Saturday, November 29, 2008

Flashback: Challenging my Assumptions

Written the day before we left Turkey and headed back to the US...

Just today I was eating breakfast and noting how many of my very basic assumptions have been challenged on this trip. There are so many little things that you take so for granted that you never even realize you think them, until they are not there or done differently.

For instance,

  • you should eat three meals a day (4 in Norway)
  • dinner is at the end of the day (middle in Ireland & Norway)
  • the state should not endorse a specific church or religion (Ireland-Catholicism, Norway-Lutheranism)
  • the state shouldn’t tax people and send proceeds to the Vatican (Germany)
  • shampoo should be next to the conditioner in a store (shampoo next to hair gel, conditioner by lotion in Hungary)
  • everyone thinks communism is “bad”; liberation and westernization are “good” (Slovakia)
  • most people know what Christmas is (Turkey-they were as surprised that I didn’t know what Bayram was)
  • houses with heating should be able to adjust it (Lithuania-the heat is centrally turned on/off by the government, no individual regulation in most personal houses)
  • people in developed nations should be able to speak freely (Turkey-“insulting Turkishness” is illegal and punishable by imprisonment)
  • prescription medicines require a doctor’s visit and are expensive-very expensive without insurance (Poland-pharmacist can prescribe some meds, without using our health insurance Ron got two medicines for $12 total that were $435 and $310 in the US)
  • beds have sheets on them (Norway, Lithuania, Poland, Czech, Austria (Vienna), Slovakia, Hungary, Germany all had a bottom sheet and a duvet cover made of sheet material over the comforter. When you wash the sheets you wash the bottom sheet and the duvet cover. Kind of nice, less to get tangled up in the middle of the night.)
  • men shouldn’t beat their wives (Turkey-45% of men think it is ok)
  • kids start school at age 5 or 6, full days by first grade (usually age 6) and proceed through 12 grades, graduate and then choose to go to college or not (Norway, Ireland, Germany-first grade often isn't until 7 and kids choose "tracks" by age 13-16 and decide if they will be college-bound or trade school-bound, “high school” is over by age 16 and then you choose to attend a 3 year program called “gymnasio” if you want to go onto college)
  • The Allies were the “good guys” of WWII (Poland-the Allies knew about Auschwitz several years before they liberated the camp; Turkey-the Gallipoli campaign (invasion of Turkey) was motivated in large part by British & French territorial ambitions in the middle east.

I don't come away from this experience with a sense of superiority or thinking that my way is always right. In fact, I think I will be adopting several of the things I've seen in my life back home (when I have a home). But, I was mostly fascinated by how many different ways there are to do even the most (seemingly) basic things.

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