Saturday, October 5, 2013

Same Same, but Different

This is a phrase I learned from a friend who had traveled in Thailand.  The word they say for the English equivalent of "different" sounds like "same same".  So, it's now a joke and a common phrase in Thailand.  It is also a good analogy for the bigger picture of cultural differences.

As i've spent time immersed in a different culture these last two years.  The most common reaction is to categorize everything as similar or completely opposite, so that it can be tied to something familiar.  Does that make sense?

There are soooo many things that were different initially in the Philppines that have now become common to me, but are definitely different in this culture.  Here's a little list of them.

1. no bowing!  This is used when moving inbetween people talking.  Ideally the passer by will bow low enough that the people talking will not see them, thus not breaking eye contact with one another.

2. Clean up after yourself! Whether dinning in a fast food restaurant or fine dinning, the waiters will always take away the dirty dishes and trash.  So, if you have been a waiter at a fast food joint and found yourself cleaning up after an unthoughtful customer, just think that they may be from another country and not know of their blunder.

3. Pointing ...  Directional gestures are just not as straight forward as one might think.  You see, in the Philippines the acceptable way to point was by making kissy-lips in the desired direction.  In the States this generally makes people feel a little uncomfortable and possible confused why you won't give a little directional help!

4. Attention!  May I have your attention please?  You might think the most logical way to get a person's attention is to yell their name or a general greeting.  This is not so the world over.  I learned to clap for people very far away (yelling is incredibly rude!) or, if closer, to make a kissing sound or a "shhhhht" or "ssssssst" sort of sound.

5. Spoon and maybe a fork: These are the most common utensils aside from hands.  Hands are always available, but maybe not always proper.  Spoons are especially available for everything from noodles to chicken.  And, the spoon is always used to deliver food to the mouth, never the fork, even when using a fork.

6. Individual vs. Community: It's amazing to look back and see just how much my outlook has changed.  This is a pretty common comparison world wide!  Personally, I went from just wanting to go on an errand by myself (in the Philippines) to always enjoying the company of a friend. So, here I am again in the individualistic culture.  Can't imagine the scandal of me walking down the street by myself!  Yet, it is a wonderful freedom to be able to stand "on my own" as a single woman.  Hear me clearly, because I do say that carefully.

Well, that's all for today.  Hopefully blogging will become a little more regular. :)  Kudos to people who blog regularly!  :)

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