Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Culture Differences - Funny stories for today

It's an interesting thing about people who don't travel a lot OR just don't read a lot about other places OR just don't consider that things might just be different in other places. And understand that the differences, they aren't different for the people living there - they're used to it. It's part of their culture and environment.

We've (me and other fun people who like to share these differences/stories) been talking about our different experiences with the culture here. We - coming from the USA - and here - Switzerland.

My specific stories include the "Walnut in the Apfelstruedel" incident and "Naked Zone" spa visit which I posted about in September.

  • In a nutshell - asking about ingredients in a food (I'm allergic), informed that it does not include the allergy inducing ingredient, eating some of the food and then realizing - Uh, Oh! this is making me feel funny: does not automatically get a person out of paying for the food in Switzerland. In the US: they would be bending over backward at their mistake and "How can we help?" "Can we bring you something else?" "ARE YOU OK?" In Switzerland: "My Chef (boss) says you should pay for the food because you ate some of it." If you can imagine me glaring - I was. And replied that the food made me sick. Plus we were a table of 7 American women - 2 from NY (they had my back!) - and the waitress wasn't up to fighting over the struedel.
  • The "Naked Zone". That is what you find in most Swiss spas. You are NOT supposed to wear a bathing suit in the Steam room, indoor jacuzzi, Sauna, etc... This is a culture difference I can't overcome. There was the cutest old couple at the Spa - but I didn't want to be "ohne Klieder" with them in the Sauna. Sorry. Not my culture.
  • Speaking of no clothes. Friend X shared this about her daughter who plays ice hockey. Well, not many girls play ice hockey and when they moved to Switz., there was only one other girl on her team (9 - 10 yr old league). Part of the program is that they must shower after practice/games - together. X feigned her ignorance of this requirement and wisked little X away each time. Finally, it all came to a head when the Coach confronted her about it. X said "little x will shower at home, not with the boys. She's 9 and is too old for that." Their response was "There is nothing wrong with that and the other little girl has been doing this since she was 6." X says "She may have but my daughter hasn't and in our culture this is not done." Coach insisted it is OK, they are just children. X said "Well, at 9 years old, I think it is wrong for 2 girls to have to shower with 15 boys. Think about it." X said "I could see the lightbulb go on in their heads." And a small room with a shower behind the Zamboni was found for the 2 girls.
  • Discrimination in Job Searching - it's Allowed: In Switzerland, you can be asked how old you are, if you are married, when you plan to have children, how many children do you have, are you pregnant, what does your husband do, what is your transportation, etc... Friend Y say's "He (prospective employer) asked me "Well, if you have to be at work so early in the morning, who will cook your husband his breakfast? I told him "If he wants breakfast, he can get it himself." " Needless to say, Y did NOT get the job.
  • Women's rights. They kinda have them. Sort of. In January 1988, wives were given equal rights with their husbands. My German teacher M, feels she can relate to those who were emotional about the election of Obama as President - from an ethnicity/minority position. She said it was very special and emotional for her to vote for the first time at 19 yrs old - her mother (40's) and grandmother (60's) went with her to vote for the first time also. It was 1971 - the year women received the right to vote in Switzerland.
  • My kids went out to play with the neighbor kids yesterday afternoon. Yeah! Big deal, you think. It is a big deal. The neighbor kids are Swiss, go to local school and speak Swiss German. Mine are American, attend International school and learn High German (HG). Swiss kids learn to read and write in HG started in 1st grade - no reading or writing of words begins until then. They only do letters and numbers in Kindergarten (6 yrs). HG is considered a foreign language for the Swiss. They speak a language from birth that is not written. I love spelling Swiss German words because, honestly, who's going to correct it. It's spelled phonetically and differs based on the regional dialect! So when the neighbor kids come over with smiles to ask my kids to play - I rejoice. It's taken 2 years as they first started playing this past Fall. It's easier as they're getting older and the HG can be common ground.
  • Swiss schools - I can't fully describe this system in this post. Suffice it to say, if you don't show any intellectual potential by time you're in 5th grade, you may be pumping gas. That sounds sarcastic and harsh and I'm not trying to be cruel to those pumping gas - but there's an element of truth to it in this country. Acquaintance S (she's Swiss) was regaling me with the wonders of the Swiss school system and how good it is. How her daughter is so smart and doing well in Hochschule and will go to the Universitat (only approx. 15% of people actually attend the University - many professions here (teaching, finance, etc... )don't require a Univ. degree but are certified through programs more like an AA degree/vocational college). Anyway.... then she said how her son is doing well but they will send him to the USA for University someday as he will only go to the 2nd level in school as a teen. He is dyslexic and therefore will never be eligible for Hochschule in Switzerland. Can you imagine being told your child can't go to a certain school, even if smart enough, due to dyslexia? I told her that many influential and highly intelligent people have this and it shouldn't hold one back. She did admit it was a failing of their system.

I find all these things interesting. Some things can be frustrating, some challenging but we are always learning something new. We also find out whether we adapt well to change or we don't. There are many who don't. And many who do. Interesting.


Mom E said...

Very interesting post...shared the "Job Searching" paragraph in the briefing room this morning (all males). They thought the Swiss had the right idea!

Jolyn said...

I studied German in College and studied in Bonn a year so was familiar with a lot of these points, but the Swiss culture/language is so unique and stringent all at the same time. Very interesting post.

Judy said...

I agree... very interesting! Thanks for sharing.