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Cultural Questions

Cultural Questions at the Casa Amarela Guesthouse

I want to go to Germany, because I do not understand the German people.

I believe that it is safe to say that there is such a phenomenon know as cultural tendencies; that various people from different cultures and corners of the globe evince shades of character that have been derived and influenced from their socialization. Cultures are self-perpetuating patterns, tendencies, and nothing more. Thus being, I have observed that people from various cultures tend to follow certain prescribed ways of behavior.

This is not a new idea, but one that I feel provoked to deliver a disclaimer before stating, as there are many folks out there (particularly in the USA) who seem to think that it is shameful to refer to someone as possessing any tendency that would indicate their cultural identity. It is considered rude in the USA to ask a person where they come from, when it is obvious that they are from another country. I find it pitiful that I upset people in the USA by referring to as Mexicans because they are from Mexico, or when I ask someone with a Chinese name if they are from China. “I am an American,” the Mexican immigrant tells me with scorn. How dare I speak Spanish to a native Spanish speaker? How dare I remind someone that they are not white? How dare I notice that someone is from another place in the world?

Political correctness is the most racist trend to ever show its ugly face in the USA. Political correctness creates and solidifies a standard of what “people” are, and it seems as if this is the standard of the white “American.” To refer to someone as being anything other than this, when it is clear that they are, is taken as an insult. Political correctness makes words like “Mexican,” Vietnamese,” “Chinese,” “Asian,” “Oriental,” “African,” “Turkish,”“Indian,” “Filipino,””Arab” etc . . . profanities- titles to be shameful of. It also makes discussions of cultural contrasts taboo.

To say that it is impolite to speak of someone’s cultural background is to say that this background is something to cover up, something to be ashamed of.

Political correctness is racist.

I am a traveler, I like to talk about cultures, cultural tendencies, and I appreciate diversity. When I call a Mexican a Mexican it is because I appreciate his cultural background. I feel that to ignore someone’s national identity is to truly insult them. So I speak Spanish to Latinos, Chinese to Chinese people, and I ask people about the countries that they come from. I want to find out about the world more than I want to be polite.

So back to my discussion of Germans:

I have difficulty understanding the ways of Germans. I am honest, I can admit when I am faced with a challenge that confuses me. So a couple of Germans walk into the guesthouse that I am staying at. There are two computers here that guests can use: a stationary one and a laptop. Mira is on the big computer and I am on my own laptop. The Germans think that we are using both of the guesthouse’s computers, and they were hardly inside of the door before they got really upset.

“So you two are using both of the computers?” one of them asks with biting passive aggressiveness.

I look up at them and answered with a cold, “I am using my own computer,” and then got back to my work.

They proceeded to kick Mira off of the computer that she was buying a plane ticket on so that they could check their email.

I thought this was rude. But I also think that a good part of the perception of rudeness is culturally derived. Granting this, I pondered for a while about why they thought that we should have gotten off of the computer so that they could use it. Were they being rude, or were they just being German?

Can I consider ‘being German’ rude?

This is not an isolated incident either, as I have experienced similar ways of acting from many other Germans all over the world. I would almost have to say that this behavior is a German cultural tendency. It almost seems that they expect everyone to abide by the politeness standards of their own culture as they recklessly stomp on those of others.

Or am I projecting my own gingerly cultivated sense of politeness upon them?

I have a question, I am confused, I think I need to go to Germany to straighten this out. Do Germans treat people in Germany the same way they treat people in other countries? If so, how does this work? How would a German person respond to being kicked off of a computer by another German? I believe that all cultures are worked out perfectly. I believe that all cultures, when they are isolated, run like a smoothly ticking clock.

In China, if someone is disrespected, they have to fight the person who insulted them. They have to, or they loose face and the social hierarchy is reset. It is just the way that it is, everybody knows this, and the culture runs smoothly because of it.

I am curious about Germany. I must find out a little of how their society ticks, so that I know how to react to a German the next time they try kicking me off of a computer.

Not understanding something is one of the greatest impetuses to travel.

While understanding is one of the traveler’s greatest joys.

I don’t think I understand anything. So I have to keep traveling.

Wade from Vagabond Journey Travel Information Guide
Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal
November 23, 2007

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Filed under: Anthropology, Culture and Society, Europe, Germany, Portugal

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3167 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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