“People from the south of Norway can be really mean: they lie to you in your face and then laugh at you,” somebody said to explain the difficulty she had with understanding irony.
And she was from Norway too (up north)! It took a while before she understood that people weren’t lying but telling an obvious untruth and that people weren’t laughing at her but with her. It took longer still to not just understand it with her mind but also with her feelings.
We’ve had some talks where the cultural differences are mentioned, but none of them included the fact that you will not even understand there *are* differences until you’re exposed to them.
Living in and interacting with the people of another country for a while will expose you to this and any feeling of awkwardness, annoyance, surprise etc will tell you there’s “something” there. It gives you the opportunity to see if you still prefer your own “norm” or if you want to adopt the other way of doing things. You’ll never be the same again.
Some say there is no ‘better’ way of doing but that depends probably on how you value the consequences.
When eight people from different cultures are put together in one room there will be interesting lessons to learn, such as the one guy who would eat the chocolate pie and drink the coke with his friends name on it. A totally normal thing to do for him since they were friends.
When somebody at a meeting mentioned there was a thief amongst them, everybody was equally surprised… He’d never expected that this worked differently in other cultures, and vice versa.
The “vice versa” is usually forgotten as stories are told through a lens. You’re reading this one through your own. I wrote this through my own, and as such it may not even make any sense.
Cultural differences can have very nasty and grave consequences too, such as with Jacintha Saldanha. Cultural integration is much more difficult and lengthy than most people realize; where we are at now though, it’ll be a source of learning and fun. I hope ;)