Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't lose interest, Educate...

We live in a multi cultural metro political society, we meet the Asian, the European, the Middle Eastern, the African, the Hispanic, the Indian, we study then work with them, we live next to them, we buy and sell things from and to them. We invite them over and go over, we learn about their habits, their food, their culture and we share ours with them. And there are things we like so much about them and things that we are not crazy about. But regardless of what we like and what we dislike, we become open minded and none judgmental because of the exposure. Regardless how accepting or discriminating we are, the exposure to all those different cultures helps us understand the reason behind certain behaviors and we become more tolerant of things we don’t necessarily agree on or comprehend.
With all that we have the new arrivals every day, those arrive and blend first into their culture, they try to adapt to the American culture too since they live here now, and some make no effort whatsoever. However the new arrivals from the old world like me 10 years ago, grew up with no exposure but to their own tradition and culture. I remember when I first arrived to LA, I would not eat salad with any kind of fruits in it. Salads in my dictionary were a mix of vegetables and a dressing of only olive oil with lemon or vinegar. Anything else, I would be skeptical about. But I also remember clearly my feelings, I used to tell myself, people here don’t know how to eat, they mix up so many things that don’t go together. 10 years later, when my mom and dad arrived, I made them a salad that was my favorite, I don’t know the name but I know it had a bed of cabbage, with apples and oranges, nuts and red beans. Dad looked at the salad with the corner of his eye and said “what is that?” I said Salad, he asked “with fruits in it?” I said "yeah, I didn’t care for it when I first arrived too, I love it now". Mom was open minded about it, I do know however she didn’t really like it at first. The funny thing is that I believe we have the best kind of food here because we have all kind of kitchens, and sometimes these plates from different backgrounds intertwine and come up with more exotic flavors

But that’s a little example of food, there’s so much more that is dealt with differently, an important example is the kind of respect we have for each other’s privacy here, which is stronger than a lot of single-cultured countries, I have to be very sensitive in the way I present this,  I clearly remember when I called people on the phone the first few months or even the first year of my arrival, if my phone call was not returned in an hour or so, I got offended, sometimes I would be driving in a certain neighborhood and find myself driving by a friend's place, I would not think twice if I have some free time to knock on the door without even calling on the phone before before, " surprise!!!" I never thought it was a big deal, at least according to my background,  I learned here not to ask people personal questions that back home it was not just okay, but very normal. Religion is one of them, marital and parenthood status is another, what do you do for living is third and the list goes on….. Till today, I find myself relating in some ways to the new arrivals, I hear new expressions that I don't understand and I answer them funny, I express myself in certain body language that cracks up my friends, I still sometimes mis-express myself talking. And let me be clear here, if someone who you know that he or she is visiting or immigrated recently asks you certain questions, do not let that question turn you off, maybe even answer it if you care to, but take the time to explain once what is and what is not appropriate even if it's a given, believe me when I say this, they are thirsty to adapt, they're hungry to be politically correct without losing their identity, and they're frustrated with the cultural differences too. Do those questions make the new arrivals bad or rude? I wouldn't think so. I say, give them a chance, don't lose interest in them immediately, educate them and let me them surprise you, they won't forget what you taught them, but more importantly, they won't ever forget you