So far this session was the most interesting, for multiple reasons that I will talk about. But firstly, the main reason is that more people started participating and actually showing up, therefore, there are additional topics for conversation and different perspectives.
The facilitator told us to share something about our culture and I shared the aspect that I love most about Egyptians and our lifestyle, which is that we’re very supportive (In Arabic: جدعين) and also our generosity. I believe that this is not an aspect that is present in most cultures and I think it is very special because we are able to help one another through the good and bad times. This is when I remembered the reading of Stumbling Blocks when the Korean student, in comparison to the American student, stated that we invite each other over all the time, we offer food/beverages more than once and we definitely help one another. When I travel abroad, I see that everyone is in their own bubble and interaction is very limited. I mentioned this in the session by saying that Egyptian’s don’t really have a ‘personal bubble’ and a European team member stated that Europeans also do not have a personal bubble, by using a crowded subway as an example, that everyone is physically close to each other on a crowded subway. So we talked about how uncomfortable it feels for Europeans, whereas, Egyptians do this willingly. This was very interesting to experience, because I’ve visited Europe before and I didn’t feel really think of the subway as ‘close-up’ interactions and that for Europeans this surpasses their personal bubble.
Another topic we discussed were weddings. Almost all Americans/Europeans stated that their weddings are 50 people maximum and I thought to myself ‘WOW only 50 people?’ When I went on and told that, nowadays some luxurious weddings have about 1000 people, they were astonished, because they told me that the maximum number of guests that they have ever heard of was 100 people and that more than that was not even an option, because you only invite people you know almost everything about. Which brings me back to my first point regarding being too generous/giving that when we limit the guests and avoid inviting certain people, we think of it as ‘rude’. Whereas, to the Americans/Europeans, this is the norm.
We later discussed the Stumbling Blocks article and all team members agreed and are aware of the factors that are mentioned in the reading. We’ve also discussed some of the ways to overcome stumbling blocks are: Understand different cultures, be mindful, be respectful, you can share your pride yet still be respectful. It was funny to see that the Americans shared Trump’s statement when he said ‘America First’ and they said that they understand that the US is a very powerful country, so if we have the privilege to help others – why not? Why not make it easier for others? They also emphasized that the world would be a much better place if the developed countries focused on that instead of being superior. Lastly, an important point that I could easily relate to was the importance of traveling and researching in order to know and have distinctive cultural literacy. I highly agree with this, because when I started visiting Eastern Europe for example, it was very different from London and I realized that I’ve always thought of Europe under a single criteria, I literally categorized an entire content without even noticing.
Additionally, we discussed our final projects and the different topics that are available. It was interesting to notice that almost all Westerners wanted to know more about Islam than anything else. I was very happy to see that all teams members were able to break and confront the barriers that the media has created. Furthermore, two of my team members are using traffic issues for their final project, so I explained what it feels like to take a 2.5 hour ride to university on a daily basis and how this impacts my energy and of course my mood. Ironically, one of my team members were able to relate to this, because she takes an hour to go to her university on a daily basis and it really frustrates her, so we went on by venting about the distance and traffic.
Finally, I was happy to see that the flow of the conversation was not fixed and didn’t really depend on a criteria, which is why it went smoothly because we all actually had a conversation together. It was interesting to see how the Internet can break barriers.