will provide fodder for future scrapbook pages and blog posts.