I am slowly becoming more acculturated to Zambian life. During our long journeys to rural health clinics, I have learned to tell the driver that I need to ‘wash my feet’ when I need to go to bathroom. I have also learned how to do this without actually needing to wash my feet afterwards J
I have learned that when you ask someone to do something, you need to be very direct about the timeframe. Instead of ‘Maximo, you need to get directions from Angela so we can find the last clinic’, I need to say, ‘Maximo, you need to get directions NOW’ or ‘Maximo, Angela is ready for you to get directions from her NOW’.
I have learned that when someone trips when walking or drops a glass on the floor, I should say ‘sorry’, but when the MC to an event arrives 2 hours late, I should not expect him to say ‘sorry’.
I have learned that it is inappropriate to ask someone how old she is, but completely acceptable to ask how much she weighs.
I have learned that every culture blames someone else for their problems and in the case of Zambia, the Chinese are guilty…. “selling faulty electronics, administering bad medicines and doing karate all day long” they are clearly to blame.
I have learned that no one understands what public health entails and everyone thinks that I am a doctor, no matter how often I explain I am not.
And finally, I have learned that even in a country with barely enough blondes to count on one hand, everyone seems to know the difference between a blonde and a mosquito…
Now I imagine you are wondering about the exchange portion of this cross-cultural experience. I have tried my best to impress new friends and acquaintances with stories of the American culture. However, the only thing that seems to catch their fancy is the culture of divorce.
“Karen, tell her what you do if you don’t like your husband anymore”.
“You get rid of him and find a better one”, I say smirking.
“Wow – that is really nice – I like that”.
(Not a big surprise….given my impressions of Zambian men so far)