When I lived in Jerusalem, it was refreshing not being constantly told I couldn’t say things. I could say anything! Israelis are frank to the max! If a person has a zit on their nose, a ‘sabra’ will likely comment, “Wow. Poor you! Ugly zit! You must be so embarrassed!”
Everyone laughs; no one cares. Conversations move on. It’s so liberating. Why wear make-up when nothing’s ever covered up?
I’ve also lived in southern California, where ‘have a nice day’ is the mantra. If your day’s been a disaster, that’s okay – just stay mum. Save spilling your beans for your best friend. Let’s just talk about the weather together. Isn’t that better?
Have you been warned about France? I tone down my natural ‘perk’ whenever visiting. Too much outward cheeriness is considered cheesy by most natives. If you’re annoyed at your spouse? By all means, argue in public. That proves you have spunk. I sport a cap and a scarf – a big thing, and also, make sure to acknowledge all shop keepers. So important. No tourist shoes, people. So many rules!
I just discovered that, in the American south, ‘bless your heart,’ doesn’t mean ‘bless your heart’ at all. It’s a whole other cup of chai – not at all as polite as it sounds. Good to know. Hello.
Final example; New York. It’s up-front like Israel, but people speak English. Now there’s a colorful town. My oldest lives there, and totally fits in.
Isn’t culture fascinating?
Comparing cultural dos and don’ts can pull the curtain back to reveal this important truth; many of traits we assume are personal aren’t personal at all – they’re just learned behavior. That’s huge! Think about it; we can’t help but reflect the places we’ve lived. We also tend to abide by the rules placed on our age. I hate that one.
Does growing up really mean we need to tone down?
When a five-year-old dances around happily saying, “Look what a great dancer I am!” he or she is destined to meet social approval. “What a joyful child!” We delight and share in the happy bubbles.
But when a ten-year-old presents the joy of accomplishment and delight in the exact same fashion, don’t we usually say something like, “Yes, sweetie, but don’t brag.” Ouch. What’s up with that?
Way to squash a sparkle, people. Way to dim everyone’s natural light. Why can’t we always say, at any age, “I’m good at this, I’m bad at that?” Why all the forced humility? It breaks my heart – and here’s why…
No wonder kids often deflate by the time they hit high school. By then, they’ve deduced that a person receives more social approval walking around saying, “I suck” at things than simply delighting at life’s little accomplishments in an open manner. It’s kind of pathetic.
And yes, there are exceptions. We’ve all met ‘that kid’ with helicopter parents who believe said child is the cat’s meow. But mostly? Note the sadness in many young people lately. Something’s off.
Tall People Suffer Too
And as adults, don’t we remain a little vulnerable? We’ve lost our ability to just enjoy that natural happy-to-be-alive sense of life we had when we were little. I don’t have a great nose, but if I did, why shouldn’t I be able to say, gleefully, and out loud, ‘I adore my nose! I revel in my nose!’ without worrying what people might think?
Ha. I wish I loved my nose. But moving on…
Just My Opinion
I love super honest ‘child-like’ people who just show you who they are, warts and all. Conversations with such people are so much more nuanced and interesting. And I love middle school kids – my favorites! They’re at such a cool age – so frank and curious, busy trying to figure out who they are. They may stumble, but they are still curious. Soon enough, the world will teach them to polish their rough edges, put a tight lid on themselves, become more ‘normal’ within their own culture. Yah know… to fit in.
My Big Point
One has to wonder what style of communication works best over-all? How much authenticity reaps the best rewards and upsets the least amount of feathers?
I suggest posing this question to your flock: “What’s an honest way to put things?” See how your kids define ‘honest,’ dig deep. Chat around cultures, both universal and social. Speak to ageism – somebody has to. See what gets handed back.
You’re destined to receive many thoughtful and colorful responses. By posing this question, you’re reminding everyone that nothing in this world is set in stone. Culture is one thing – human spirit, another. We actually do have a choice to grow, learn, and adapt. We can mindlessly plug into our regional culture if we like it, or we can find a truer part of ourselves that make rock the boat just a little, but free up our souls and creativity.
This may sound like a lot to ponder, but in my experience, tweens and teens adore this stuff – even the boys! And the topic stretches down. Watch our Gift lesson vid with the urban kids. They’ll blow your mind. And that’s young, people.
Honestly, who wants to be walking around on automatic? Life’s way too much fun for that.