...Some, however, involve themselves in their new cultural surroundings, and learn to appreciate it, and in doing so, become more aware of their own cultural assumptions and of alternate life-styles. They acquire an international perspective and the ability to adapt to more than one culture, but at the price of being fully adjusted to none of them. They are often happiest when they are flying from one country to another.
-Cultural Anthropology, Paul G. Hiebert
I'm scanning through this book that a friend loaned me when I told him I was struggling through what to teach my American Culture class. It's interesting, especially the little story snips from different cultures. I read the above quote this afternoon after happening to talk about the same thing with a friend at lunch today. I am still learning more about the cultures here, but I also find myself questioning what is really American culture and how to answer certain questions my students ask me. I told my students that I am not the typical American but hopefully I can answer questions based on what "normal" Americans would think or say.
Last week, my Chinese tutor wanted to tell a foreign teacher that he was handsome. She asked me what the correct way to do that would be. I told her that unless she wanted him to think she liked him, she probably shouldn't comment on that. That's my response, but it's certainly not every American's response. She persisted in asking, trying to find an okay way to say that. I told her that she could say he looked nice today without much worry, but she wanted to say more than that. She said that she often encourages her friends (male or female) by telling them they are attractive. I wanted to tell her that it was a superficial way to encourage people anyway, but I didn't go that far. Commenting on people's appearance (good or bad) to them seems to be a common part of both Korean and Chinese culture.
Anyway, I kept on telling her there really wasn't a good way to say what she wanted to say, but then I started second guessing myself. Maybe this is just my response and not the way most Americans (or Westerners) would view this situation. I asked a few of my friends here and they agreed with me, but we're probably all culturally confused.
I do agree that I am no longer fully adjusted to any culture, but I can't agree with the last sentence of the quote above. I definitely don't think I'm happiest on the plane between places.
I told my swimming buddy about the picture I took of the locked door to the language lab as we were walking out of the (new and nice!) swimming building. At the same time, we saw these guys putting down the center stripe on the road up to the building. She told me that I should take a pic of that, so I did. She (this is another example of not remembering how things are done in America) asked "Is that how we do it at home?" I told her, no, I think we have special cars that paint the stripes. These guys were working with a string, paint, and boards to mark the outsides of the lines.
I do know that I've never seen a toilet like this in America. It's the one closest to our office in the foreign languages building. This is one stall in a line. You walk in and close the door, but the door only covers up to chest level. You squat, legs straddling the trough, and go. The other people are straddling the same trough in front or behind you. You don't flush, but water comes down from a large tank at the back of the line every so often to sweep away the stuff. It's actually the cleanest version of a squatty I've seen, so it's not a bad experience. Sorry if that was too much info, but I wanted to share. :)