Culture Wars

A situation that so often arises is illustrated in the following story. A young bride to be decides that for the sake of bridge building and in order to make her future mother-in-law feel reassured that she is not losing a son but gaining a daughter in-law, invites her soon to be new relative to accompany her to choose a weeding dress. The mother-in-law to be, as it later emerged decided that for the sake of bridge building, to show her new daughter in law that she felt privileged by the latter’s gesture, respected how personal and sensitive the issue was and to reassure the young bride that she was gaining an ally and not an interfering hag, decided that she would be very quiet and low key at the dressmaker. All seemed poise for the perfect occasion with everybody’s values and intentions being perfectly aligned.

You can imagine how the tribal war that followed from this event took everybody by surprise. The daughter in law left the dressmaker absolutely incensed by her fiancé’s mother’s behaviour. In her view her mother in law to be had to her immense disappointment suddenly turned into a wicked witch. According to be bride, she went to the trouble to include her mother in law in a very personal matter, and her mother reciprocated by being “stony silent” throughout the process”. You can imagine the mother-in-laws reaction when the very vocal bride made her feelings known. From this misunderstanding a lifetime of conflict and mistrust could ensue. To think that it all started with such mutual good faith!

When you analyse the problem, it emerges that the problem was that complex concept called culture. Culture determines a person expectations of a situation, the way they believe that they should conduct themselves’ in the situation and their interoperations of the behaviour of others in the situation based on their beliefs about what is expected and appropriate conduct in the circumstance. Each person believes that their own culture, with its particular values and expectations is a least the correct culture and at worst the far superior one. It is this belief that gives them a platform to judge the other and position themselves in opposition to the other.

This issue provides a general metaphor for all relationships. In a sense you are dealing cross-culturally with almost everyone in your life, because personality, world view and gender are aspects of being akin to culture.

The secret to bridge and relationship building and is deep reverence and respect for the other. From this position we assume that we are ignorant and therefore humbly try to learn and be guided by the other about how they think, what they intend, believe or expect.

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