I had the chance to travel in several countries this summer. Being in different cultures, where daily activities and customs are different from what is familiar to me, was a great opportunity for me to think about our own Midwestern American practices. My daughter who is living in Germany now warned me not to make eye contact and say hi strangers on the street because Germans are much more reserved than Americans and are put off by such uninvited familiarity. I learned to pass strangers without giving them any acknowledgement, but I never felt good about it. Now I am happy to be home, where I can smile and say hello to a stranger and maybe even have a bit of conversation. I know we are not going to have a long-term connection, but being friendly just seems to me to be respectful. However, I realize that if I am interacting with someone from another culture, I could seem disrespectful to them by following my own customs without knowing anything about their customs. I guess this is a good lesson in the importance of informing oneself about other cultural practices and not assuming that one’s own way of doing things is the best way or the only acceptable way.
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