I often talk about how big a deal culture is when it comes to human interactions. People are quick to dismiss this fact, they shrug their shoulders and say "Oh we're all human and our souls have only one culture so it doesn't really matter, I don't see culture I only see hearts." Very nice words to hear, but very unrealistic. When put into a situation where those very same people need to adjust to people of different mind sets and means of expression, suddenly those very nice words don't have much muscle! That's because, the truth is, we are all affected by our cultures and by the cultures we've been exposed to. We judge people and write them off as being like this and as being like that, when in fact all those "like this's" and "like that's" are cultural differences! Of course, this isn't applicable to every single difference between people, but the greater percentage? Most certainly so.
I have had the vantage point in life, since I was a child, to be immersed first-hand in different cultures. I truly know what the word "adjust" means and I truly know what things begin to look like when people resist compromise and the willingness to understand each other. It can literally break families apart. Right now, I am always the one who steps up in between people in the family and says "Wait a minute, don't say that about her, because this is what her culture is like..." and I explain things. Or I'm the one saying "Wait a minute, it doesn't necessarily mean that, it most probably means this because this is what his culture is like..." and I explain the cultural differences. It's like walking on ice. And I can walk on ice.
To make things easier for people to understand, I like to divide the cultures of the world into two major groups. Of course I know that each and every culture has it's own colors and tunes, but there are two big blankets that cover, that overlay, and it's easier when we look at all people as laying underneath either one of these blankets. This is how I like to show it: one blanket is covered in vibrant, raw colors! Exuberant and flawlessly animated and free! The other blanket is a blanket made of subdued colors! Understated, mute, reserved. I'd like to say that I could roll underneath either blanket and feel comfortable, but to believe that would be naive of me! I can move around well underneath either blanket, but I prefer to sleep under only one. I think that no matter how well you are able to move around underneath these two blankets, you are going to prefer to sleep under just one.
We have very raw and vibrant, expressive and free, uninhibited peoples, such as the Greeks, the Italians, the South Americans, and etc. And there are the very reserved peoples: the French, the Northern Europeans, and various social communities in the United States, the Chinese, and etc. In the Orient, you'll find the most reserved culture is the Chinese culture, with the French culture being the most reserved culture on the European continent (in my opinion and view of things). You may argue that you'll find very understated people in countries like Norway, but the thing about Norwegians for example, is that though they are reserved as a people; once you do make that connection and are able to go beyond that wall, you've found a truly warm, truly giving, truly understanding friend for life! And that's different from lets say, the French, who can be very giving and warm initially, if they so choose to, but then you eventually do hit that wall you aren't allowed to go beyond. So it is the positioning of that wall which makes all the difference! As with the Germans; you hit the wall first, but going beyond that wall you find a friend for life! The Chinese culture is very interesting, as there is absolutely no room for mistakes, there is a wall in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, and there are so many polite traditions (like the French politeness and traditions), that it's rather difficult to determine if the person is being genuinely loving and accepting, or if that same person is just "performing" what is socially acceptable and expected of him/her! Now, people will always say that the French are snobs, but I strongly disagree. The French are not snobs. When I am in France, I am honestly the biggest snob in France, so it is impossible to believe that the French are snobs! Au contraire, the French can be very warm, kind, extremely, extremely polite people! But then! They have this fear of going deeper! It is a fear that suddenly grips them and shakes them and they simply can't move! And it is a jealousy, as well! It's not a snobbery, it is a jealousy. If you make a French friend, don't be surprised if this French friend denounces you as their friend if you attempt to make a friendship with any one of their other friends! And vice versa! To the French, one's friend belongs to one alone! And to introduce a friend to another friend is like giving away what is yours, it is a heresy, a blasphemy! And so you can just imagine for yourself what kind of a society occurs when people don't want to be friends with other people's friends, when people say "this person is mine." In other parts of the world, we go to parties to socialize with other people's friends and make friends out of those people, but not in France! This is not their reason to go to parties! So, as you can see, this is a jealousy, they cannot take to see a human warmth emanating between people that they want to be their own. So, the root of it all is not a snobbery. I am a snob. The French? The French are not snobs, the French are a jealous people. Jealous and reserved.
When we look unto cultures like that of Greece, where friends literally feed each other food with their own fingers: sticking that food into their friends' mouthes; we are looking at an almost completely different species! There are none of those walls, none of those inhibitions (physically and emotionally), you can meet a Greek person today and in this same day be that person's friend for life, and then go home with that friend and meet his/her family and friends and all of their family and friends are now your family and friends! And this is the kind of flow you will find in the Italian culture, where people really are not going to spend time making every effort to be polite to all the other people around them. I personally feel comfortable underneath this blanket! I could never spend my life wondering what every single person around me is thinking if I laugh too loud or if I forget to say "bonjour" or "au revoir" to the sales person who sold me my compact powder. I couldn't go through life like that, period. It doesn't work for me. I'm not an extremely polite person. And I like to feed people I love! I like to put food in their mouthes and I like to make a friend for life, in a single day! I like to hear people laughing too loud and shouting at each other and I like to hear people making love in apartments while I walk through the streets! This is the blanket that I feel comfortable under. And I want all my friends to be each others' friends, as well! I can see how this can be deemed as rude, inappropriate, and etc. but as I have said in the past, "...who cares about polite?", "...you want people to remember you as the passionate one, not the polite one." With that being said, I do believe that there are many polite ways and polite manners that we all would benefit from having. I am extremely polite when compared to some of the people I know, but I am not extremely polite when compared to the French or the Chinese. The French are to Europe what the Chinese are to the Orient. The Chinese are the French of the Orient.
I don't like to discriminate people and say that all people are the same, but these two "blankets" can give all of us a very general, broad, and easy view so that we can realize what kind of culture we fall under (generally) which is the first step to seeing yourself for who you are, what you want, and what direction you should take in life when it comes to meeting people and looking at serious relationships with people. Of course, it's always possible that a Greek person and a French person get married and be in love despite all of those differences, that a Chinese person and an Italian person understand each other and become friends for life! This is always possible. And, I need to point out that here in this article I've written, I'm discussing culture, not race. You can be full-blooded Chinese but having been born and raised in Brazil, you are a completely vibrant Brazilian in heart and in mind! Because it's not the race that influences people, really. It is the culture. And I hope this little article of mine will be something that you the reader will take to heart and benefit from in the future.
As a final note to this piece I've written, I want to leave you with the thought, that you don't always have to stick to the norms of your own culture. You have the freedom to choose, to say, "I want to be that way" or "I would rather change my ways and adapt their ways" because this lifetime isn't forever, and you weren't born into the world in a cage and under rules stating that you must under any circumstance stick to one pattern of thought and only one pattern of living and outlook on life! You don't have to be only one way just because everyone else around you is only that way. You can be you, and you is whoever you choose to be!