There was a movie a few years ago called lost in translation, where the lead actor played by bill Murray, travels to Japan where western stars can make oodles of money endorsing products in the east, that the fans in the west will never know about. The reason I loved the movie was there was a great deal of humor in the actual "lost in translation" of the societal rules and culture in Japan, that most American’s probably would not understand, unless they had actually had to work there.
I think about 25-30% of my time in Switzerland has me resembling the village idiot with a mental disorder just sitting there staring at people talking. As hard as I try to understand the language, until the next few weeks of classes are over...it almost seems like a waste of time even trying to interact. Part of me says, "Why even try to go be social? sit in a room and learn German or do work. " The other part says, "Observe and learn whatever you can about this new culture you are in."
What is odd in the world is that wherever you are on the planet, that part of the planet, country, society, or race will have and think whatever they are doing is the right way. It is a planetary phenomenon, which explains why so many wars, periods of conflict and violence happen on the planet. The reality is that just because something is done a certain way on one part of the planet, doesn't mean it is the same everywhere on the planet. usually, it is not the planetary norm. Perhaps that is the gift of being able to live/work in so many different places - you see how this phenomenon exists and how subtle the changes are wherever you go.
For example, last night someone asked, "How do you like Switzerland?" My reply of "Switzerland is is a nice country, better than many I have been in," was deemed as offensive. Why? I really don't know. Either my english sucks, or I can only attribute it to "lost in translation." Should I have said, "Switzerland is a really nice country, it is worse than many I have been in?" As I type it, I keep thinking of German grammar, where everything is almost backwards compared to English - maybe that is the reason someone was offended? (if someone knows the cultural answer, feel free to send along an email and the "why." thanks)
I should just blow it off and ignore it all, but I can't. The augmanity technology on the global scale addresses this issue of "lost in translation” and I am fascinated mainly how people think and behave, but the global component was always the "big dream" of understanding a global mindset - knowing full well that most people want the same thing, but how it looks all over the planet is very different.
So I go chug along, seeming to need a rulebook that I guess the diplomatic core of countries has that people become protocol specialist. In country a - pour the tea out to fill the glass, this is a sign of warmth and respect. In country b - if you pour the tea out to fill the glass it means, "hurry up and get out, " while if you only half fill the glass, it means, "stay as long as you wish."
I have to confess; landing in Switzerland has been difficult. Not much will change, as with anything, people have to ask what do you think before you give any answers or thoughts. If you do give your honest thought, like the "Switzerland is a nice country, I have been in a lot worse." You have to remember that I am finally realizing how lucky I have been to see so much (even though I think it is so little on the planet) and remember that most have a smaller focus of what is life on the planet.
I never got to explain, or my faux pas was not taking the time to formulate a proper academic construct at an informal family affair. I was simply comfortable in feeling I didn't need to quantify like, "yes, Switzerland is probably in the top 10 countries for quality of life on the planet. I say this only after having been in some countries where most of the population is hungry, or I saw some kids drinking sewage water, because the concept of infrastructure and clean water appears foreign to its leaders, who, seem to have it inside their palaces. In that respect, Switzerland and most of the developed world that have clean water, electricity, food security, and shelter for its people are really nice countries." (do i really have to talk like that? )
Until I learn to speak and understand the native culture, I guess I am simply always open to become the master of faux pas and societal no-no's?
Ahhh.... lost in translation. Funny how it will be used to motivate and create some new ideas, hopefully to help man not feel lost in the translation ever again. keep asking "why?" and realize, many don't really know the "because." :o)