Saturday, September 08, 2007

A sad post thinking about Americans who just don't get it...

I've been thinking about this post for a bit. But, Dave (an American in Jordan) brought it to mind now when I have a few minutes to actually spend substantive time on a post (kids at school, grocery shopping done and such). I've been a bit saddened lately by visible reminders of the arrogance of Americans. It seems like we often act like children and then get mad when we're treated like them...

Recently a group of teachers came to Jordan on a study visit to understand the history and present of our fine, fine nation. I met one of these ladies (again through Dave's blog) and had the opportunity to bring her to Teta Bean's for lunch and take her to the Children's Museum. She was mortified by the behavior of some of the girls in their group. Apparently they had initiated a contest to see how many Jordanian males they could "get busy with". Sickening, truly. Then, they had the gall to sit around restaurants tallying them up very loudly. Wow, could you make it worse. Now, Arab men already make certain very wrong assumptions about American women. (Yes, in case you are unaware we do NOT all sleep with any man we can find, we are NOT all "loose," and what you see in movies is NOT true). These ladies certainly aren't making it easier on those of us who live here, now are they? Fortunately, as El 3atal is from here and most of the people I meet are friends of his or his family, I suffer MUCH less from this than others choosing to make a home in Jordan. So, for the most part, I shake my head and am sad about their behavior. And then, I see the actions of a friend of mine who is here studying and she just SO doesn't get it...

So, I met this friend last summer. She's a nice American in her early 40s. During the course of the summer, she met a fellow and decided she wanted to "date" him. Now, by date, I actually mean date. She was not interested in conjugal relations. She was interested in going to restaurants and having someone nice of the male persuasion to dine with. She is also not looking to get married. So, she went out with this fellow and he turned into something of a nut job. He started sending her bizarre text messages and stopped by her apartment uninvited trying to pressure her into sleeping with him. I had hoped that she would have learned something from this unfortunate situation, but perhaps not. Later in the year, she began to date another fellow whom she met through his family. I suspect she thought that would be better. However, he also seemed to have expectations that were not appropriate in her mind. This soured not only her relationship with him, but also with his family. Now, fast forward to this year. Having learned from her prior experiences, she met another young man. She went a little bit more formal and went through his family to get agreement that they could begin seeing each other. They then started going out to dinners and such. Apparently, he borrowed money form her and other sundry issues arose. She decided that he was just using her.

When she first mentioned that she was dating him, I attempted to gently couch some advice. I tried to explain to her that dating, like it's done in America with two people going out together, isn't done here if they are of the opposite sex. I explained that typically group dating is done until a couple decides that they are ready to declare their intentions. She protested quite vocally that she isn't Jordanian and she's too old for such silliness. In her mind, she's beyond the time in her life where she would go out in groups. She's not looking to get married and she should be able to do exactly what she would back home. I tried to explain that I understand her point of view, but if she wants to date like that, she'll need to find a foreigner to date. but, she was convinced that since she went through the family (never mind what expectations that was building), it would be fine.

So, how arrogant are we Americans? We expect that when people come to our country they should put off their home customs that don't mesh with our society. Part of us resents that they may wear unusual clothing or religious headgear. We want them to become American. No more of this crazy arranged marriage stuff. They should rid themselves of this "backward" thinking. In short, when in Rome, they should do as the Romans do. And yet, when we come to their country, we should be able to just keep on being American. We should continue to live by our standards ignoring the culture. Sadly, I do think that is the belief of most Americans. And it does make me sad...

I won't claim to agree with the way things are done here. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that men and women can't be friends. I also think that it makes it harder for couples when they marry since they have such a limited understanding of what makes the other tick. But, having said that, who cares what I think? And, in reality, I can't blame a fish for thinking the whole world is wet, now can I? When he's pulled out of the water into the air, I would expect he would be a bit confused about why he couldn't breathe. While I think that men here need a fairly strong lesson in treating those from foreign lands the way they would treat their sisters or cousins (with respect and dignity), I also can't blame them when they receive the wrong message from a woman who intentionally strays outside the cultural norms. I think sensitivity is need by all.

However, the saddest thing about this friend is that I'm a little hesitant to further our friendship. While we have many things in common, in the end, I live here. I'm not here studying or doing a short term program. And, after all, they say birds of a feather flock together and I'm most certainly not that type of bird. So, I suspect that our friendship will stay fairly superficial for her time here as I am not willing to take on a reputation in the gossip mill that is Amman... And maybe we ought to offer cultural training to all American women who plan to visit or live in Jordan. A little sensitivity to others' cultural norms would help every American, at home and abroad.

Happy cultural sensitivity!


At 1:31 AM , Blogger joshua said...

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Some feel invaded and ofended that I present myself this way in their blogs and rudely insult me back.
Some think I'm playing the smart guy who wants to profit, in my miserable and ridiculous gain with Adsense (go figure!), from and with others curiosity and benevolence.
Some simply ignore me.
Some aknowledge that It's most important we all take notion that there's milions of us bloguing arownd the world and thus vital any kind of awareness such as I believe this my self-introduction card and insert apeal brings in.

May you be one of those open and friendly spirits.

You must not feel obliged to come and visit me. An invitation is not an intimation. Also know that if you click on one of my ads I'm promised to earn a couple of cents for that: I would feel happy and rewarded (because I realy need it!!!) if you did click it, but once again you're totaly free to do what ever you want. I, for instance, choose immediatly to click on one of your ads, in case you have them. To do so or not, that's the whole beauty of it all, however, blogocitizens must unite also by clicking-helping eachother when we know cybermegacorporations profit from our own selfishness regarding to that simple click.

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I think it's to UNITE MANKIND that we became bloggers! Don't see language as an obstacle but as a challenge (though you can use the translater BabelFish at the bottom of my page!) and think for a minute if I and the rest of the world are not expecting something like a broad cumplicity. Remenber that pictures talk also. Open your heart and come along!!!!!

At 4:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

MB, I'm sitting here with mouth agape and eyes rolling and wondering how very dense women can be.

She is using these guys for 'company' as much as they want to use her for other things.

I agree, backing off wise.

At 6:42 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Yeah, I know. It's a shame... But sometimes we do a really good job of fooling ourselves, don't we?

At 3:15 AM , Blogger No_Angel said...

first off what is that weird self promotion comment ?!

That is such a nice post, but it helps prove naiveté has no age limit the way she is carrying herself promotes something that she doesn't want and yet she feels distressed when faced by it ?
I don't think that is the case only for Americans, it is the case for the majority of foreigners(including Arabs) they carry a sense of arrogance around their values and believe that the people here need to bend backwards to meet their expectations with no accountability to the fact that they are in a different environment and should be viewed in a different light

At 10:20 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

No Angel, I have no idea about the odd first comment. Thanks, I'm sad to see how many Americans come here with this attitude. I'm sure it happens with others, but it's only the Americans who embarass me, teehee.


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