Friday, December 28, 2007


I have been thinking about this topic for some time now and I think now is the time to delve into my secret little theory about foreigners. OK, so I work at a place that has a whole lot of them, so that makes me pretty much an expert on the different types. LOL. This is not particularly about race, but about the "cultural differences" that make you notice that a person is not from the US. One thing I've noticed is they are not all alike, they all have idiosyncrasies that make them unique. Clearly being a little black girl from the ghetto, I understand that not everyone is the same nor do we all understand each other. I am certain there have been times people that did not have my same experience growing up had no clue as to what I was talking about or doing because of cultural differences. Ya'mean shorty. lmao.

Culture is an important thing. It is what makes every group of people great, special and unique. According to Robert Kohls, formerly the Director of Training and Development for the United States Information Agency, "Culture is an integrated system of learned behavior patterns that are characteristic of the members of any given society, ...the total way of life of particular groups of people. It includes everything that a group of people thinks, says, does, and makes - its customs, language, material artifacts and shared systems of attitudes and feelings. Culture is learned and transmitted from generation to generation."

I work directly with some really nice people who happen to be from foreign countries-they are not in question here- but, there are some people I do not work with directly that display some characteristics that just don't fall into the realm of what is socially acceptable. Some of the following are a common occurrence at my place of employment:

Lack of Personal Space- No one likes this. People normally have an invisible circle around them that determines their personal space. There are some people that have no sense of why you want to step back when they attempt to talk to you, this "magic circle" does not exist and they consistently "invade" your personal boundaries. Please take two steps back and please do not touch me. No one likes to get spit on when you talk to them.

Body Odor- I know that in some cultures people do not wear deodorant, but if you choose to live and work in America there are certain things that are just offensive. Body odor is one of them. As children we learn that nobody wants to hang out with the "stinky kid." This is something that transcends childhood. I don't want to have to eat lunch next to the "table of doom" afraid that I will smell body odor more than I will smell my lovely Smoked Turkey Sandwich with Gouda Cheese.

Nose Picking- This is truly the most disgusting thing I have ever seen and it is quite common. There are people that will dig in their nose and then want to shake your hand. Or you'll walk by and they will have a finger up their nose and without even blinking will hold a conversation with you. Ewwww. That is gross. Get a damned tissue for God's sake.

Passing Gas-OMG! It is never OK to pass gas around a group of people and not say excuse me. It is not OK to pass gas in an office setting when you share common space.

Ultimately, I think it is interesting that people that come to America to live, whether it be for work or just because they like what this country has to offer, don't take as much care to learn what is socially acceptable and what is not acceptable in everyday situations. While it may not be easy for them to understand certain subcultures of American society, you would hope that they would take the time to learn common cultural norms. . There are tons of tutorials available on the web for people that travel internationally that explain the cultural differences and ways to assimilate into a culture before you travel. These tutorials are available for places across the globe specifically so a traveler can have an understanding before they are immersed. There are people that have been here for years that still do not understand the concepts of personal space, hygiene, picking your nose in public, etc.

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