Cross Cultural Challenges

I can’t emphasize enough how different our cultures are even thoug human nature is fundamentally the same. There are good people, bad people, rude ones, kind, generous, and the list goes one. What separates us is usually language and culture. Culture shapes the expression of these fundamental human characteristics.

Left-handed
Many of you may or may not know the  (directional) left has an interesting history. In fact, there is an actual name for people who are left-handed, sinister. This comes from the belief that the devil is working in people who are left handed. Thus, anyone who was left handed was encouraged or beaten into using their right hand. It’s a historical fact and definitely Google is if you re more curious.

So here in the Gambia there are very few left-handed people because of what the left hand is used for here.

I’ll give you a hint. There s no toilet paper here excepting the metro area….

You got it. People use their left hand to wipe themselves. Don’t get all grossed out because people here are, for the most part, very clean.

So you can imagine the thought of someobe giving you something or eating (people rarely use sponsor forks)with their left hand. Yuck!!!

Why is this difficult for me? Well I’m not left handed but I’m pretty ambidextrous so sometimes I eat with my left and drink with my right. Or I pass things with my left hand, something that can be seen as rude or disrespectful. It was really hard the first few weeks to “forget” about my left hand and I still make mistakes.

Sharing…germs
I am by no means germophobic but The Gambia has even pushed me to my limits.
I have a special post coming up on this topic at a later date.

Being Bored
When I get back to the States I don’t think I’ll complain as much about being bored. At least I had my car to go for a drive, my x-box, Wii, Playstation, etc. Here the only thing to do, as an American, is read or visit other Americans.
In the States when you are bored there are options to do something  by yourself or with others. I’m The Gambia when someone is bored the seek other people. There are very few options to relieve boredom by yourself.

Pets… or a lack thereof
There’s no pet culture here and animals are seen as tools. In other words there s no concept of animal abuse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen children chase, hit, terrify an animal as a game. It’s terrible but no one really knows any different. Animals have no value beyond their function and are never seen as companions. There are exceptions to every rule but I have yet to see it.

Vehicles and Pedestrians
Yeah, this is totally cultural. There are very few stop lights in the Gambia. It’s cynical,but in America, if people don’t value others they certainly value their vehicle and a life out of prison… There are traffic laws but they aren’t enforced so you’re on your own when you cross the road. Oh, and watch out for that donkey cart

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