Posted in cross-cultural, Culture, Uncategorized

What we see

“I wonder what different people see as they watch this?” That was the question in my mind as this Guiness advert was making the rounds on Facebook on St Patrick’s Day. Do we all see the same thing?

There is the obvious story.  Rather silly, but endearing and fun.  A dog herding a bunch of guys into a pub for a Guiness.

What about all the sub-plots, though?  How many outside the UK will have heard of “One Man and His Dog“? Already the plot is slightly less random.

And the Indian restaurant.  Not just any restaurant, but an Indian one.  Couldn’t really be anything else.  “Going for a curry“.  So much part of British life.  It implies a night out with friends.  Not really significant in the advert but still there.  But lost to many who lack the background.

Silly, I know.  What does it matter whether or not we get these things.  But.

How often does that happen in the stories we tell each other?  Stories about ourselves?  Phrases we use, little references – all are significant.  But the other likely will miss those.  And we feel misunderstood, not really known.

Even when we share a lot of the same frame of reference that happens.  How much more between different cultures!  It is so easy to think we understand and then to pass judgement.  Yet we only hear what’s on the surface and so easily miss what’s behind, the real meaning.

What we see, what we hear, can be so wrong, so far from what is meant.

Oh for the wisdom to hold my tongue, to listen, to seek understanding!

Posted in Uncategorized

Great Little Berlin Moment #3

Rule number 1: you don’t start conversations with random strangers on public transport in Berlin.

Rule number 2: you don’t let people know that you are reading their newspaper/magazine/book over their shoulder.

Well, both rules were broken this morning. I was on the S Bahn, reading an article by a friend of mine on honour and shame. Next to me were a mother and her young son, deeply engaged in a discussion about the Lego thing he wanted to buy with his birthday money.  Or so I thought anyway.  Suddenly mum says: “That’s a really interesting topic!”  It took me a moment to realise she was talking about one of the headings in my article, ” Choosing between honour and shame”. “The world would be a different place”, she went on, “if each morning we all decided which of those we wanted our day to be like, and let that guide our actions and even our thoughts!”  Not really what the article was about but an amazing statement nonetheless!

And then she says: “That explains so much about how the Japanese government is dealing with the whole Fukushima thing.”  More along the lines of the article.  We talked a bit about communication between cultures.  She was getting all enthusiastic:”It is so important that we learn to understand how other people think.  People should be taught about intercultural communication!  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  Even though there are kids from different cultures in my son’s class, they often don’t understand one another and the differences just lead to arguments and fighting.”  Then we arrived at my stop and I had to get off.

Maybe that’s why we don’t talk on public transport – you have to stop just when it gets interesting!