Ovi -
we cover every issue
Philosophy Books  
Ovi Bookshop - Free Ebook
worldwide creative inspiration
Ovi Language
Books by Avgi Meleti
WordsPlease - Inspiring the young to learn
Murray Hunter: Opportunity, Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Stop human trafficking
BBC News :   - 
iBite :   - 
Eureka: A fireside chat on different cultures Eureka: A fireside chat on different cultures
by Jay Gutman
2018-06-10 08:03:05
Print - Comment - Send to a Friend - More from this Author
DeliciousRedditFacebookDigg! StumbleUpon

In this article I'll briefly discuss culture from a friendship persepctive, a dating, marriage and family life perspective, an academic perspective and a professional perspective. I'll discuss my personal experience with French, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Berber and Korean cultures.


From a friendship perspective: They say Americans are like mangoes, soft in the outside, hard in the indside. The French are more like coconuts, hard to break, but sweet and pleasant once you break the shell. I don't easily open up but make easy contact, the French are hard to open up but want deep, lasting friendships. I found it incredibly difficult to be sincere with a lot of my French friends, and I find their habit of not being able to focus on a single conversation topic annoying. But not all the French are the same, and after a few years you can meet very decent people. Once you meet those decent people they will have their belief systems, but the exchanges are always pleasant.

cultu0001_400From a dating, marriage and family relationships: I never dated, married a French person but was involved with a French family so I have a vague idea what French families are like. For those who want to date French people, they should know that the French like will tend to want to keep the dating a well-kept secret and won't go around telling everyone that they are dating you. They will only invite very close friends to weddings, and French weddings tend to be a lot smaller and cozier than what you'll find in most countries. Food is a big part of the culture, and you better be a good cook. Don't take a French person out for a tuna sandwich, unless it's a picnic. Fashion is also an important part of life, and I got told off more than once for wearing rags, not shaving or not putting cologne on. Meals are an important part of the culture, but the odd thing is a lot of French families don't feed meals to guests unless they specifically invite them for dinner. That is if you go to a French family on a play date, you probably won't even be served cookies or a drink in some cases, much less a meal. Something I found interesting about French families is that smoking is widely tolerated and kids don't get in trouble for smoking, and that parents will leave pornographic material on display and won't go miles to hide their sexuality. In fact, in some families it's normal for a father to discuss sexual relationships with his son, including those he has with his mother. Something I find incredibly confusing.

From an academic perspective: Speaking French is useful academically, but there are cultural differences. French students are notorious for being chatterboxes in the classroom, and French professors are notorious for being harsh with grading. Enter a French classroom. You want to learn about history, law, science, business, whatever. Forget it. The students' chatting will be so loud you won't be able to hear the teacher talking. And teachers will be frequently interrupted by the students chatting. If you're a teacher and you leave the classroom or tell the students off for chatting away, you could be in trouble with both students and administration. Test questions tend to be ambiguous and the grading system is incredibly harsh. A “C” is considered a good grade by all standars in France, and if you get an “A” bring a champaigne bottle with you.

From a professional perspective: French workers are not the happiest workers in the world. Business tends to be very efficient but office politics can and will burn you out. You could be the most efficient worker in the world but be a victim of office politics. Friendship with co-workers is rare, and if a co-worker invites you for dinner he will want you to keep that a secret for the rest of your life. A lot of French workers tend to have anger management issues and you'll be dealing with angry people a lot of times. Companies are also careful with how they use money, and you could get told off for forgetting to switch a light off or for using the color printer too much. Every penny counts.  


For French I focused in France, so for Spanish I'll focus on Latin America.

From a friendship perspective: Latin America is one big continent that has minor cultural and linguistic deviations. You could easily adapt from one Latin American city to the other. One common trait in friendship is that it's incredibly easy to make friends, and that you share everything with friends. They'll come to your house without being invited, shamelessly ask you for money (not even a loan, money) they will take several bites off your sandwich and will open your frige at will. If they find money in the cupboard or in a jar, they'll take it without even asking you. You might invite them for dinner and they'll ask you why there's no red meat, and criticize you for only cooking chicken. This sense of personal space and property is something I had a lot of trouble with, and in some cases, you'd think you're better off not having any friends than going around making friends. And if you have a girlfriend, your friends will sometimes hit on your girlfriend, or even try to date her, and they'll still want to be your friend.

From a dating, marriage and family perspective: I've spent a lot of time with Latin American families, and what I noticed is a sense of nonchalance when it comes to taking care of household affairs. There's not set time for lunch or dinner and don't push the mother to cook you dinner or lunch, she'll do so when she pleases. I say mother because fathers tend to be a bit of an absent figure in a lot of Latin American families. The house will be cleaned at random times, and chores are not a big deal and can pile up, and no one will give a damn. Your Latin American girfriend, wife or mother will have this absent-minded attitude about the relationship, and will be happier watching television than really thinking about connecting with the people at home. A lot of decisions are last-minute, and you'll know you're going out 2 minutes before you're going out. Nor do Latin American kids, girfriends, boyfriends or parents feel the obligation to let each other know where they are and what they are up to. In sum, life is not as structured as I am used to.

From an academic perspective: You'll call your teacher by their first name. If his name is Carlos you'll call him Carlos, if her name is Marina you'll call her Marina. But that's about it when it comes to familiarity with Latin American teachers. Teachers tend to be strict, schools tend to work like the police, and include warnings, suspensions and fines for misbehaving. Teachers are often downright confrontational, and you will get in a few arguments with teachers that have nothing to do with academia. Growing your hair long, a piercing, makeup or chatting with your buddy could get you in deep trouble, but not doing so will make you an outcast in the classroom. Talk about dilemmas.

From a professional perspective: Again names are used in professional settings. But then you have the same nonchalance as the atmosphere at the household. Latin American workers tend to spend an incredible amount of time chatting with friends on the phone or online while at the workplace, and won't even feel guilty about that. In some cases they will be chatting with a friend, their boss will come in, and they won't even hang up the phone. If you own a business in Latin America you will want to block international phone calls because a lot of your workers will be calling family who live abroad and chatting with them almost excessively. As for getting those tasks done, a lot of times they won't do it with great care. So if you have someone who does an average or above average job at getting the tasks done, keep them!


Friendship: food, music, relationships and football. If you have Turkish friends you'll probably have tea and your conversations will center around what you had for lunch or dinner, then they'll be a little bit or relationship gossip or matchmaking, then they'll discuss the latest music hits, then they'll discuss football. Conversations can go into deep into the night, and everyone participates equally.

What you need to know about food is that that's the first question you'll probably be asked, as in what did you have for lunch. In terms of music, most Turkish people love music and can sing for hours. They tend to have an incredible memory and know an incredible repertoire of songs, and any song that will play on the radio, they will tend to know the lyrics. How they do that I have no idea. As for relationships you are either in a relationship or will be hooked up with someone. Someone always knows someone you would be a perfect fit or match for. As for football, everyone must have a favorite team. Educated folks tend to root for Galatasaray, the average worker will tend to root for Fenerbahçe, the upper-middle class will tend to root for Beşiktaş. Those who don't want to get involved in football politics will tend to root for Trabzonspor, while some might root for their hometown club. Almost every Turkish conversation on weekends will start with something like “who won the game?” and “who scored the goals?”

Dating, relationships and family: Dating is a public affair in Turkey and when you date someone all your friends will know. There will be no pressure to get married, but the sooner you get married, the better. Turkish parents tend to be incredibly supersticious and gossipy. A lot of conversations will center around astrology, personality, and other gossip. Sometimes things can get a little emotional in Turkish families, but things tend to be rather stable. First thing you need to know is Turkey has a very small middle class and it's the middle class I'm discussing here. The working class has its own set of problems. The other thing is you have a category of people called “tikkis” which is a sizeable portion of men and women. They tend to daydream about marrying rich people and living the high life, and sometimes their fantasies will tend to mix up with reality. So if someone's talking about the high life, or living the high life, you need to know that a lot of times it is just fantasy.

From an academic perspective: Turkish teachers will sometimes hug you, kiss you on both cheeks, bring you gifts or buy you a sandwich or a soda drink. To them as a student you will tend to be like family. There's a mix of affection and being strict in the classroom. A lot of teachers tend to love their jobs, tend to love their students, but can also slap a student on the face for smoking for example or can at times be incredibly rude with students for no particular reason. Students tend to be disciplined and quiet in the classroom, and few of them really care what the teacher is saying. Being a poor student is not considered a very bad thing in Turkey.

From a professional perspective: The main problem tends to be the low wages and inflation. Companies pretend to pay workers, and workers pretend to work at the company. Turnover rates tend to be very high and it's hard to form a bond with workers. Tasks can be done efficiently, but again the main problem is the very low pay and high inflation, which means a lot of times workers show up, drink tea and chat with their colleagues, try to get a better job, and eventually leave the job.


Friendship: It's going to be very hard to meet anyone you can call a friend if you haven't been to school with them or don't have some kind of family relationship with them. If you have money, they'll tend to go after your money. If you have a car, they'll tend to go after your car. If you have plumbing or DIY skills they'll tend to go after that. You could have a cup of coffee with them, maybe a sandwich with them, but conversations tend to be censored or tend to focus on politics, society or the economy, specifically because they don't want you to talk about yourself.

Dating, marriage and family relationships: If an Arab guy or girl is dating you, there could be a love aspect to it, but Arabs tend to place a great deal of interests when dating someone. Do you have money? Do you live in a foreign country? Do you have exceptional construction, plumbing or DIY skills? That's usually what they will be looking at. Marriage is a family affair and your friends won't be allowed in the household, but expect frequent family vists and expect a lot of family drama. Family drama include people asking for too much money, constantly having personal problems, or getting in frequent trouble with the law. Also expect watching a lot of television, and don't expect too much conversation.

At the academic level: As I've discussed before a lot of schools don't have washrooms, classes change frequently, teachers change frequently, and teachers will spend more time talking about their problems in the classroom than talking about academic topics. School is where the closest friendships tend to be formed.

At the professional level: Again salaries are low, turnover rates are high, and it's hard to find anything close to a bond at the workplace. Workers change frequently, your tasks will change frequently, and after a few months your boss will suggest that you can leave the company if you want to, and will expect you to resign.

Kabyle Berber

Friendship: Kabylie is a rural area and a lot of cities are semi-rural. If you're a man, expect to bond over a few beers. They are Muslims but a lot of them love having a few beers. Also expect simplicity, the kind you'll find in rural areas.

Dating, marriage and family relationships: Matchmaking is common and your friends will suggest you date a few people (often family members) and pass the information on to the family member. If the family member agrees, you will start dating. Today with social media a lot of the dating will be made through facebook chats and your dating will be kept a secret by your friends. Eventually you will get married in a traditional Muslim ceremony, but one a bit more modern because men and women are allowed to mix. Single women interested in dating will hit the dancefloor, while those interested in staying single will abstain from dancing. Kabyle families tend to be the progressive ones in the Islamic world, tend to be tolerant of LGBT people, are tolerant of drinking and tend to be on the progressive side in politics. A lot of Kabyles openly hate Arabs, and some go as far as supporting Israel because it's the country at war against Arabs. They are not a persecuted minority, but despite speaking Kabyle, school is in Arabic. Kabylie is also one of the rare regions in the Middle East where reading is rather common, and a lot of the popular culture centers around French culture. One third of the world's Kabyle population lives in France, and they are Muslims, have a sizeable Evangelical Christian population and tend to be secular and not to view religion as an important part of life.

Academically: Despite speaking Kabyle, school is taught in Arabic. That leads to a lot of confusion, including a lot of teachers talking about their personal problems in Kabyle rather than discussing academic topics.

At the workplace: Salaries low, turnover rates high. Plus transportation problems mean a lot of people get jobs just to please their parents and show their parents they can get a job, only to quit after a few days or months.

Korean (of course I mean South Korean)

Friendship: Koreans tend to be loyal friends but tend to be incredibly busy. They will call you on the Lunar new year, on the Korean thanksgiving festival and on Christmas, and you might see them a few times a year and they will call you a good friend. Koreans tend to treat their friends almost to the point of spoiling them. They will be busy and rarely meet you, but when they do meet you they will take you out to expensive restaurants, buffets in some cases, will try to find out what you are up to and will do anything they can to help you with a sticky situation. Male-female friendships are very common and tend to have nothing sexual, just pure friendship. That is you could be a man and have a woman as your best friend, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Dating, marriage and family life: dating is an easy game and if you look for someone, you will find someone. Even when dating Koreans tend to be busy and at best you will go on a few dates a year. Marriage is complicated, you will need to buy an apparentment (renting is frowned upon) and introduce each other's families. Family introduction is mandatory and has a lot of drama in it, Korean women especially are paranoid about the parents not liking them. Grandparents tend to raise the children while parents are both very busy at work, some parents rarely see their children, grandparents are really the family figure in the household. Families tend to meet three times a year, on the Lunar new year, thanksgiving and Christmas, the rest of the time they will tend to grow up almost as strangers to each other.


Academic life: Korean teachers can be bullies and tend to be corrupt, that is will assign grades and discipline based on the bribes they get or don't get. Most Korean parents believe children should spend as much time in schools as possible, and will spend up to 15 hours a day from day school to private school, all to prepare for the high school examinations. Boys and girls are separated from middle school, and there tends to be a great deal of ingroup fighting, shaming and bullying. Beauty is considered very important, and if you're not considered very handsome or pretty, expect a lot of bullying.


Professional life: Professional life tends to be totalitarian. Workers are constantly under surveillance, every detail must be accounted for, communication tends to be lacking, and there's great deal of blaming and shaming at the workplace. Officially there is no unemployment in South Korea, but only 20% South Koreans over the age of 65 are living on a retirement pension. To qualify for a retirement pension, all you need is to prove that you have worked 10 years in your professional life. That is, 80% South Koreans did not work for 10 years between the ages of 18 and 65, despite laws saying that job security is mandatory and that you technically can't get fired from your job. Often South Koreans don't work not because they are lazy or have no skills, but because management culture is extremly violent. 

Print - Comment - Send to a Friend - More from this Author

Get it off your chest
 (comments policy)

© Copyright CHAMELEON PROJECT Tmi 2005-2008  -  Sitemap  -  Add to favourites  -  Link to Ovi
Privacy Policy  -  Contact  -  RSS Feeds  -  Search  -  Submissions  -  Subscribe  -  About Ovi