Sunday afternoon I switched plans and hung out with two friends. One, M., is Nigerian-English, the other, S., moved here from Korea as an 8 year old. I didn't call Jrex till after the fact. My cell phone died a week ago, I didn’t have his memorized, and for some reason (DBM), I didn’t think of paging him. An hour after I’d been due to arrive home, I called to say I was on my way. I got in trouble**. As deserved.
One of our themes lately is that I need to be more considerate, to slow down and put myself in someone else’s shoes. I realized a couple things after our discussion. One, right after we married, I tried doing things my Mom’s way. She always complained when Dad was late or didn’t call her, so I complained. Jrex became quite good at calling to let me know when plans changed or he was running late. Two, I have a double standard. If he’s late and I’m waiting, I’m pissy, if I’m delayed, the reasons are valid and he shouldn’t be upset. Which is obviously crappy on my part.
In any culture not calling was discourteous, but what intrigued me was my Korean friend’s reaction. I emailed both women to let them know how it turned out. When I said I’d forgotten to call Jrex, M and I thought it was no big deal. S told me later she was horrified! I told her about Jrex wanting to feel considered. She emailed me about it and then called me later that night. That’s been a HUGE theme for her, esp. in friendships with Caucasians. In Korean culture, as I’ve learned the hard way, I’m supposed to call my MIL before and after every trip. I should call to say I’ve arrived home after a visit. If I’m shopping, I should be thinking of her and buying things for her and Dad. I should send cards with checks in them for every birthday, anniversary, or special occasion. For S, those things are second nature, but none of her white friends reciprocate. It’s been hard for her not to take it personally. For a long time she assumed white friends were cold, disinterested, or just didn’t like her. I know that for Jrex consideration looks different than that, but for S, it was like I’d set off a light in her head.
*The picture is from this site which features experiences (for English or Japanese speakers) in authentic Korean homes! Learn to bow! Learn to wear a hanbok. Do they teach courtesy?
**It should be noted that Jrex wasn't so much concerned with me being a little late. He's not that petty. It was that he'd tried to call me cause he was running late (due to the lack of cell phone he had no way to contact me), he was concerned for how long the dog had been home alone, and we were expecting a delivery/vistor between 6 and 7. So he had to curtail experiments, rush home, I wasn't there and he had no idea where I was, if anything had happened to me, etc. It was a potent cocktail that could have been avoided if I'd called to check in.
I know every friendship and marriage is, in fact, cross-cultural. The challenge is to learn to articulate your cultural (or just familial) assumptions. Being from different races or nations just make it more obvious there are differences. What about you, have you hit the consideration wall? Experienced (or done) things that seemed completely rude, but were in fact just culturally different?