Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Kosovar's critique of American culture

This is a piece that was originally posted to the facebook page of Genc Isa, a Kosovar friend of mine who spent some time in the US.  I found it pretty insightful, interesting, and even-handed. Sometimes we can see ourselves better through an outsider's eyes.  I thought this was worth passing on so I secured Genc's permission to reprint it here.  I thought it best to leave it completely unedited.  I hope you'll have the patience to read it through to the end.  (You'll see when you get near the bottom that I have an ulterior motive!)  I'll be happy to pass on any comments to Genc or put you in touch with him.

American Culture vs Kosova Culture

Hi everyone,

I was inspired by my friend Elisabeth Hansen to write her something about Kosova culture, economic issue, climate etc. I would like to share my experience in the US and how Kosova culture is different than it is in the US. 

Travelling to the US for a non US is the greatest thing that could happen. Why? Because they think that America will make their life better and fullfil their dreams. They are even to leave their families and community. There is no place in the world that you can be happy without your family. Family is everyone`s treasure. Unfortunately there are people who dont care about this.

While I was in the US, I was driving my bike and looking all these beautiful places, houses, mountains, cars, lakes etc. but something was missing on me. I was wondering how nice it would be if my family was here too. At that time I realized that there is no beautifil place in the world without your family.

Learning another language means learning another culture. In this case I have learned the American culture and now I can easily compare to my culture which is very different. Lets see how the family issue works in America comparing to Kosova:

Families in the US are separated all over America and maybe all over the world. Here families are very close to each other. Brothers and sisters of a Family in America are separated but here its the opposite. You have to live with your own brothers and sisters in one house unless you are rich and have another house to stay but still the youngest son has to take care of the parents til they die. In the US this never happens. You never see ten to fifteen people in one house. Families in the US dont make very often visits to their loved ones. They dont see each other for years. In Kosova they make visits very often. The husband in the family is the head of the house and the wife is responsible to take care of kids and jobs in the house and they would get mad if you enter the house with the shoes on. In the US you can go in the house with the shoes on. Most of the wives dont work because they have to take care of the house. Now it has become same for wives and husbands for work. There is no jobs for none of them. In America both of them work and there is someone else who takes care of the children, of course by paying for it. 

Now lets see friends relationships:
While I was in the US I made a lot of friends and they are all great. Sometimes they act selfish. I dont know why but maybe its part of culture. Here are some examples: while in the US one thing really bothered me. While I was going to work, I would see my friends coming in the same direction and they wouldn`t even say Hi to me but just pass making me feel invisible. In Kosova you would stop and sometimes shake hands with your known ones. This has happened many times to me. I would say Hi and they wont even reply. I was thinking whats wrong with him or her. Another thing is that people in America dont share when they eat something. In this case they act selfish because here in Kosova you always offer whatever you are eating to your known or unkown one. So, its very unpolite to eat something on your own and not share with others around you. Unfortunately, this did not happen in America. Its funny one time because when one of my friends was eating something and I was expecting to share it with me...ahaha. I was thinking she is acting selfish.

Marriage Culture:
In America people get married in the Church. Here they dont get married in the Mosque (lol) unless you are a Christian. Many years ago, the bride was chosen by the family and you would marry her but now its like in America, you find your own soul. Anyway, the marriage is very different than in the US. The girls of the family`s boy and neighborhood sing for a week before the marrige is done. They sing about how good is the boy. Then, after a week singing all the village or the known ones of the boy go to take the bride with a lot of cars and bring her to the bridegroom. In addittion, they still sing til the time when the bride and the bridegroom go in the room. While the bride is the living room, she cannot sit but stand and look down only. This is how it works here.

Wearing Culture:
To me this is a very big culture difference. Girls here wear very tight clothes, long women boots and heels and a lot of make-up and thats why I dont like them, for those who wear like that. They are beautiful without make-up so I dont know why they do this. To me this is very disgusting. In the US girls wear very simple clothes and no make-up. For me this is a very positive thing. Boys wear normal clothes. Old men wear a special type of wear and a special type of hat. They never wear shorts even when its very warm during the summer. They wear always the same clothes. They wash them of course. Some of very few young women wear scarf because of their belief orientation but most of the old women wear it because they are old. In the US I have seen this differene where old and young women and men wear normal clothes as well as for boys and girls. Its very unpolite for an old man to wear shorts and T-shirts with colors and nice athletic shoes. Everyone would laugh and think he is crazy. I have seen this many times in the US but I did not laugh because thats the American culture, right?

Other culture issues:
Can you please help me? We dont use the word Please. People would laugh and look you strange because you are being too way smarter than others. I had an experience with this while in the US. I saw a friend of mine taking breadrolls so I asked him bring me one too. He comes in the living room with two breadrolls and I ask: "Where is mine". He says: "You did not ask please". That was a very shock time for me, anyway I learned through that. Now I use please all the time in the US of course and when dealing with Americans.

People dont tip here. One day my friend took me and my family to restaurant who is American. When we were done and heading home she left a tip on the table. I noticed that she forgot the money so I grab it and while they were leaving I say: "You forgot your money". Then she explains what tip means. I have seen in the US how people tip and I think thats great.

Animals are not polite to keep in the house for most of the people, mostly women because they think animals make their houses dirty. There is not a lot of people that have dogs and cats in the house. If they have, they keep them outside. People say that dogs and cats are not created for inside but for outside. They hate the thing to have an animal in the house. They are very rude to them beating and throwing stones at them especially kids unrespected with dogs, cats, cows, horses etc. I feel sorry now because I used to be like that. I used to throw rocks and beat animals when I was kid. I used to beat cows, horses, dogs and throw rocks at cats. Now, I love animals and would love to have one in my house. In the US almost every house has animals in the house. 

Now, let me switch the theme:
I have seen that people in America have lost their interest in missions around the world. We have missionaries here in Kosova and they need support from their brothers and sisters. There is a family from California who want to move. They have been trying to raise their fund for two years and now its only 50%. Arent Christian Missions part of Bible and part of the Gospel? Being a missionary and saving people spreading the Gospel is a part of what Jesus Christ, isnt it?

To conclude all this is that I have had a great experience and time in the US. Culture did not really bother me because I have warmly received the American Culture and now I can act in both cultures, Kosovo and American Culture. In the future I want to learn another language and another culture. I have learned many things from my trip in the US, mostly for myself.

If there is anything you disagree, please dont hesitate to criticize me!?

All my Love and Blessings to you brothers and sisters!

Genc Isa


Rachel said...

Touche! Thanks for sharing that. It reminded me of some things students have said to me.

rosegirl said...

very interesting!!

Joan & Goga Qesteri said...

Mark, nga cfare fshati ka qene ky shoku jot, se edhe me dale ne Prishtine do te ishte habit...

Carolyn said...

What a fantastic post! Way to really break down and explain the cultural differences.