Cultural Differences (Continued)

Incense Drying in Vietnam–Image by Xuan Duong from Pixabay

I wrote about this yesterday in here, and today I feel that I have more to say on this topic. I said in the previous post that one can feel very strongly the first time one encounters the cultural difference, but that strong feeling can’t be reflected in one’s writing–when one writes about it, it doesn’t come out right. And I have an example:

Many years ago, I met R who’s from Sri Lanka. He told me the first time he left home, he came to America. He landed in Atlanta International Airport, where he saw a man adding milk and sugar into his hot tea in a plastic cup. He had never seen anything like that. It’s so different from how people drink tea back home and it’s so new. He suddenly felt so overwhelmed that he almost cried. Now I’ve totally forgotten the details of his “better” way of making hot tea (his mother of course made the best hot tea every morning), but I remember I instantly understood the feeling he was talking about–it really resonated with me. A trivial daily occurrence can provoke such a strong emotional response, seemingly for no reason.

If one tries to write his story, as I just did, one feels that the story is so inconsequential, the feeling seems too sentimental, the hero is probably immature, and it all feels so weak. However as a person who experienced similar things, I know the story is consequential, natural, and strong. It’s neither sentimental nor immature. However written words cannot do justice to the merit of it.

Now reflecting on the past, R is such a gentle soul and a wonderful person too. If I am going to write a story about him, what can I write? How can I make his story beautiful, knowing that this real person only has a mundane life, just like mine? I can imagine what a gentle mother he has. Actually he loves both his parents deeply (which is more than I can say for myself), but his mother and his father always have bitter fights. It became so bad when he was in middle school that his mother started to sleep in their family owned shop, which is connected with their family home. Everything his mother did was to spite his father, for which his father responded with equal animosity.

The fact that R is so gentle really made me more sympathetic towards him. My parents’ fights are more of a bitter comedy to me since I distanced myself from their fray since I was ten. I was never plagued by the hopes that my parents would miraculously have a good relationship. However R felt so tragic about the whole situation. He felt that it’s his burden to make the family a good family and to make his parents happy. He obviously put too much pressure on his gentle self. Or probably it’s R’s parents who put such an illusion on him…

12 thoughts on “Cultural Differences (Continued)

  1. Lovely story and I sooo get it why he felt this way with this “weird” and strange tea “ceremony” … like me nearly starting to cry at the German supermarket when I discovered cheese from my home district in Austria. It hit me unexpectedly … this tightening in the chest, the rapid breathing, the homesickness, the memories … just by seeing chunks of cheese on the refridgerated shelf … how stupid is that … 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here. How true. I just echo your sentiment sooo much. When one accidentally find something familiar in an unfamiliar place, one feels so overwhelmed. Yes, you are right. It is true. How stupid and how sensitive we are. i guess it is biology and we can’t do otherwise. We are programmed this way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember quite well how people get shocked by the little things, but I guess it’s one of those small shocks that remind us we’re in a different place. Once I went to Japan for a foreign exchange trip and even to China for a study abroad, and there were people who were shocked that no one uses dryers there. It’s also a big deal for Americans living in South Korea that Koreans add corn and eat pickles as a side dish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true. Our daily routines do affect our mind in a very subconscious ways. If they are disturbed, we can go crazy for no reason, or for very petty reasons. Yes, I guess when the cultures are too different, the shock will be even more severe.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you have explained yourself very well, today and yesterday. I did play tennis recreationally at University. My good friends still play to this day, socially. I also played Squash and golf. However, I played Field Hockey and Cricket at a very competitive level.

    I find myself forever wishing that others were more tolerant of each other when it comes to how we do something. I enjoy the cultural experience and differences I come across. I think one of the great levellers for us here is to do with food – both eating it and how it is prepared. So many people embrace different foods from all over the place. It wasn’t that way when I was a little boy.

    I do understand when someone says that’s a crazy way of doing or looking at things. However, as Herb points out, we often do things differently in different parts of Australia (it’s a west coast vs east coast thing). Then, growing up, I experienced different views on how tea is made 😂 Mind you, we are all united when it comes to sport at the national level.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true. I mean nowadays people have exposures or have the opportunities to get exposed to other cultures more. It is such a good thing. Sometimes it only takes a little experience. Really? That’s so interesting. I mean Australia also has west coast and east coast thing. That’s so cool. You remind me to pay attention to the sports since the Superbowl is coming. I usually pay attention to it once a year before Superbowl so that I don’t look too ignorant when other people talk about it. I know I am ignorant, but I don’t want to be too ignorant.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I found R’s experience very interesting. A thing a lot of people take for granted here that must almost feel like landing on an alien planet to someone else. Although, to be fair, it might be that in Sri Lanka they do some thing that seems natural and normal to them that I would cringe at. Even different parts of the U.S. have some very different customs from others. Anyway, I thought his story was interesting and felt for him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Herb. What a sweet comment. I can’t remember what he said about Sri Lanka tea making. He did say something and tried to describe something, which I didn’t quite understand at the time and now I’ve completely forgotten about it. I mean a simple difference of tea making can cause a big cultural and emotional turmoil. Human beings are strange creatures–I too experienced the same thing, but too embarrassed to relate. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s