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Cultural Differences

As an individual with a diverse cultural background, I always have been interested in the differences between cultures. My experience involves mostly the Brazilian and the French-speaking Swiss cultures since I lived in those two countries for a considerable time. Each of them has pros and cons personally. For example, Brazilians are very outgoing. You can go out on a night alone, and people would invite you to join them. That’s one thing that I value since I’m passionated about meeting people. In Switzerland, it’s different. People are more reserved. They like to have their space respected. As an example, It’s not common to see people interacting with strangers on public transports. On the other hand, I appreciate that honesty is an important value for the Swiss.

Now that I’ve been traveling around the US for over one month, I’ve been experiencing a couple of recurrent behaviors that I wasn’t familiar with. One that surprised me is how people are always asking how you are doing. Even when I go to the supermarket, the cashier will most of the time ask how I’m doing. It’s a simple thing, but since I wasn’t used to it, it gave me a positive image of the country’s culture.

One interesting thing about trying to analyze and comparing cultures is how to define a culture. What I may think is a property of a culture may be only an attribute of the individuals that I met or a trait of a small portion within a larger group. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that these generalizations are just language shortcuts and that they shouldn’t be considered as absolute truths. When I say Brazilians are outgoing, what I’m really meaning is that most of the Brazilians that I met are outgoing. Another person could think that Brazilian are shy from his experience. We should try to judge people on an individual basis when we can, but generalizations can also be useful for quick judgments where time isn’t a luxury.