what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cultural differences

I have quite few websites about the EU on my favourites bar – but don’t often access them since they are either too technical or too predictable. I’ve just looked at the two which are in my “links” on this site and have to wonder why I put them there! Neither gives any real sense of what’s going on in the EU. But I’ve just hit (through the Social Europe site) a blog which seems genuinely informative about a range of EU activities; gives links for further reading; and which resists the temptation of self-indulgent raving to which too many blogs succumb (“yours truly” excepted, of course!)
I mentioned recently “The geography of thought” – the book which reports on the experiments which take the writing of people like de Hofstede and Trompenaars about differences in cultural behaviour a stage further – to suggest that Europeans and Asians literally see the world differently and think differently. By coincidence I read in parallel Lucy Wadham’s The Secret Life of France – which is a delightful dissection of the mental and behavioural DNA of the Parisian bourgeois. She uses the country’s interesting mix of Catholicism and Revolutionary principles to offer an explanation of why the English (I use the term for obvious reasons!) and the French find it so difficult to understand one another – whether in matters relating to infidelity or diversity. Have a look at some of the 77 reviews on the Amazon site to get a sense of her argument.
The differences between Bulgaria and Romania is a fascinating issue for me. The Danube does not just act as a geographical but as a cultural and even physiognomic (?) boundary. Witness the way the voice timbre of women drops and their “sini” (glands) grow in the 2 minutes it takes to cross the great bridge which connects Giurgiu from Russe! Another difference I noticed the other day is that all the plastic Bulgarian pepper pots seem to be recyclable (the tops unscrew to allow you to top up) – whereas the Romanian ones are not! Very significant! I was also interested to read that the Romanians share with the Serbians a feature which I find most annoying – a search for blame and an almost sadistic delight in pointing out apparent contradictions in their interlocuteur’s conversation. A classic example was this week when I told my partner about the crack which had developed in the mountain house toilet. “No”, I replied, “I remember very clearly flushing the toilet after I had turned off the water in January; and not only did I put salt in the toilet water remaining but I remember squeezing the water in the toilet basin with a cloth!” “But”, Came the suspicious query, “Why did you need to add salt if you had squeezed the water out?”! I rest my case!
And let's not talk about the various ways people conduct arguments - with the tentative explorative style fitting very ill with the aggressive debate which seems to characterise what we might call Latin nations???

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