Some differences are in our head, and what’s in our head are even more difficult to change than visible and perceptible aspects of differences like accent and manners etc. Not that I can change my accent or my manners. I can’t. However I know it’s there and I’ve developed a way to deal with it.
It all comes from the poem “Cemetery Ride”, in which a pleasant bike ride in a Florida cemetery is described in a relaxed and fun style. How nice. I read it before, but didn’t notice until now that an Asian poet will never write about a cemetery in this way. Well, I can’t say never. I mean it will not happen without substantial cultural change. A cemetery is to be avoided and only to be visited in the annual “tomb sweeping” day; a cemetery poem is either sad or eulogizing–well, the best praise is usually reserved for funeral and this aspect of human reality is probably universal in all cultures.
Actually my friend L pointed this cultural difference to me before, but I didn’t pay much attention. She said that in America people don’t care if a piece of real estate is close to a cemetery. She means that a house next to a cemetery will not suffer a price loss. It is true. “Are people afraid of ghosts here? Ghosts can come out of the cemetery and haunt their house.” She asked, but I didn’t know how to reply. She’s a mortgage broker and had American colleagues. “You can ask your colleagues.” I said. “How can I ask? Are you afraid of ghosts? Just like that. They are going to think I am half mad.” She said.
She’s right. A lot of things just can’t be included in a conversation. First there has to be a context to get into such a topic. Then once there, one has to explain the cultural fear of living right next to a cemetery, the mythical habits of ghosts in another culture, and the reason why one feels incomprehensible that people make random visits to cemeteries and build houses next to where the ghosts live. So much explanation to do before one can ask, “are you afraid of ghosts?” Nobody will do a conversation in such a long detoured way. It’s like a comedian telling a long joke. Before she comes to the punch line, she has already lost all her audience.