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Monday, December 13, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: One Size Does NOT Fit All

This is part 4 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.

Growing up in North America where culturally people are taught to be expressive, it is easy to take on a "One Size Fits All" mentality. What I mean by that it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we all deal with things like stress, anxiety, loneliness, fear, embarrassment in a very similar manner. But as my friendship with Marisa progresses, I am learning that one size does NOT fit all and in fact, her makeup as a person coming from this culture here in Argentina is entirely different than someone from North America and it is something I have to take into consideration all the time.

What this means is that her definition of friendship, ways of bonding, her needs or wants as a friend don't resemble anywhere close to what our idea of friendship is in North America. And even her way of dealing with things intangible like emotions and communicating her feelings manifests itself completely differently than anything I am used to.

Granted, we have established in our friendship that she will always talk to me if she ever wants or needs something from me as a friend and I would happily do anything I can to support her....however there is a second level of challenge that I'm just beginning to see. Can she actually recognize when she is feeling that something is lacking? She can't communicate something that she doesn't know that she needs. As a North American, I know when I am feeling that something is missing and I can easily write it out in an email and articulate it to her but I am not sure she can do the same.

Let me try and explain it a different way. I have a regular routine when it comes to grocery shopping. I pretty much buy the same sort of items every week and every month. But every so often, I'll purchase something different without knowing the reason why. For example, when my blood sugar drops too low, I'll find myself all of a sudden wanting chocolate milk. And I don't have a sweet tooth so this is not the kind of beverage I would simply drink for pleasure. My buying chocolate milk is an indication that there is a lack going on my body that my body is trying to compensate for.

Very recently I have started to get this idea that this is how Marisa operates. If we are together and somehow she feels that something is off with me and I don't have the connection with her that I normally do, she can't recognize it and tell me. Instead, she'll find herself doing something that she normally doesn't do to connect with me just the way I find myself buying chocolate milk when my body needs sugar.  Due to the way Argentines deal with energy & connection as it was explained to me and also in my personal experience, she's going to have no idea that there is a change in behavior.

This is an area that is important for me to look out for her as a friend because I can see when there is a change in her personality and I am learning to recognize the signs that my friends is feeling a lack of connection and respond to it quickly. It is abit challenging because I come from a culture where you are expected to communicate openly, freely, and expressively what is going on inside you. However, she has a very different makeup and I think that she even if she tried, she wouldn't have the capability to express herself to me that way.  And I wouldn't want her to be anything other than what God created her to be. God created her an Argentine and God gave me an Argentine as a friend and if we have to get creative to make things work between us....SO BE IT!!!

Strictly ballroom is a classic Australian film by Baz Luhrmann about a professional dancer named Scott who wants to win a ballroom dance competition. But there is a twist, he wants to win by using his own innovative dance steps as opposed to what's "tried and true". Scott gets paired up with an amateur named Fran who is willing to go off the beaten path with Scott.  Together they show the world that one size does NOT fit all....

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas