Recently I was reminded that although we try to ignore race, culture, backgrounds, etc., there are some times when we truly are very different as a people.
Let me start by saying that I am sure I’m not the most politically correct person at all times nor am I always astute when it comes to the customs and habits of people from all parts of the world. There’s still a lot to learn and I am trying. However, I am fortunate that my workplaces and life experiences have led me to various parts of the United States and to several countries, all of which have proven to be good life lessons and exposure to those who not only look different than me, but have different belief systems, values, and sometimes, drastically different options and ways of life. I love that about my workplaces and travels! I feel this life road map helps open eyes to not only what’s physically different between us humans; it opens my eyes and ears to what makes people tick.
Recently though, I’ve been experiencing and witnessing some seemingly basic situations that turn awkward very quickly because some of the players involved in the real life skit don’t realize that they’re offending others, and in some cases, they may realize it but demand that others do and think what they do instead of considering why they’re not the same.
Even those who are somewhat well-traveled sometimes fail to understand some of the seemingly basic (IMO basic…) ways to interact with people of different cultures and races. Of course I don’t expect us to all be experts on every cultural aspect for every race, religion, way of life, and background. However, I do have some standards that as a human, to which I’d like to adhere and hope others would as well.
Let me reiterate, before sharing my observations, that I am not an expert on culture, religion, etc. However, I try to read body language, pay attention to verbal cues, and try like hell to not be insensitive to other people especially when they’re exhibiting awkward behavior, stilted responses or downright nasty glares when we talk or interact. I’ll use actual examples so as not to bore with the rhetoric or just share abstract and vague offenses.
I witnessed someone being verbally pummeled  by questions about pending nuptials repeatedly because it seemed so “foreign”, “cool but crazy” but [I wish you] “good luck with that!” (direct quotes) to enter into an arranged marriage. Mind you, the person asking has been married two times already and is planning on a third venture into the joining of two people within the next year. This led me to believe that based on just this scenario and comments that no arrangement or plan is perfect. It just depends on the people, their intent, goals, and who knows…maybe even love. However, it seemed to make the person who was about to get into the arranged marriage a bit sad and confused. Admittedly it made me sad but angry that someone would be that rude.
Another observation involved a work event at lunch time. Included in the list of attendees were vegans, vegetarians and your good ole meatatarians (self included!). Mind you, folks were vegan and vegetarian for years so this wasn’t something that crept up after the event was planned. The host decided that veggie hot dogs and burgers would be fine along with the sides, salads, fruit and an assortment of desserts ranging from cookies to cakes and pies. However he noticed that the vegans ate only the salad and raw fruit but no dessert, and the vegetarians ate only the sides of macaroni, potato, beet and green leafy salads and fruit. The only people who ate the veggie burgers and hot dogs were the meat eaters (when we ran out of meat). The host was upset. He had spent “soooo much time and effort” (he emphasized the word “so”) to find these quality “non-cardboard-like” items and was offended when they weren’t eaten by the target attendees.
Later, when I asked a friend why he didn’t eat the veggie “meat”, he said it looked too much like a real hot dog or burger and he couldn’t bring himself to try it but more importantly, he can’t eat gluten (and some other product that I forget the name of now) that is commonly found in one of the fake burger types due to a food allergy. But here’s the thing – he was very happy with the other food choices and thought the event was a success and was happy that the host went through such trouble to make the meal enjoyable. Meanwhile the host was busy being offended and had voiced to several people in a loud and grumpy manner that it was the last time he’d host a lunch event with “those Indians and damn hippie vegans”. If only the host asked before making the following assumptions: *sigh*
A: Only the people from India were vegetarians (they weren’t)
B: All vegans are hippies and therefore dismissible as somehow flighty or flaky and are following some fad (they’re not)
C: That his choice of food would fit all palettes (he didn’t ask the invited attendees if fake meat was something they’d like even though he knew them for awhile).
Line of Questioning Observations
Some Americans, mostly non-minority from my observations (but I’m wondering if it’s just an american thing in general…) will ask colleagues and even strangers that they’ve just met, some very personal questions about their lives. What I’ve felt, is that the questions may not be meant to be invasive or accusatory, but the reactions of colleagues and even strangers, is that it’s uncomfortable to be thrown such personal rapid fire questions and some react as if it were indeed, invasive. Honestly, there are lots of times I feel the same and I cringe internally when I witness it. Why? Well I don’t think it’s my boss’ business, or my colleagues beeswax what my significant other does for a living, earns, drives, etc. Nor do I think it’s any of my beeswax to know theirs. The only valid time I can see is if it’s an employee personnel issue such as, who to call in case of an emergency. Even then, that information should be treated as private and sensitive information that is not to be shared.
I figure if someone wants to share their personal lives and personal information with others, they will. No reason to go prying or worse yet, share news about someone’s personal life with another member of the office or as a random side story to incite shock and awe or the like. Want shock and awe?
Go do something that’s shocking or awe-inspiring!Are our lives so boring and uneventful that we need details on other people’s lives to fill the void?

Where does it come from?
I believe some of the bad behavior (IMO) comes from things said and done by our parents, society’s rules and suggestions, our environment and from our life experiences. However, I think some people are just less observant about other people’s behavior or preferences and just march right on into that direct line of rapid fire questions without regard for how someone may feel.
Here’s one example of how generalizations and stereotypes are propagated. Just a day or two ago I perused the NCLEX book (Preparation for nurses about to take the state board test to become an RN or other certificated professional) which contained some high level (some good and some a little laughable) details about various races and cultures. This included notes about “Asians revering silence” and to paraphrase, wouldn’t raise their voices or may say yes when they mean no, with “Blacks deeming direct prolonged eye contact as aggressive” and are more likely to be late and be loud talkers while “Whites deem eye contact as sincere (or maybe it was trustworthy?)” and will be more likely to be on time.
While a handful of Asian, Black and White people may very well have these traits and think this way, I find it interesting and a little sad that a textbook contains these “nuggets of information” for those who may become your caretaker. There wasn’t, as far as I recall seeing, a statement that says something like, “Take the following with a grain of salt” or anything to allude that they were generalizations based on stereotypes. Nope, they were listed as fact. Stone cold hard facts about people who look a certain way and have certain physical features.
Well I’m assuming that based on these “rules”, I, and many others who stem from multiple cultural and racial backgrounds would have some serious problems figuring out which “rules” to follow and how to deal with the contradictory behaviors that are supposedly innate to our genetic makeup. I bet my Asian (according to the book’s definition of what and who makes up the Asian population), silence loving, eye-contact avoiding self may detest the African descendant’s loud-talking blabbermouth habits while the white ancestors are screaming, “For God’s sake, you’re 30 minutes late and have the nerve to show up all loud and then glare when asked why you’re late! All I had to eat were these damn cardboard-tasting veggie bean dogs and some vegan dessert that doesn’t even taste like cake!”
Sigh. Can’t we all just get along?

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