Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Art of Humility

I often feel that one of the keys to integrating with a new culture is personal humility.  Not so much in the sense that you are less of a person, but in the sense that you need to put all the confusion, misunderstanding, language barrier and embarrassment aside, take a deep breath and self-deprecate.  Often. Laugh at yourself.  Laugh at the situation.  Often.

Most likely, the people of your newly embraced culture are not going laugh or ridicule you unless it is customary to do so.  If this is the case, then do not be insulted or angered.  Laugh with them.

If they are not like this, then you should laugh and embrace your embarrassment as you learn the rules of the road.

To say I have had many moments of humility in my years abroad would be an understatement. I thought I was on a brink of another one this week when I purchased a new dishwasher.

I arrived home late the day it arrived, so I never really looked at it until the next day.  Much to my surprise, it was gold?  I specifically asked for silver.  How did I end up with a gold dishwasher?  And who buys a gold dishwasher?  I had a lot of questions.

Several calls to many customer service centers led to dead ends.  I would have to go all the way back to the hypermarket where I purchased it to see if they might change it.

Might change it?  I had my previous dishwasher for about 16 years.  I don't think I could bare to live with a gold one that long!

So after a long day at work, I ventured into the trenches of the Dubai Shopping Festival to the super store to find the person that sold this to me.  Head high, I had my assertive game face ready.  I couldn't find the person I wanted so I spoke with someone else explaining the challenges I have with appliances that have too much bling.

He immediately opened the door of the display and showed me a bit of goldish-green paper on the inside.  He very calmly suggested I try to remove the paper from the door.

Fantastic.  The protective sheet of paper should be removed from the door.  While the solution was easy it was not what I expected at all, but yet, I should have known!  Logic, where are you hiding?

Was I embarrassed?  A bit.  Did I laugh at myself?  A bit more.  I do not surprise myself anymore, but I could not chalk this one up to culture clash.  This is my overworked brain loosing its touch with reality and common sense.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how humility is not just practical for learning new cultural norms.  It goes way beyond that.  Even into the world of gold appliances.  As I walked to my car with a much needed ironing board I purchased that same day, I hoped I would remember to remove it's plastic packaging before use.

Struggling to fit it into my car, I wondered for a brief second if I shouldn't just tie it on to the top of my car like a surfboard.  You know, just to seal the deal on humility.


Cristen Plummer said...

ha! I will remember this with my next appliance purchase!

Laura @ itsjustlaura said...

Hilarious! I'm about to buy myself a new stove, a silver one at that! I'll die laughing if it looks anything like gold. :)

Pam Durant said...

Keep the plastic on for a few days… I kept telling myself it would grow on me… somehow, it did not :) Enjoy your new stove… I used to think they didn't matter.. that was until I rented an apartment with a good one! I could have cooked dirt in that thing and a cake would have come out!