Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands"

       The following set of books is an example of ways we can learn some of the unspoken rules for dealing with other cultures. I have only read one of the books, the one for the whole world. I found it a good and fair resource for understanding the cultural nuances that we may be afraid to ask others about- out of fear of a a smug, defensive reaction such as "People are the same everywhere!". I mean deep down people are the same anywhere as human nature is human nature but there are still things we need to know. A friendly gesture in one setting may be offensive in another. Personal space also differs from one place to another. These books are mainly written for traveling business professionals in more formal settings. I don't get that these were written with Autistic people in mind, however I felt they were somewhat helpful. Many times Autistic people have to figure out scientifically what other people just know instinctively. These books are just a sample of what's put there if you look. Learning the ropes of another place is not the same as making vague stereotypes such as "The people in Country X are rude." or anything like that. If anything learning about cultural differences and acknowledging that they exist can give us insight on why we may misperceive others as "rude" and vice-versa. The definition of rude can vastly differ from one environment to another. To many people being direct is rude, to others beating around the bush is rude. Some people feel that the vast personal space and emotional reservedness in others as rude while they see a so called "warm, outgoing" culture as intrusive. Many times literal translations may not get our points across effectively without learning to "think" in another language. Some languages might not have a direct transition for please, thank-you, or excuse me, but they may be higher-context cultures where out manners and graciousness are to be implied in our tone and our actions.
       There is also a note at the beginning of one of these books about being open-minded. I don't remember exactly what it said but here's my two cents on the topic: Being open-minded is a good thing and it has nothing to do with how "conservative" or "liberal" or "progressive" or "traditional" we wish to label ourselves. Many progressives for example are passionate about womens' rights, animal welfare and economic equality which is cool. They also may be passionate about tolerance and cultural diversity which is also cool. When they observe things in another culture such as Sharia Law, consumption of dogs and cats as food, or a caste or class system, they may be the first to raise their eyebrows. Being open-minded doesn't mean we have to be total relativists or that any of these things need to be our cup of tea, it has more to do with placing our own biases aside first. I'm sure there other places on the web that explain this better than I can and I'm sure many reading this already know what I'm getting at.
       Here is the link to what I am talking about. I don't intend to tell anyone to buy or not buy any of these books or to "promote" anything. I just want to encourage people to explore the information that's out there:
       To be honest this is my first real blog and in some ways it is like learning a new culture. I do have some experience with Internet forums and to a lesser extent with Facebook, but still- there are many rules for blogging both written and unwritten that I have to learn as I go along.

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