Saturday, 5 October 2013


We all have a value system, but we aren’t necessarily aware of what those values are – until we’re put in a situation where people have different values! That is something that you’re dealing with constantly in a cross-cultural environment.
- Why do I get so irate when other vehicles drive off-road, or on the wrong side of the road to get ahead in a traffic jam? Mainly because the concept of waiting your turn is so inbuilt in me, that anything that usurps that value feels like an infringement, rude and offensive.
- Why do I feel offended if someone stops mid-conversation to answer their cellphone? One of my values is to focus on the person / people who I’m with. (Phone calls can be returned!)
- Why does it seem so odd if someone leaves without saying goodbye?  Acknowledging others, and one’s own part within the group, are values.
Just yesterday at Ouagadougou airport, there were a number of situations that have revealed either my own value system, or just different views of things:
 My empty water bottle being confiscated at security, despite my protestations of needing it so I could get it refilled on the plane and have a supply with me. Do they not get that an empty water bottle no longer has liquid in it, which is what the policy concerning such things is actually about?!  How dare they take what is a legitimate thing for me to have on a plane!
-    Along the same lines, once through security, there was a shop so I figured that I could get a bottle of water there to replace my confiscated empty one, only to find out that that too would be confiscated. Do they really think that I’d be able to buy explosives from a shop inside the airport?!
-    Pushing and shoving, and a man blatantly stepping in front of me in line (no different to being in a car!!).
-    Personal space being somewhat infringed with the derriere of a rather substantial woman (definitely of “traditional build”) practically in my face as she tried to settle herself in her seat….
-     A man not locking the toilet door when he was using the facilities………. Hmm.

For many of these, it’s not that there’s a right or wrong way of doing things. It’s just the norm of what we’ve grown up with or got accustomed to, so we think that our way is the right way. Flexibility is the name of the game, and the ability to laugh – not just at the situations, but also at my reaction to them!

1 comment:

Paul Merrill said...

You've come a huge long way, Claire, in adapting and in understanding. I stand in admiration.