Cultural Differences

Before I start to dive into the topic of today, I have something else I need to share with you guys.

When I got the idea to start this blog, it was without some deep, ambitious goal to become the next <insert famous blogger’s name here>. It was also without any general idea or direction of where I wanted this to head. Man, I still don’t have a clue of what I wish to accomplish here.

Recently though, I have read that it’s very therapeutical to just write your troubled thoughts down somewhere, however sporadic and disorganised they may be. And since I have some thoughts that often go very much unanswered by my unbelievably uninterested group of loved ones, I still need to get a chance to express these thoughts.


For instance, I love to discuss vague and abstract things such as the vastness of our universe, or the theory of multiverses, and I can spend countless hours on Wikipedia or Youtube learning about gamma-ray bursts (mindblasting things) and be super-eager to tell all my friends excitedly about this, only to find out that they are unaware of what these are, and that they are utterly uninterested in hearing me teach them about what these are, let alone discussing these things. They’d look at me in disgust, all bored already, and suggest we talk about other things that are less demanding for our (their) brains to talk about.

So, disappointedly, I turn to you guys, and, after a stroke of genius, this blog was invented. You’re welcome.

(It should be noted that I am not in any way especially literate when it comes to things like the vastness or the universe, the theory of multiverses, or the concept of gamma-ray bursts – these things just interest me crazily.)

Moving on.

As I’ve mentioned in one of my two previous posts – or was it both? – I have been living in a foreign country for the past eight or nine months, working as an expat. I have been living in Asia previously, when I was an exchange student in China a couple of years ago. That eye-opening experience left me hungry for more Asia, which led me to this position I am in today. And as much as I may love to be here (I really do), there are some things that fit in the category of cultural differences – differences I very much have a great deal of respect for, but I really don’t understand. I mentioned two of them the other day. Here are two more:

1. In this particular country, labor costs are obviously nothing that the economists think about when budgeting. The stores can be almost completely empty of customers, and there’d still be crawling with employees at any given moment of the day, all doing nothing at all, and just costing the company tons of money. As opposed to an equivalent store in my home country, where you wouldn’t find that number of employees for the entire day, let alone a weekend. I think it’s safe to say that our stores back home have one-fifth of the manpower always present here, surely because of the price of labor, but still.

I’m not being patronising or condescending, I’m just pointing out that the stores here have much more potential to offer their customers more detailed attention and perhaps even greater service as a consequence. What do they do with all this manpower? They all greet you blindly and monotonously when you enter the store, when you leave the store, when others enter the store, when others leave the store, when others pass by the store, when you pass by the store, when others don’t even pass by the store – ALL. THE. TIME.

It’s literally like you play a game of whack-a-mole, but instead of being random moles popping up, they all greet randomly, taking turns saying shouting “hello, welcome to our store”. If all employees in any store in this country recorded their “hello, and welcome to our store”-greeting on a piano key, the sound you would hear just being close to one of these stores would be like you heard a drunken baby banging on the keys on that piano – again, everybody taking turn to greet absolutely everyone and no one at the same fucking time. It’s incredibly not-soothing.

After a while, this phenomenon becomes a part of you, and you don’t even notice it anymore. But sometimes you forget, and you hear this fucking baby, drunkenly play the piano, and you start to boil inside.

But I love this place.

2. Another thing I have noticed when I go shopping with my girlfriend is that society clearly hasn’t invented any good solution for this problem I’m about to tell you guys about.

I’m sure we have all been here, being at the mall with the girlfriend or the wife and you are sure that you don’t want to shop anything for yourself. In fact, you don’t even need anything, so you have not the slightest of interest in looking for clothes for yourself. But, you want to be a good boyfriend or husband, so you accompany your partner during this weird activity when you’re just following her around while she browses through every piece of clothing this store has to offer. Sometimes, you’d casually slip in a comment or two, saying “that looks good” or “this looks nice”, but more often than not, you’d be wrong. You might even try to be bold and go for an elaborate version of the aforementioned safe but kind of lame choices, but then you’re in the deep waters, and you’d be even more wrong.

Like, everytime I really have an opinion about something she compares (most things look great in my opinion, but she wants to know which one looks best. It’s really hard), my choice is always the wrong one. She always ends up taking the other item I didn’t choose, and looks at me repulsively. I don’t mind, but it erases my entire purpose for being there. All that’s left, once my good eye for female clothing is stripped away, my only purpose for being there is for a physical presence, i.e. good company. I completely get that, and I wanna be a good company. But how can I be that when it’s impossible to have a dialogue when she gets all into it and just block out all the nonsense that’s always coming from my mouth?

Also, I always seem to end up in her way, she always says “you’re in my way”, and elbows me in my side, walk victoriously right over me, making me squirm on the floor, reduced to a fetal position, always ending up contemplating my life’s choices and how they got me into this particular situation. Again.

Usually, I walk out the store, after I’ve proudly green-lit some pieces of clothing, and park myself on a bench next to a half a dozen other men waiting for their partners, while I surf on my phone, waiting for her to be done with it. More often than not, she comes out without having purchased anything. Had her amount of time spent in those stores been seen as investments, the dividends would’ve been very poor.

I guess the problem what I want to highlight here is that it’s very hard for me to be a good company for three consecutive hours without taking some sort of a break, thus reducing my competence as good company to mediocre company, or even poor company. Also, it’s very hard to just pass on this activity, and stay home, since this activity is a very relationship-y one to have. Luckily, I don’t mind shopping occasionally, but this activity could be a deal-breaker for some couples where the girl really wants to shop and have her partner there, and the guy really hates it, and they’d spend the day fighting with each other only since society says they should do this activity together.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – what I really wanted to say was that I have a great, immense, from-the-bottom-of-my-heart appreciation for the stores that strategically places chairs and benches inside the store, allowing me to lazily, but attentively comment on her choices of clothing, while also keeping my mind awake with whatever I am reading on my phone, thus allowing me to be a pretty decent company, and sometimes I’d qualify as good or even great company.

A mighty win-win-win (the store wins also).

* * * * *

In case you paid attention throughout this post, you’d point out that I promised two more points regarding cultural differences, and that this second point doesn’t really qualify as a cultural differences point. Fair enough, you win, but I am too lazy to go back and edit that part now, plus it looks better if I promise two points instead of just one.


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