7. Success, Likes & Comments, and 3 Facts

I wasn’t thinking about this but it has just crossed my way and it has to do with cultural shock, maybe in a deeper way, since it has to do with a mix of emotions, perspectives, different realities and circumstances, failure and success and our notions about them.

Someone just posted a Lady Gaga’s phrase about perseverance and resilience, the importance of keep trying not matter what. Then followed by:
– 22.177 likes and hearts and happy faces
– 3 deeper reflections
– 1 person who noticed that Rocky IV had said exactly the same

What strikes me the most is 1 of these 3 deeper reflections. It says something like “I’m fed up with this First World piece of advice which doesn’t work at all in my underdeveloped country”. It sounds pretty resentful, and that’s not the best way to reach the “other half” (not real proportion, I know). But let’s not forget that resentment comes from somewhere, mostly from pain, and where there is pain there is something to be addressed. I have experienced myself and have seen others going through that feeling that says something like: ok, you are living such a different reality that you can not really get what our struggles are, the daily nuances and shades of feelings and small and huge frustrations they carry, the marks they keep eroding in our souls and bones. And I have also been on the other side, saying/feeling: I’m aware of my privileges, I’m trying to help, and this is not some kind of Suffering Contest, ’cause pain, loss, grief and struggling are common to any living creature, in any poor or rich country or position anyway.
Both are legit, and this is my 2 step cultural anti-shock way to bridge them:
1) So what?
2) Please, tell me more.

Step 1 means that, sure, we are all different, the world is not a smooth equity paradise, we can all have different perspectives and realities and circumstances that demand from us totally different doses of perseverance and resilience. So what? Should we just leave it that way? Do we need to fear or resent each other? What if we just listen, even when the other’s voice sounds resentful, or patronizing, or whatever. And here comes step 2: listen. Listen further. Deeper. Listen to more voices. Ask, think, re-think. And keep listening.

It has nothing to do with Lady Gaga or anybody who generously and openly share both their talents and struggles. It has nothing to do with perseverance itself, which is totally recommendable. But there are 2 tricky things about these partly true cliches:
Perseverance (read dreams, goals, motivation, mindset, will power, believing, etc) is super important. But it is not everything and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is always combined with many other factors (both individual and beyond the individual) that weigh in both for failure or success. When people keep trying and trying and trying and it’s never enough, that signals a collective failure, where change is needed. And those people don’t need to be told to keep trying, neither to be sorry for, but their voices to be included in a deeper discussion about our collective failures. That is the other tricky thing: We are always listening to the same voices, the successful ones, accordingly to whatever we consider success at a given moment and place. And while many of them can be very good role models, and they may have very interesting and enriching perspectives, tips and experiences, there are still at least 3 simple facts:
1. There are other voices
2. Successful voices are not representative of the majority or the average, they are just more marketable and entertaining than statistics
3. The perseverant-still-not-successful voices are the ones that can point out where it hurts, where things are not working, where changes need to be made, maybe not where to get but where to start from.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like binary thinking, or that kind of zero sum games, as if things were black or white, or as if we needed to drop that in order to embrace this. I’m all for wider spectrums and richer combinations. And that’s what intercultural experiences are all about.
Let’s just listen to each other without any mutual resentments or prejudices, be happy for each other’s success, attentive to each other’s individual and collective failures, and let’s learn from all of it. That’s why I keep inviting you to visit, and specially to volunteer in my country, no matter if you are Elvis still alive or the worst failure on earth (impossible to measure, don’t worry).

The thing is that since success already gives you a platform from which to be heard, here I’m offering a platform to all the other voices: you are invited to share all your failure and struggling stories miguialoreta@gmail.com
We are listening. Thanks a lot.

6. Time is on my side

Our relationship with time and schedules might be quite different. It’s the 4th cultural shock issue mentioned by people visiting Argentina. You can check the other 3 in the previous entries.
We are not extremely attached to schedules, only if we absolutely have to, like in order to keep our job. Not to be on time is regular to us. If we are meeting friends at 7, it is expected that some will arrive at 7:30 or 8. We even arrange it that way: it’s pretty common to say “Lets meet around 7, 8” as if there wasn’t an entire hour in between. You can always hear someone on the bus, saying on the cellphone “yeah, I’m almost there” and then spending another 30 minutes on that bus. We appreciate punctuality, but it feels more like a present, a nice surprise. It triggers some kind of gratitude. We are about to say “you shouldn’t have bothered!”
If we are flexible about arrival time, wait to see how long it takes us to actually leave after already saying that we were leaving: we start kissing everybody goodbye, and starting conversations, and trying to arrange future meetings, and someone always has to tell us or show us something at that very moment when 40 minutes have already gone by, and then the host may keep us at the door for another 20 and end up realizing that we could take some left-overs with us, so we are back in the kitchen suddenly exchanging recipes for as long as it takes, ’cause at that point somebody else could be about to leave and why not wait to cross the door together even if it risks to start the whole cycle all over again.
I’ve noticed that many people from other cultures… guess what? Just leave. As simple as that. But not that simple to us. We might feel it as some kind of ghosting, you know? Or ask you for some explanation. Or even ask somebody else for some explanation: “Do you know why Johan left so abruptly? Yes, Johan, the whitest person on earth, that one, yeah. Was he tired? Feeling sick? Have we been talking in Spanish too much?”
Our average diner time is about 10pm. People can go to bed at 1am on a daily basis. Not me, I can eat at 7 and be in bed at 9. But you can’t imagine how absolutely weird is that. Even my mom makes fun of me.
Could you please let me know if you have heard of an equivalent to saying “Now later”? That’s our response to many requests: “ahora después”. One word immediately denying the other, just like that. I’ve shared it at my volunteering site:

It says a lot about our relation with time and schedules, and with each other, and towards unspoken rules, our ambivalence and our way of saying and not saying things.
Maybe time is on our side. Maybe we want to make believe it is. Maybe we are time’s relativity embodiment. See it yourself.

What is your relationship with time? How do you feel about it? Send me your thoughts and experiences miguialoreta@gmail.com

4. Rules Blurers

Rules are rules. Well… we are not that Aristotelian in that matter. And that’s the second most mentioned issue when it comes to cultural shock. To us rules are more like clouds: we can see different forms in them, they come and go with the wind, they might look perfect sometimes but they still get between us and sunshine, and they are far away up there moving much slower than reality down here. Our relationship with rules can go from a small, decent, pragmatic and necessary flexibility to a 100% mafia approach. I’m talking about both behavioral not written rules, and the Law. We might be more attached to the former. I think it has a historical explanation, and a mix of factors as education, real and perceived impunity, a pretty unpredictable reality with not much linear outcomes. The thing is we might be creating more unpredictability this way. In some areas, and for some visitors it might seem edgy, adventurous, free, much fun, or sometimes tiring, crazy or dangerous, depending on their age and background, how structured is their own mindset and culture, and their concrete experiences here. And it is, again, all about balance: while a too structured life may feel lifeless and too predictable, too much unpredictability is stressful and some structure is needed at least as the basis from which to take off.

So, here comes the beauty of intercultural experiences: you are invited to join us, and enjoy your unpredictability rush, and feel a little wild, and also to bring and share your own mindset towards rules. It is ok if you are taking a walk with your Argentine friend and suddenly Argie is across the street staring at you with a clear “What’s wrong with you?” expression, ’cause Argie automatically crossed when realizing cars weren’t coming that fast and you automatically stopped when seeing the “don’t walk” sign. You can keep respecting traffic signs and other rules. In order to learn from each other, we need to still be each other at some point. And it might be not just automatic for you but reasonably safer. Sometimes. Because you need to remember that some Argie drivers will not stop at red lights. So it is not all about just sticking to the rules, but to handle this double standard of respecting basic rules yourself / not expecting anybody else to necessarily do it. That’s how daily unpredictability feels. It’s like a dance where a dancer is following a choreography and the other one might improvise at any moment. It can be tiring sometimes, even a mess, but it can also be lively and challenging, bring up unexpected beautiful moves, develop creativity and adaptive skills, and enrich the dance and both dancers.

Of course unpredictability is not just made of a no-rules mindset. It has to do with politics and economics, climate change,  human limitations, life. Too much of it is unlivable. Too little is unrealistic and not even desirable. The thing is that our attachment to, and detachment from, rules and structures can contribute to one extreme or the other.

I guess the difference is that we here tend to see rules only as restrictive instead as a basic common platform that can free as from some worries. We could make some space in our minds and spirits if we could walk more relaxed instead of extremely attentive to a totally unpredictable traffic. But I don’t want our improvisation muscle to weaken due to unchallenging circumstances. Am I asking for too much? Noooooo. I’m just inviting you and everybody to share inter-cultural experiences, with open minds and hearts, so we can all be who we are but enriched, refreshed and awakened.

Share your questions and thoughts miguialoreta@gmail.com