What do you do?

Happy Monday bloggers!  Thanks to the required texts of my global studies class, today I am writing about cross-cultural interactions. I feel like culture is such an ambiguous term at this point; it can mean so many things. While some of the readings for this class have been more dry than others, I have found myself raising my eye-brows at surprising revelations more than I would have thought. When discussing differences in terms of how people of different cultures communicate with others, it often seems obvious to make certain distinctions. Americans tend to be individualistic, ambitious, and competitive. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Sure, all that is true. But I have found that it’s the subtle nuances that prove to be most captivating. For example, when first meeting a new person, most Americans are apt to say “What do you do?”  It’s just our first inclination, what could tell you more about someone new than what they do for a living? Yet on the other hand, many Europeans are quick to ask “Where are you from?” or “Where did you go to school?’” when meeting someone for the first time. I was quite interested in this difference, so I tried out the different conversation tactics this weekend at Nina’s going away party. Talking to a stranger, I first went about the conversation using the tried and true method of demanding to know what he spends his time doing. After following that route for a time, he agreed to start the conversation over from scratch. Starting anew with “Where are you from?” proved to be exciting and new, in my humble opinion.

I got to thinking about why are Americans so utterly obssessed with work… why does one’s identity have to be directly and intricately tied to their profession?  Sure what you do for work is a piece of who you are, but is it or rather should it be the principal aspect of yourself as a human? One of our readings highlighted how an American is likely to comment on someone’s professional reputation when describing them to someone else, while an Indian is more likely to comment on their personality and disposition first and foremost. There is so much more to life than work.  Personally, I would hate to think that we really value one’s career over qualities such as being caring, intelligent, well-read, generous, open-minded, etc.

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