Archive for the ‘culture shock’ Category



September 25, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Witnessed this morning, Shanghai, China –

A little girl entered the restaurant, looked around, said “Momma!” and immediately began to cry and call out “Momma! Momma!” when she didn’t see Momma. The waitress tried to help her, but this just increased the volume of the crying. Daddy enters to save the day. He calms his daughter and picks her up. THEN he says, “would you like me to show you how to find Momma?” He takes her to the part of the restaurant where Momma and little brother are. It doesn’t end there, though. He carries his daughter back to the restaurant entrance pointing out things to her along the way. He takes her out the door. Then they re-enter and walk the path to Momma again. I am so impressed at the skills he is teaching her instead of just pacifying her and satisfying her need for Momma.

Travel back with me to 2014 on the beach of Fujairah, U.A.E. –

There is (was) a park along the beach in Fujairah where families go in the evening. I would say “to get away from the heat,” but there is no such thing as getting away from the heat. We were sitting in the park enjoying a cup of tea. There was a young family nearby. Father, mother and four young children. The mother spoke to her young daughter who did not immediately respond. The mother reached over, grabbed a handful of her daughter’s hair and pulled her close. I had to take a deep breath to keep my head from exploding. I wish I could have interceded for this little girl, but when you are in a country where a disagreement with a citizen can end in jail and deportation, it just is not an option. I did, however, think about my students. Maybe this was why they were so uncooperative and noncompliant. They might be used to being forced to comply instead of being taught to respect their parents or elders.

Big conclusions cannot be drawn from these two stories. It is not fair to paint entire cultures by two individual observations. But this morning I could say, “wow, what a good idea,” and two years ago I thought “wow, what bad family dynamics.”

I do not have a relevant picture to go with this, so here is a totally irrelevant one. The internet needs more cat pictures.

cat bathing in Chinese garden






Old Abu Dhabi Documentary

March 31, 2012

Posted by Kanga.

Oil Discovery and Distribution of Wealth in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (1968)

This is a 52 minute film about Abu Dhabi in 1968, prior to the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1972. It is a bit blunt about some things. It definitely shows the drastic changes that oil discovery and production caused. The best part is seeing so much footage of Sheikh Zayed in a variety of settings. It is a little melodramatic with some forebodings about the future, but it turned out that Sheikh Zayed was a very wise man.


Cultural Experiences – Both Planned and Unexpected

August 28, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

Our friends from Malta ventured out from Dubai to Fujairah for dinner with us last week. Our planned cultural experience was to go to the Ramadan Food Market to buy the components of our meal and bring it home to enjoy.

We brought home flat bread, fatoush (green salad), tamarind and some kind of berry juices, sausages in bread wraps, tabouleh (chopped parsley salad), hummos, kushari, samosas, pakora, chicken biriani, and probably more, but I can’t remember it all. It was a fun food adventure.

We supplied root beer, the only soda we had on hand. This was a new experience for our Maltese friends, who say that it smells exactly like a surgical spirit solution commonly used back home. [Our friend also confessed to having a pyromaniac phase around the age of eight when he sprayed this surgical spirit (mostly alcohol) on the ground and lit it for fun.] So, root beer, which is right up there with baseball and apple pie on the scale of American-ness is not very appealing to people in the Eastern hemisphere. This might explain why it is rare to find it in grocery stores. Now we’ll have to look for this surgical spirit to do a smell test and see for ourselves.

I had a similar experience when I first tasted Jagermeister (German herbal liqueur). I swear it tastes just like the cough syrup we had when I was little. Just tastes like medicine to me.

Our friends had brought us a treat from Malta – a pudding, which I tried the next morning. Before I tell you what it is like, I must explore the word “pudding.” In America, this word has just one definition. A pudding is a creamy, milk based dessert, like custard. (There are also bread and rice puddings, but again these are desserts.) In Europe and abroad, pudding can mean just about anything – sweet or savory. Christmas pudding is actually a cake. Blood pudding is actually a sausage. So, when someone says “pudding” we are not sure what to expect.

This pudding turned out to be what we would call a fruit cake. It is dense, dark, a bit chocolaty with tasty fruit bits in it.  I’ve tried it cold, warmed up, topped with a little ice cream, and warmed up with butter. Quite good.


Long Time No See

April 15, 2011

Posted by Kanga.
simple pull tab on a coke can

Those of you reading this post in America will understand what I mean by “long time no see” with regard to this simple soda can pull tab. These were considered a litter problem and outlawed a long time ago, decades in fact. American soda cans have to have openings designed to not detach.

After marveling at this blast from the past for a while, I pulled it off.

only half of the tab pulled of the coke can

High quality workmanship. Nice.

Here’s another thing I haven’t seen in a while – “Made in USA”

text from bottom of a Corelle plate stating Made in USA

We ate last night at a new restaurant in our neighborhood, Rara Avis. I recognized the plate as being Corelleware immediately because they are distinctive. I was surprised to find it at this small, inexpensive restaurant. This type of restaurant usually serves on cheap plastic (Melmac style) plates.


Neither a Conqueror Be

November 12, 2010

Posted by Kanga.

At work this week we had an all staff meeting that was actually very enjoyable and enlightening. Here’s how it went. Everyone sat at small tables, four people per table. Each group was given a pack of cards, a sheet of instructions, a blank sheet for score keeping and a pencil. The instructions described a simplified form of Hearts or Spades. We were to pair up across the table and were given a few minutes to practice and make sure we understood the rules of the game. We were not allowed to speak or write to each other during the game. We could make gestures, but no other form of communication. The instruction sheets were then collected from us (big hint here). Then, we played for real until the horn was sounded. The partners who had the winning score then got up and moved to the next table. We played again. As you might have guessed from the big hint earlier, the instructions varied from table to table. We played a total of three sets each time with the winners moving on to another table.

My partner and I didn’t win the first round (actually we tied, so we had to do a quick tie breaker) so we stayed at our table and welcomed new players. We launched right into the game and our newcomers were confused by who was winning each round. My partner and I enforced our set of rules and simply communicated by pointing to the winning card, whether is was a high card or trump. Our new players picked it up quickly, but we still beat them (home court advantage). This, however, meant that we had to move on the next table, where we met our original competitors. I was deeply into the symbolism of this, so I considered the new table to be a new country and my old competitors to be “expats” who had learned the rules of this new country and I expected them to teach it to me. Not so! We reverted to the original set of rules, never mind that we were at a different table.

After the final set, we discussed the experience. There were quite a few tables where the newcomers had acted like conquerors and insisted on their rules. There were some “host” players who were very confused and just surrendered to the newcomers. Others negotiated the rules and came up with a new way altogether.

I thought it was interesting that our reunion with our original competitors involved no assimilation to the new culture at all. We were like expats hanging out with other expats on a compound or base sticking with our home country rules.

I am pleased that I didn’t turn out to be a conqueror and that while in my home country I stuck to the rules and encouraged the newcomers to assimilate. I preserved my cultural heritage, so to speak.


Proper Use of the Fork

June 29, 2010

Posted by Kanga.

I have a vague childhood memory of someone calling Americans uncouth because of the way we use utensils. We tend to use one hand and a fork, primarily. Spoons are used only for liquids and knives only for spreading butter or cutting meat. In this person’s perception, the “continental style” of using a knife and fork simultaneously was much more civilized.

Now that I’ve had a chance to watch this continental style in action, I am amazed by the illogic of it. People hold their fork upside down and use the knife to push food onto the back of the fork. They put a great deal of effort into this process. The fork is a multitasking tool. It can spear food, scoop food, cut food and rake food. Yet, I don’t see any of these uses, only the pressing of food onto the back of it, the most inefficient use conceivable. There is more sense in using one’s fingers or chopsticks.

So much for the superiority of the continental style.



June 28, 2010

Posted by Kanga.

For the most part, I endeavor to be culturally aware and adjustable. There is, however, one thing that I find uncomfortable – cheek kissing. You know, the kiss on the cheek, anywhere from one to three, given as a greeting or good bye.

In America, this is rarely seen or done. It’s mostly considered something that superficial people in certain social circles do. Here, it is fairly common place and considered appropriate.

My first encounter was particularly odd. A man I was meeting for the first time moved right in and made kissing sounds near my ear. I was caught completely off guard and laughed in his ear. That was the end of that. Actually, I think he’s Canadian, so he should have known better. Americans probably have the largest personal space radius of any culture. It is bad enough for someone I know to move in that close, but for a complete stranger. Yikes!

It is supposed to be an expression of affection, so it is rather awkward to say “please don’t do that.” There are also forceful personalities who take that sort of request as a challenge which changes it from affection to “getting one’s way.” Sometimes, one can get off the hook because you are across a table or not able to get close enough and the kisses are “air kisses” blown from a distance.

So, give me a wave or a firm handshake. Thanks!