Clashing cultures

The time has gone and passed, my friend… In other words I managed to end up in horror movie of too many things fitted in too little time.

The first issue I want to address is Foreign Culture and Globalization. I will have to write an essay on the topic, so why not discuss it here, too. What made me write on this topic, was actually a conversation I got engaged few days ago. It was how we must come out of our shell as a nation and open up for foreigners and how we have been much closed country.

To begin with, I would like to explain my background a little. I have not studied globalization more than what I have got from school. I have, however, worked with foreigners for long enough to start to get the picture of weird braid we make.

The conversation touched several problems. One of them was that the boy couldn’t find job. Mind that I call even 50-year-olds boys, so draw your conclusions. He speaks only English and it is difficult for him to find a part-time job here that he would like. I found it somewhat normal – we are small city and most places, where you could use English daily, are filled for years. He could do some consult work, I offered. No-no! He wants something where he could meet the locals, but Estonian economy is not advanced enough that he could work here in English without problems. Um… you came toEstoniato study, wasn’t it so? Considering hard it even is for locals to find jobs. That’s really something I can’t help him with. He then asked if it is done purposely to keep foreigners out. I said no, but the law does require that if you want to work in public section somewhere, you should be able to communicate in Estonian. I see no reason why we should let English in more than it already is. English might be more powerful and what not, but with speed it’s eating out smaller languages, I don’t want Estonian to be just another victim. I am proud that I can speak Estonian and I am absolutely against second languages. That goes for any stuffed up foreigner, who is insulted by the fact that it is required that you do speak the language of the country you want to find job in.

The second issue was that he felt insulted when the teacher he was speaking to didn’t know his fatherland’s districts and culture. Um, excuse me? In six years I’ve been working with foreign students alone, I can only say one thing – so what? I can count in my one hand only how many students that arrived here actually do know something aboutEstonia. Instead I asked him how much did he know before he landed here? He knew it was Northern country and the capital wasTallinn(because that’s where the ticket was to). And he is insulted? He came here to study for 2 years, yet he didn’t even bother to learn about the country he came to. I told him to hide his eyes. Can he really expect a teacher of a school nearly6000 milesaway from his home country to know the counties or that they are different from each other? I learned it thanks to a friend, who came from there, but before that I was just as ignorant. But we should know, he said, we work with their cultures. And honestly, most of us do know, but there are 200 different cultures under our roof alone – we learn from them just as much as they learn from us. He should relax and just go with the flow and not feel insulted by such things. Because, if I’d get penny for each timeEstoniawas compared with food, I’d be rich and I’d have leftover for my grandkids.

The third issue was that he wasn’t treated here how he was used to in other countries, by his culture (Muslim), likeAmericaandGreat Britain. He continued explaining how that makes us narrow-minded nation. Double excuse me?? I’m sorry, did I just heard you right? You came6000 milesto north to complain not being treated as in your neighborhood? The cities he brought out have lost most of their identity to globalization. I see no reason what so ever that we should treat him the same way! I thought he came here to learn about our culture – why else did you take up study program for 2 years here – and to SEE the world, not go around complaining how we are not all looking like out of same plastic form! We are after all Lutheran country! You can’t expect us to change to your culture just because you are from different culture. Where did go the courtesy of learning to live in the culture dominant in the country you go to live in? I hateAmericafor loosing that concept from young folk! I am sorry, but that was downright insulting. We give you the courtesy and we try to make your staying here easier by choosing what we say, how we say, how we move, how we greet and how we eat when you arrive, but to say that we should change the entire culture to suit his is entirely different issue. How can you even expect such thing? And to compare us withWashingtonandLondon… I came close to sending him back there if he feels that every world end should treat him like his local shop, because I am sick and tired of listening how we should stop being ourselves and change, change, change just so the individual from other culture could cope. You came yourself in foreign culture – how about learning about it? Feel how it is to be treated differently? The thing is, we haven’t had that much contact with Muslim world, but you would know it if you learned about it before. We try to be respectful to your culture, but we make mistakes too. And it is absurd to want to be treated like you always are. If I’d go to Muslim country, I would still have to wear burka and no one cares if I come from North and I feel like dying in dehydration under that load of fabrics. Sorry, but you should show same amount of respect to my culture as we show to yours if we are in your country.

The fourth issue was that he felt like he had insulted the person he made a gift to, because he wasn’t treated any better because of that. In fact, the other person didn’t seem very happy at all. Well, that’s somewhat Estonish… We are not very emotional and most of us don’t know how to express our joy openly. Doesn’t mean that we are not grateful or we don’t appreciate it. We might not show it, but if we accept someone, we keep them in our hearts. We are just not that great with gifts. After explaining him that he continued how he wasn’t treated any better as he would have expected. I didn’t even think, but burst out “You’re buying someone off? That’s not even weird, that’s insulting to the man!” He said he wasn’t, that the gift was made from pure heart. In that case, I explained, it will be taken as that. But to make gift to someone, expecting them to treat you like royalty, is… well… bribe. You don’t get that around here. We have never been good arsh-kissers. To tell you the truth, we act exactly opposite, because to suggest that our choices can be altered by gifts is insulting.

The fifth issue is that the skin color isn’t very varied around here nor were there many religions, oh and the number of foreigners is too small. I felt like laughing out of anger. Which do you prefer, I asked – that we have varied skin tones and every religious group screaming how their way is the right way or quiet society, where minorities are not made feel like hell each time they walk around? We are quiet people and we like it that way. Skin tones – this issue comes from the fact that we live in north. Experience show that out of fifty foreigners that come here to stay, only 2 or 3 live over the winter. It’s cold, you get sick a lot (especially if you are not born here or have darker skin, which is much less tolerant to our sunlight and weather), it’s hard to find a job if you don’t speak local languages. People stare, he noted. Yes, they do. But most do it, because they are fascinated of you. When I saw my first black (and I mean black! That Nigerian dancer was amazingly dark!) person, I was mesmerized – the nose, the ears, the eyes, the pink palms, the lips, odd chuckle of the voice – it was amazing! When I first met myPakistanfriend, I was amazed how yellow-ashy she looked, yet how wonderful golden shine her skin had. So yeah, you don’t get many skin variation. But I can’t agree about religion. We have near 100 different religions inEstonia. Small groups, because there aren’t many around, but still, we got them many and we have very few clashes on that base. How? We don’t turn this into a major problem. Skin tone is not a problem to Estonian nor is religion. Religion is personal, your bedroom life is personal, your family is personal.

We spoke close to three hours on globalization and how it affects us and howEstoniashould be more open to other cultures. Yeah, in the same light, I’d say other cultures should be more open toEstoniatoo. I feel for them that they have trouble finding jobs, there is nothing we can do about that, but everything else (culture, religion, skin tone) is personal point of view. We learn as we get to know you. You should too. You came here to study in different culture, then expect to be treated like so. I am home here, this is my home, my country, my culture. I don’t push it on you and don’t demand us to denounce it just for you either. We seem closed out for major minorities of the world. What can I say? The climate isn’t very friendly and our emotional states are different. But what would you prefer? That you have many minorities, who are all after their own rights or you live amongst people, to whom it doesn’t make big issue what nation you are from, what you look like, which religion you follow. I rather like the latter. I can do what I consider best for myself and my family and still not be cast out of society.


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