1. Going Native

    "Going Native" is a term sometimes used in anthropology. It’s used to describe when outsiders of a culture, community, or country spend so much time immersed and embedded there that they become more like the locals and have a harder time adjusting when they go home.

    I’m starting to feel like that might be what’s happened to me this time.

    For example, in Western culture, if someone is in your way it’s customary to say “excuse me” and wait for the person to move. In Bangladesh, the customary act is to gently touch and guide (not to be confused with shoving) the person so that they aren’t in your way.

    In Toronto, while in a crowded movie theatre, I found myself guiding people out of my way by touching them. Only to catch myself, realize how rude I must be by Western standards, and run back to apologize to everyone. Of course, being Canadians, they weren’t angry about it.

    Also, in Bengali culture, handshakes have a different role. Sometimes you shake someones hand… and just keep holding. Sometimes throughout the entire conversation. But, even for brief handshakes, it’s common to shake the person’s hand and then touch your chest.

    In New York, after getting out of the cab, I found myself shaking the cabbie’s hand… and then getting confused why he wasn’t (like me) touching his chest with the hand he just shook me with. I almost felt slighted… until I realized I must be the one that’s acting weird.

    Similarly, Bangladeshi culture sometimes (but not always) eschews hand waiving for a greeting that kind of looks like a salute. I can only imagine the confusion people driving around must have been when - instead of waiving them a thanks for letting me cross - I saluted them.

    Finally, Bangladeshis tend to be very gracious hosts. They like pampering their guests and leaving very little work for their guests to do. I remember when my brother was visiting one of my aunts in Bangladesh - and my aunt & uncle were shocked that he made his own bed in the morning.

    Being a good guest in Bangladesh means allowing yourself to be slightly dependent on your hosts. But, in the Western world, acting like that makes you a mooch or an ungrateful guest. I was thinking about that as I found myself trying to get back into the habit of tidying up after myself.

    Growing up in North America, I never really felt like Western culture was 100% my culture. I understood it - and was used to it. But, despite being born here, in many respects, I felt like a bit of a foreigner. And, most kids and people treated me and my family like immigrants/foreigners.

    In Bangladesh, locals sometimes see me as a foreigner. This is despite being 100% ethnically and biologically Bangladeshi. And, visiting Bangladesh as a kid, the culture seemed alien and weird and not at all something I felt I would ever internalize.

    It’s weird how, despite things changing and going native a bit, I still feel like I don’t fully belong in either place. Such is the case with Third Culture Kids I guess.

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      The issue Shawn raises in this post, is one that I can appreciate. Albeit that I was born and brought up in the UK, and...
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