Honesty, I have no idea what to write. Talking about culture is like talking about Monalisa. Quite abstract and multi-interpretive. Everyone can speak sadness and the rest can speak happiness. However, Da Vinci still be the one who knows the meaning behind her mysterious smile and what made her like that. Exactly the same with someone’s cultural background. What happened to a person, create the person itself.
Then what happened to me?
People said an apple wouldn’t fall too far from its tree. Let say I’m an apple, and my family is the tree. I’ve grown up in a complete family. My mother came from East Java and my father came from Bangka Island, which located at south Sumatra. I was born at Yogyakarta but I spent my 17 years at Bangka, then after that I move back to Yogyakarta up until now. So there’s two blood runs in me now, Javanese and Sumatranese. Think about it, both of this ethnic are not really similar. If Sumatra people familiar with direct words and quite high intonation, Java people are more indirect and prefer low intonation. But my parents are not associated with that stereotype. My father is not that harsh and my mother is not that soft. They act globally. They filter out what’s good from their ancestor’s culture and discard what’s bad. That’s the environment I’ve grown up with.
Parent’s mindset has influenced mine. The way I communicate, how I see the world, how I treat people, and everything related with interaction. We speak Bahasa Indonesia at home. As an Indonesian, which categorized into a high-context communication country, we use both verbal and nonverbal way to communicate. We speak to deliver our opinion, interest, acceptation, and rejection. We always try to express our feeling in a good manner. Although here we found a lot of misconceptions. A good manner is identical to please others. Sometimes people are hard to tell the truth because it might hurts. And hurting others doesn’t make a person have a good manner. Our people afraid of rejection, especially when deal with stranger person or stranger environment of living. This rejection of being reject comes from collectivist culture that we have. Once you’ve been reject, you gonna live alone for the rest of your life. Nobody want to live the life like this. Therefore our people prefer to hide their feeling and even tend to sacrifice rather than fighting.
So do I. Afraid of society’s rejection. Social environment has its power to make me struggle to keep on the track. Being nice is my nature. I can’t resist from make people feel comfortable to stay with me. In the other hands, my ego is big. Sometimes I sacrifice my feeling to people I love the most. But sometimes, they have to sacrifice for me. My parents teach us not to give up the interest that easily, as long as it really matter, as long as you have the justification, defend your right. If not, people will easy to intimidate you. So speak up. The ‘silence is gold’ is so yesterday. Negotiation is better.
That’s also works with strangers. To people I haven’t know very deep yet, I treat them nicely and warm. Nonverbal communication works a lot here. Smile, laugh, giggle, shake hand, eyes contact, and a proper conversation. This is the step to make us open and know each other. Every new person said I’m a cherish person. But I always have the space and expectation. I won’t let any stranger enter to my personal life before I let them in. So what people see in the surface is the ordinary common face. There’s certain boundary between me and them. To let it passes away, the feeling of anxiety and thought of uncertainty should be reduced. Sometimes conflict happen. No, conflict will always happen. And the strangers will see the real me when it comes to the conflict. I’m highly competitive and will fight for what I believe in.
“so impossible as they may seems. You’ve got to fight for every dreams, cause who’s to know which one you let go, would’ve made you complete” – Flying Without Wings, Westlife.
Talking about cross-culture and how to deal with strangers, I have an unique experience. Once in DREaM summer program in UGM, I have a roommate from Egypt. She’s a solid muslimah. That was her first experience traveling to a secular country like Indonesia. Even if most of our societies are Muslim, the foundation and law of the country are not based on religion. My Egypt friend was in shock finding out the fact that man and woman can sit together in the bus. Or even we can take picture together, saving number phone and texting each other without any surveillance. In Egypt, that was forbidden.
Unfortunately, the program itself made us sacrifice our personal zone in order to mix with the delegation from other country. We sat together, talked, laughed, took picture, and had a deep conversation till the midnight. Some west delegation even went to pub and came back hangover. I’m not involved but already familiar with this situation. I was tolerated as long as they didn’t harm me and my faith. But this Egypt friend seemed hard to accept. She was close herself and I was the only one she could talked to. Even she faked her sick at the middle of the program in order to stay at hotel and didn’t go with the people who she perceived as a bit ‘wild’. To make it worse, she was very shy person. She didn’t like if a male ask her to take picture with them. But every time they ask her, she couldn’t find a way to reject it. So she allowed them to take a picture with a gloomy face and a ‘help-me-please’ big eyes. I read this sign and had some words with the guy afterwards. Explain them about her faith and her feeling. Being a mediator was hard. She’s the one who have the necessity, she should speak herself. But as a stranger, I thought she feel insecure.
The insecurity could happen if someone finds out a very different way of living. It’s either they are afraid of change, or afraid of judge. There’s always an origin culture and faith that people need to keep inside. This origin culture is the things that lead people to judge what is supposed to be right for us, and what is wrong. Because culture defines us. Which is my critique always hit this point. I proud of my cultures, I proud of my values. But I could be more proud if people stop judge me by what’s ON my head instead of what’s IN my head.