There’s no better way to learn about other cultures, than to live right in the middle of it.
I am living in Nepal for nearly 5 months now, and those 5 months have already made an incredible impression on me. Even if I would go back to the Netherlands right now, and never set foot in another country again, still I would never be the same as I was 5 months ago.
No matter how frustrating, complicated and humiliating it can be, it’s mostly amazing, interesting and fascinating. It’s like learning a language – you’re never done. Just like Nepali will never become my own language, I will never make this culture completely my own.
I won’t become a Nepali. I’m Ruth in Nepal.
And who Ruth in Nepal is, that’s what I’m still trying to figure out.
Where are the lines between culture, habits, nurtured behavior, and character?
A few months ago, a western friend told me that after having lived in this country for 10 years, she was wondering who she really was. By welcoming and embracing this culture, she had let go of her own culture too much.
I love Nepal, I love the people, I love the food. I love their way of living and their hospitality. This is a country where I feel at home, where I can live. I eat daal bhat every day, I sit on the floor in church, I tell my opinion less directly than I would in the Netherlands, and I know how to show respect to people of all ages.
But I don’t like to be late, sometimes I want to eat something without having to share it, and sometimes I need time for myself, without having someone around looking at what I’m doing.
And I haven’t met anyone who shares my sense of humor; chances are that I offend someone when I make a joke.
These are just the superficial things – there’s also the worldview, and the way people think about relationships, life and death, efficiency, usefulness, respect…
I don’t know. I don’t want to live on my little Dutch island, but also I don’t want to let go of the things that have made me into who I am right now.
If anyone has some wise words to share regarding this, let me know :-)