Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cultural Assumptions

Whether it's endemic to a whole country, city or just a single family, 'culture' leads to assumptions. And if you're a foreigner in that culture, get ready for misunderstandings.

Thankfully I was not involved in this illustrative example, a classic case of my understanding of "plans" vs. a Turkish understanding:

We're at the summer house with my husband's extended family. (NOT all staying in one house, I should add.) Every morning for weeks now, my 70-something mother-in-law goes for a morning swim with her daughter, who has a house two doors down, at 8. But this morning I saw D in the garden chatting with a neighbour returning from a swim at 7.30! Apparently her husband had woken her up early for a 6 o'clock swim. She made no mention of the fact that her mother might be expecting her shortly for their usual workout.

Meanwhile, my mother-in-law was still sleeping at 8; she came downstairs at 8.30 in her bathing suit and went down to the beach, not at all concerned about the fact that she missed her usual 8am date!

To strengthen my case: my other sister-in-law arrived last night and told my mother-in-law she'd be by at 8 to go for a swim. I saw her in the water at 9.30am; apparently she'd slept in.

So now we have two more jilted people: daughter number 2 stood up her mother; mother potentially stood up both daughters! Never mind the fact that she'd double-booked both women!

No one was considerate enough to call anyone else in this triad to inform them of a change of plans; and no one was in the least put out by having been stood up or concerned about flaking out of plans (note my cultural bias, as revealed by my word choice).

So which came first; did repeated disappointment lead people to stop having expectations of others? (In my opinion actually a healthy frame of mind.) Or does everyone just know that no one has expectations, and that a missed date won't be a big deal, and so feels no need to communicate changes? Either way, I envy my in-laws' and other Turkish people's easy-going nature in this regard.

At least as long as I'm not the one being stood up. I have yet to get used to or to appreciate the mental/emotional health benefits of that.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could get used to being stood up. Are Canadians all clock-watchers? I agree, having no particular expectations of others is a very healthy state of mind.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel