Before I returned to the literary field as a writer, I had the incredible privilege of teaching English to business corporations in Germany that have a multinational clientele as well as employees from every nation. As an expatriate living outside of the United States of America, one of the first lessons I learned, was that the English Language is diverse. Pronunciation, spelling and the phonetic stress placed on certain words are different. In fact, the vocabulary may be the same, but it does not necessarily mean that the words have the same meaning.
If you write a book about something that is little known, you have to be prepared for questions. Some will be silly and trivial, some will be deeper: but there will be questions. I wrote about Iran. Immediately I learned that many Americans know little about that country and its culture. Many of the questions I have been asked have been about the women of Iran. They seem so different from the women of America, so different and so very hard to comprehend.
There’s been so much in the news lately about gender, women in particular, specifically about the plight of women globally, how they’re faring in the sciences and on corporate boards, the abduction of the girls in Nigeria, the national fixation on Hillary …and it goes on and on and on. However, when it comes to gender, for me there’s no greater gift than my 4-year-old granddaughter, Nadia Lucille Howard. You see, Nadia owns me, plain and simple. And she knows it.
A few years ago I read Dan Buettner’s book, Blue Zones. He has written a follow up and has continued to research. I want to share with you what he calls the Power of 9. According to Buettner’s, Reverse Engineering Longevity, Life expectancy of an American born today averages 78.2 years. But this year, more than 70,000 Americans reached their 100th birthday. What are they doing that the average American isn’t (or won’t)?
I started to write this article while I was waiting to board a plane to Germany, my native country. My topic is helpfulness. I want to define the cultural differences around giving assistance between members of different nations. I want to share a few experiences here in the United States. They show a level of caring that’s really new to me.
My grandmother Hilda passed away when she was 95 years old. Her funeral was one of the most impressive events I‘ve ever joined. According to my feeling, all the citizens of her and my hometown had come to the cemetery. She was born and she died at the same small town in Northern Bavaria, Germany, which might have been one reason for her fame. She had never left her hometown longer than for a day trip. Another occasion could have been the way she decided to spend her time and live her life.
As a German, I never thought deeply about the things that American people value. I heard about their preference for comfortable footwear and that they love burgers. When I moved to Chattanooga, I realized it’s true. Lots of folks wear tennis-shoes, no matter if it is with jeans, slacks or skirts. And as an almost vegetarian, I learned to value juicy grilled beef. I’m sure I will miss that back in Germany. After two years living in the US, I notice more differences between the attitudes of American and German people than I had imagined
If you are a mono-lingual American, it can be helpful to know how native speakers of other languages often pronounce English, so you can understand them more easily. China is a huge country, and Mandarin is spoken differently in various parts of China. For some people, Mandarin is actually their second language, not their first. People in India speak somewhere between 780 and 1683 different languages, although reportedly only 21 are officially recognized.
To many of us, the idea of using two sticks with one hand to pick up a piece of chicken or vegetable from a plate or bowl and putting that same piece of chicken or vegetable into our mouth without dropping it is beyond one’s imagination. However, this is what one out of every five people in the world does at mealtime on a daily basis. These people with such dexterity with chopsticks live in what we call “chopsticks nations” such as China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.