Thursday, March 8, 2012

Intercultural Exchange

I got all four of my wisdom teeth pulled yesterday and had been telling everyone about the appointment for the past two weeks. I figured that the more people that knew about it, the more pressure I would have to actually follow through. This was something I've been putting off for ten years (yes, you read that right) and in an ideal situation I would just "oversleep" and rescheduled the appointment for ten past never. Well long story short, I look like a chipmunk now (and no, there will be no pictures!), but it's done.

What I found so interesting, though, was the responses from different people to my upcoming ordeal. I will make the same statement I always do: the following is a generalization! Not every single person responded exactly the same way, just the vast majority...

The Americans I told came out with, "That sucks, but don't worry, it's never as bad as they say" and then regaled me with stories of miraculous, painless recoveries. Germans on the other hand, immediately started talking about some nightmare situation regarding broken jaws and stitches gone wrong. I was beginning to wonder if all Germans knew the exact same person who had this gory operation and all Americans knew the exact same person who bounded out of the operation room and immediately had pizza and hamburgers for dinner.

Of course, in reality most cases end up in the middle. It sucks, it hurts, but it's relatively uncomplicated and over soon enough. I don't find either approach right or wrong, but it's one of those moments where you realize that you share more with your fellow citizens than you realize. I am not on the same page as all Americans, nor do we always understand each other, but I can't deny that I share certain personality traits with millions of people I've never met simply as a result of being born and raised in America. This doesn't mean I can't integrate successfully into other cultures, it just means I will always have some things about me that are inherently American (or Turkish).

On a side note, the German approach was encapsulated perfectly in the little model train town display at the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. There is an adorable model train riding around a cute city, with little people waving out of their apartment windows or sipping coffee in a cafe. And right in the middle of this idyllic setting is a little accident, with a mini-fire truck and paramedics pushing a person in a stretcher towards a mini-ambulance.

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