Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Culture Clash

Four Pizzas & a Funeral: I had an assignment two weeks ago; I had to survey people at local hotels and ask them why they chose the place and what they think about the town they’re staying at. I was standing in the empty lobby on a Saturday evening with a rowdy family on my right eating pizza, laughing, yelling, and having a good, greasy time. I impatiently looked around the bare entrance, glanced down at the stack of questionnaires I had to fill out, and finally strode to the extended family of parents, uncles, aunts, and kids, aiming to rid myself of half of the papers that would’ve anchored me down at the suburban inn for another hour. I introduced myself and asked the hoard of smiling, rosy faces why they’re staying at this specific hotel.
“Oh!” replied Martha, mother of two pudgy pre-teen girls, “We’re here for a family funeral! Would you like some pizza?”

* * *

Compliments are Insulting: I got in trouble once for complimenting my friend’s facial color. I honestly thought that his permanently pink, flushed cheeks portrayed his good health so one day, I exclaimed, “Your cheeks are so red!” He looked at me stunned and turned away. His cousin came up to me later and informed me that he was insulted by my remark; turns out he was always self-conscious about his glowing apples. The same cousin barked at me when I told him, “Wow! You lost so much weight!” He brusquely told me that he lifted weights for one whole year to have his now toned, slightly buff muscles.

at 8:02 AM

14 Comments

  1. Blogger McArabian posted at 11:25 AM  
    I wish funerals in Kuwait were this joyful. I've always assumed people go to a better place or a bigger adventure when they die.
    I've already asked my friends to throw a party in my honor when I die :)

    And those guys (the ones who got upset about your compliments) sound like oversensitive dorks.
  2. Blogger 3baid posted at 3:41 PM  
    ya3zimoon ba3ad.. ya7lailhom :P

    Some people take age remarks very personally and find it very insulting. Shda3wa? :/
  3. Blogger Delicately Realistic posted at 6:10 PM  
    You lost weight is the next thing after "Hello & How are you?" in Kuwait?!
  4. Blogger Erzulie posted at 9:08 PM  
    McArabian: Heh, well I was a bit taken back at how cheerful they were! It was like 'It's a funeral! Have another piece of cake!' Heh, and the guys...oh well!

    3baid: You're telling me...

    Delicate: Lol! I know! And he thought that I was commenting on his 'unbuff' physique.
  5. Blogger kila ma6goog posted at 9:27 PM  
    loooll the hell with over sensitive frineds! man if they are not close enough to take my comments with a smile...than i dont wanna be their friend, shda3wa! next time u see him tell him woow u look like silvestr stalon in rambo 4 looool
    there is no rambo 4 by the way
  6. Blogger Erzulie posted at 11:18 PM  
    Kila Ma6goog: Oversensitive oo bas! I limited myself to the usual and superficial 'Heeey! How are you? Good! I'll see you.' :P
  7. Blogger Trevelyana posted at 6:15 AM  
    heh.. just wrote a post about cultural clashes.. although the opposite..

    Ya.. Americans in funerals are odd..
  8. Blogger Erzulie posted at 6:38 AM  
    Leeno: Yeah, it's weird. I don't people bawling their asses off at my funeral but I do deserve my share of a few tears! The weirdest part is that later that evening, I asked an elderly woman why she was staying at the hotel and she passively replied,"My sister is dying from cancer so my husband and I are staying here until it's over." I swear to you, my eyes teared up and I actually felt unethical asking her such an absurd question while she, on the other hand, was sitting in the lobby picking at her muffin until her husband came in and they left. Strange...
  9. Blogger Trevelyana posted at 3:58 PM  
    ya one of my teachers back in Riyadh was Australian..

    and one day he tells us he would be leaving for good. We ask why? He off handedly tells us that he has to go back home to pick out a coffin for his mother and spend time with her because he "gives" her another 2 or 3 years..

    I dunno.. westerners are jaded when it comes to death.. I swear I cry for days over distant relatives..
  10. Blogger Sedna posted at 10:37 PM  
    Let's not generalize about Westerners and how they mourn their dead...I mean I'm sure there are those who break down in funerals and treat the matter with respect. But I think the main difference is that we have stronger family ties in the East. And again, death is just part of life, but even in Islam "yo7ram al-nawa7 w-al9raakh 3la al-mayt"
  11. Blogger Trevelyana posted at 12:51 AM  
    There goes the foot in the mouth..

    didn't mean to generalize..! Didn't know I had to be politically correct..
  12. Blogger Erzulie posted at 5:01 AM  
    Leeno: That's a weird story!

    Sedna: That's true. I think that we're more dramatic and expressive in funerals although that action in itself is scolded. Generally (although I hate to generalize) Westerners suppress their feelings...this little piece from one of my psychology books illustrates what I mean:"An American college student, while having a dinner party with a group of foreigners, learns that her favorite cousin has just died. She bites her lip, pulls herself up, and politely excuses herself from the group. The interpretation given to this behavior will vary with the culture of the observer. The Italian student think,"How insincere; she doesn't even cry." The Russian student thinks,"How unfriendly; she didn't care enough to share her grief with her friends." The fellow American student thinks,"How brave; she wanted to bear her burden by herself." (DeVito, 1990, p.12).
  13. Blogger Jewaira posted at 3:05 PM  
    In Kuwait, the whole extended family, men and women, gather every night at the house of the bereaved family. This goes on at least for 3 days. The bereaved family does not have to worry about meals and other necessities as family members, close friends, and neighbours see it as their duty to provide for at least 3 days.

    Women, whether family or friends, support the bereaved family for even longer.

    I think this is a very important part of the healing process- the recovery from losing someone dearly loved.

    Our wakes are not all howling and crying as some may generalize. They are a time of gathering strength and coming to terms with life after the departure of a loved one.

    I think we are all agreed that when one dies, we do pass on to a better place. The funeral and the wake is for the people left behind.


    In the States, it is not common for extended families to be in one place at any given time. So when the funeral takes place, it is usually a gathering of all family and friends from near and far. ALso, the funeral does not take place like in Islam the next day but when all arrangements have been made.

    I do think that the gathering for a funeral lunch/reception is similar to our family gatherings after the normal 3aza timings are over for the day.
  14. Blogger Erzulie posted at 7:06 AM  
    Jewaira: That's very true. I've been to Kuwaiti 3aza's and to funeral 'lunches' but they seemed a bit more austere than the scene I witnessed. Maybe my closeness with the deceased person may have something to do with it and maybe the 'American' funeral lunch I lingered at was a group of family members who've come from across the country to be united for their loved one, but yes, I do know what you mean (about the geographical factor). I guess culture seeps into every little crack no matter how knowledgable you are about other nation's traditions; being there and observing them directly (the family) was a different experience. Huh, did that make sense at all? Anyho0o, I hope you got the gist of the jumble of words above!

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