Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Culture and Perceptions

When I started studying Mandarin, I did not expect for this journey to open my eyes to a whole new culture and a new way of seeing things. Today, as my teacher was explaining how Chinese people see addresses, I realize that each culture has a way of seeing things and none is better than the other, just different. Chinese people will say the country first, then the city, then the street name, then the number and after all that they will mention the person. For example, they would say USA, San Francisco, Main Street, 345, Mr. Smith. If you notice, Mr. Smith is at the end and he is not the focus of attention. My teacher kept explaining how Chinese people will go from big to small, narrowing down to the discussion point while American people will go just to the point and that is reflected in how we talk about addresses - Mr. Smith 345 Main Street, San Francisco, USA. The country comes last... does that mean that American people put the individual first before the country or anything else? As in the saying "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" I think the answer will depend on who you ask the question too and there is no right or wrong answer. Just different answers.

As my teacher pointed out the fact that many times, the problems between China and the USA are rooted on the fact that these countries and cultures look at the world in a different way, I couldn't help but think of the many times I've been in a position where I did not understand others because I was looking at their actions through my own lenses. When I moved to the USA, I experienced this first hand. I was in a foreign land, speaking a different language, with a totally different culture and new traditions. In the beginning, I could not understand how families would live far away from each other and maybe see each other once a year or talk to each other on birthdays. I have a big family in Argentina and we all live in the same province about 40 to 60 minutes from each other. I would see my parents every day, and talk to them twice a day. Needless to say it was a hard adjustment for me. As I said before, it was neither good nor wrong, just different and something I had to get used to.

It is always important to keep in mind that our perceptions may differ from other people's perceptions and to keep an open mind when we are sharing views. I think this is a hard lesson and even harder now when Mercury is Retrograde and communications are prone to take a wrong turn. If we could all be open to other people's views and let go of our own assumptions, the world would be a better place to live. We can only start with our own area. Remember, if you change yourself, you change your family, you change your community, you change your city, you change your state, you change your country, you change the world.

Blessings )0(

1 comment:

  1. This is so very true. Our perceptions from one culture to another can be so different. I took an intercultural communications class in college and it was so interesting (and eye-opening) to understand better those differences. The way I approach all communication now is conscious of the various cultural perceptions others are bringing to the table. As soon as a mis-communication happens, I take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It's helped me a lot in the business world, that's for sure!