Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Language differences and cultural differences are two, well, different things.  When someone doesn't hold the door for you, it's cultural.  When someone calls you and launches immediately into Cantonese even though you're screaming "No Cantonese.  English only," it's language.  A perfect shining example presented itself to me the other day...

There's a very fun couple in our neighborhood who we really like.  She's Malaysian, but speaks perfect English and is completely hip on what's happening in Western culture.  She could be any of my American friends except when things like this happen:

Me: How are you?
Her: Not feeling good.
Me: Oh no, what's wrong?
Her: I have very bad stomach pains with a lot of gas building up inside me.  (There were hand motions to indicate where the gas build-up was happening.)

This is more my style:

Me: How are you?
Her: Not feeling too hot.
Me: Oh no, what's wrong?
Her: Nothing crazy, just some tummy issues.
Her: Minor stomach ache.

My initial reaction was to be embarrassed by what was being shared.  Then I realized she wasn't embarrassed to tell me, so why should I be embarrassed to hear it?  I feel like this is the message behind that popular children's book "Everybody Poops".

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