This is part 2 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series. The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.
The blog today is about "clash of the cultures". It was half way into my friendship with Marisa that I began to realize that the way Argentines are set up is very different from the way that North Americans are set up. The way that we show love, deal with stress and anxiety, communicate frustrations....ALL of it was different. And it took a tremendous amount of love on both our parts to make this friendship work and get past both our language and our cultural barriers. But I feel so blessed to have a friendship where the other person is just hell bent on making it work and I truly believe that in our minds there was never any other option other than to end up with a successful relationship.
One of the challenges was the Argentine cultural values and the North American cultural values are very different. And there were times where we couldn't understand each other and didn't know where the other person was coming from. It wasn't until I read some articles and had some chats with people that I understood more about Argentine culture and her mentality and point of view. But I will tell you that there were times that it would have been VERY easy for me in that moment to have been insulted or feel offended by comments made that weren't intended to be an insult at all.
For example, I was chatting with her one day online and said that I wanted to get to know her more. She commented back "Oh, there is no reason to get to know me more. There is not more to see that what you already see." A North American hearing a comment like that might think that this woman does not have a good self esteem to say something like that. But they would be getting the wrong idea of my friend because in fact she is very healthy and does have a good self esteem. It's just that Argentines don't think of themselves as these deep complex spiritual beings who are ever-evolving. The truth is that we all are but they don't sit around and seek the meaning of life or go on a journey of self discovery. It's more like "This is me....what you see is what you get!" Her comments are a mere reflection of her culture.
As my understanding of the differences in our cultures increases, I am beginning to have tremendous revelation into how we are shaped culturally. From the day we are born, our cultures begin to teach us lessons. Lessons on proper behavior, dealing with emotions, making friends, cultural values and taboos. What makes things difficult is at times the lessons that I've been taught culturally are almost opposite to the lessons that she's been taught culturally. What is important in one culture isn't important in another culture. What is considered taboo or inappropriate behavior may be behavior that is welcomed, valued, and encouraged in another culture.
None of us really knew how much our cultural beliefs had been ingrained into us until friendship with each other shed light on our differences. It was only when learned to flow together and made our two cultures live in harmony with one another that our friendship really began.