January 15, 2009

Culture Jolt

I never experienced culture shock during my almost two decades in Lebanon. But every now and then you hear or see things that sort of jolt you, take you by surprise, and remind you of the difference in culture between Lebanon and Holland.
So I’m standing at the fabric store, trying to choose fabric for my daughter’s room. I ask the salesman for ‘happy’ designs.
But the man is showing me one middle aged designs after another. Dark and gloomy.

No, no,” I say, “it has to be happy, you know. Bright and fresh.”
It’s January, Madam, everyone is depressed,” he replies, “but I’ll try.”
And he continues showing me fabrics that would not look out of place in an old people’s home.
No, it has to be cheerful! Happy, you know?”
“What is it for?”
“I am redoing my daughter’s room at home.”
“Well, how about she comes over and chooses for herself?” he sighs.
She can’t. She’s a bit small.”

“Oh,” he says, “I thought she was 22 or so.”

And that’s where the jolt came. There would be definitely something wrong with that sentence in Holland.

Why on earth would a 22 year old woman still live at home with her parents? The only reason would be that there would be either a physical or a mental handicap that disables her to live on her own. Otherwise, no sane woman at the ripe age of 22 would still live with her parents.

Definitely not if she has a mom who is redesigning her room FOR her.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

It all depends on the parents baby... But there's another shock here. Why can't H. decide for herself? She can! Y.

Anonymous said...

well i agree that the little princess looks old enough to choose!

Anonymous said...

Culture shock for you - pathetic reality for us... Imagine having to move back in with your family after having spent all your college years living alone/with flatmates. But with sky high rents [especially when you add electricity/water/services bills] an extremely disproportionate cost of living [try going to work daily without a car...] and pathetically low salaries... for most there is no other option :(

Anonymous said...

why pathetic??
must the local family structure and dynamic resemble the dutch one or any other one?
is it in any way negative to stay with our parents longer?
i would agree with the practical/cost of life argument here above,
but must add that i stay(i'm 30 btw) to take care of my family in these ever changing times, just like they did, when war was raging in beirut...
simple choice, sacrificing a little of personnal freedom as a sign of grattitude.
interesting issue
would like to hear more...
regards

Anonymous said...

I think Hanah should decide for herself indeed. It is condescending and even belittleling to her to decide on themes and colors for decoration she will have to live with almost her entire vulnarable youth. It fills me with horror to think that a mother can decide on such matters without even thinking what irrevocable mental trauma is caused by the terror and despair that arises from the constant imbecilic stare of an army of grinnning clowns from the bedroom ceiling. There is no fun in that! Get real and have her make a choice!

Nora C said...

I must say that I was slightly offended when you said:

"Why on earth would a 22 year old woman still live at home with her parents? The only reason would be that there would be either a physical or a mental handicap that disables her to live on her own. Otherwise, no sane woman at the ripe age of 22 would still live with her parents. "

Yes, the Lebanese/Arab custom of children living with their parents past 18 stands in stark contrast to the Western mentality of "you're now an adult and thus should be living alone."

You have to see the many advantages to the former: in the Arab world, there is a much higher value placed on family, and this permeates in everyday life in so many ways. In Lebanon, when you need a babysitter, there are dozens of family members lined up, in the West, is a difficulty to find one person who you pay to babysit your kids. Family in Lebanon is there for weddings, graduations, deaths, sicknesses--you are NEVER alone for these things. Yes we, like western kids, realize that parents can be overbearing and annoying at times, and we realize that we need to develop our own independence, our own lives and families, but living with you family and staying close to them does not at all mean that you cannot acheive this.

My family is the most important thing in the world to me, and I in now way think of myself as not "sane" for wanting to be around them for years to come.

Anonymous said...

Alright!
Who’s the anonymous who wrote “It fills me with horror to think that a mother can decide on such matters without even thinking what irrevocable mental trauma is caused by the terror and despair that arises from the constant imbecilic stare of an army of grinning clowns from the bedroom ceiling?”
I am a very nice mother but will not accept pink Barbie curtains, and thus I have to defend my daughter from these choices until she is capable of making choices that fit in her mother’s scheme of things. That is why she probably will leave the house at 18, just to get away from me, regardless of low salaries and sky high rents.

And Nora C, I can imagine you were a little offended. I meant to say “no Dutch woman at the ripe age of 22 would still live with her parents. " And you know the reasons now. Overbearing parents and the likes, that insist on making choices for you
Sietske
:)

Anonymous said...

Now this whole discussion is the real culture jolt... hahahahaha Y.

MarxistFromLebanon said...

you should also include the harsh economical factors as well, it is difficult to find good jobs with sane locations to live in... at least Ras Beirut and Hamra

Anonymous said...

S,
You sure know how to put your foot in your mouth.... 22 and living at home!
You, my friend, have what A. calls foot in mouth disease.
H.