Anecdotes About Cultural Differences

February 7, 2017
Lately, I've run into a few surprises while living abroad in China and while traveling through Morocco and Spain. I thought it might be fun to do a little write up on what exactly I've come across recently and explain how I ended up with a cultural lesson.

In China- I told my Chinese friend happily that my year of bad luck was over because it's the Year of the Chicken, which is my zodiac animal. She informed me that actually it was the opposite, and when it's your year that you have to be extra careful because it's like a curse is on you. I couldn't believe it! She said it's true and that Chinese people wear red and jade to drive away the bad luck. I like reading about astrology and the zodiac for fun, but am just slightly superstitious about being cursed this year. I guess I have an excuse to buy some jade jewelry, right? 

In China again- I was walking down the street I walk on most frequently in Shanghai. It's the street that my school is located on. My friend Lauren needed to stop and use the ATM to withdraw cash. As I was waiting for her, something appeared to have fallen from the sky and hit me on the head. I was startled and a bit horrified as I pulled a wrapper from some type of food out of my hair. There were even a few crumbs from the food wrapper stuck in my hair. Someone was in an upstairs apartment and just carelessly threw his or her trash out of the window, and it happened to fall right on me. I've never had that happen before, but now I'm going to be more wary when standing by apartment buildings. Please check out this article for more information on littering in China--it's very interesting on how they're now using DNA to shame people who litter!

In Morocco- Our tour guide Hassan told me that he was 35 years old. A few days later he mentioned that he was 37, and I brought up how he told me that he was 35 earlier that week. He said he had a birthday during our trip and laughed, so Rachael and I told him that would make him 36, and we were wondering why he said he was 37. Later on during the trip, Hassan told us that he was a Berber nomad and when he was younger he had no official papers from the government of Morocco. Later on, when he did get papers, no one was sure of when he was born or how old he actually is, but they had to write something down. The numbers are basically made up and not super accurate. Even he doesn't know his own birthday or how old he truly is. His parents don't know either. 

In Morocco- The touching. I've never been to a place where the men have touched me so much. Strangely enough, Rachael did not seem to encounter this problem. Maybe I'm tall so I stick out more? I'm not someone who particularly likes being touched in general, let alone by strangers. It took me awhile to get used to the fact that it might reoccur, and it did a few more times. Don't get me wrong--I still totally loved Morocco, but I can't say this was my favorite aspect of the trip. 

In Spain- I'm in Sevilla right now, which is the land of tapas including jamón. Now, I'm not a big meat eater and get squeamish sometimes over meat. In fact, in Morocco, Rachael and I ate vegetarian meals 99% of the time, and I used to be a vegetarian for three and a half years. Now I eat some meat, but not very frequently. I did want to try jamón because it's so famous here and the slices are thin which appealed to me more. Tonight when I went out to a local cafe, I did a double take because I noticed that there was an entire pig's leg hanging up, hoof and all. That's where the meat was coming from--I guess you can't say it isn't fresh. It really shocked me to see that at first especially because I have mixed feelings about eating meat in the first place, but now I see the legs everywhere and am more used to it.

In Spain- I went out to eat and started chatting with an Irish lady who had just spent a month in Sevilla. Both of us were talking about our mutual like of the city and culture here. She brought up how the locals rarely seem to be on their phones during a meal and how people here are more present/have better manners. As we looked around the cafe, sure enough, several tourists were on their phones, but the locals were talking to each other. I know that I'm guilty of getting wrapped up in looking at my phone, especially when it comes to looking Instagram. Now that I noticed the difference, I'm going to try harder to make a better effort to stay off of my phone when out with friends.

What has surprised you about another culture lately? I'm curious to know!
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