01 September, 2016


Culture: we meet it everywhere. You do too, you probably just don't notice it so much. Every school and community have their own mini-culture even amidst the larger culture of your regional, state, and national context. It's a complex concept, here's one definition: 
Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. (From here.)
Every day we're reminded that this isn't the place we grew up. There are things that jar, or surprise, or just leave questions in our mind. As we've lived here now for most of the last 16 years, many of the more superficial things have become more automatic, like taking our shoes off at the door or the specific way that it's acceptable to line up and enter the train. But there are other things that don't come so naturally. And others that we don't feel comfortable with but do because it is acceptable and in this conformist culture we do our best not to stick out too much.

Here's a couple of cultural things I met yesterday:

Communal slippers One thing I don't feel particularly comfortable with is wearing communal vinyl slippers at a medical/dental clinic when I have bare feet. My feet are bare at this time of year because I wear sandals and no socks and I never remember to take socks. 

This was me for an hour and a half yesterday at the orthodontist. I'd rather just have bare feet, but it isn't the thing to do, apparently. But I can't help but wonder who else has worn these and what kind of feet-germs they were sharing with me!

As probably know, we have more than one culture that we deal with. CAJ has a culture of its own, a mixture of American, Japanese, and smattering of other cultures (but not much Australian).

We got this in an email yesterday about the new middle schoolers (6th grade, the grade our youngest has just entered). I really like this aspect of CAJ middle and high school culture, even if it is slightly oddly named:
The first two weeks of school will be a grace period while the students adjust to switching classes and using lockers. Tardies for being late or unprepared (coming to class without the needed supplies, including completed homework) will be issued after that.

If a student accumulates a certain number of tardies in a semester (15 for 6th graders, 10 for 7th and 8th graders) they have to pay for and attend Saturday school. For sure it has added stress to our lives at times, but I'm glad that the school has consequences for poor behaviour. It certainly has our new middle schooler's attention!

Have you encountered a cultural difference recently? It's interesting to note that that's what they are, just differences. Even changing churches or schools or moving house in your passport country results in small cultural challenges. We'd love you to share if you've noticed one.

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