Saturday, October 16, 2010

pink or blue?

If there is one thing that living in another culture does to you (though it does many!), it would be that it forces you to evaluate your "normal." As much as we may hate to admit it, we are a product of our culture. We have been influenced and swayed and petitioned to believe certain things are true and factual and, in essence, normal. Then, if we go and plop ourselves in another culture, our entire world is shifted as a drastically different normal sets in. This can happen anywhere. Take a kid who grew up on the beaches of Florida and set him on the streets in Harlem. Or, take a kid who grew up on the streets of Harlem and set him on a farm in the Midwest. Or, take a girl who grew up on a farm in the Midwest and plop her in Cambodia...

I just thought I would share some of the ways God has challenged me and revealed to me some of the cultural things I grew up believing to be normal but have since realized are a bit flawed. The title of this blog post is but one of them. Pink or blue? Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys. This is normal and acceptable, right? I mean, yes, girls can like the color blue and wear blue clothing and the like. And, boys can even pull off a pink shirt, provided that it is the right shade. But, we dress our baby girls in pink and our baby boys in blue. Because pink is a feminine color, right?
Hold on.
Stop right there.
How can a color be feminine or masculine?
Colors do not have any anatomy that would suggest they are male or female. They do not give off any kind of hormone or other indication of their femininity or masculinity.
They are merely colors.
In Cambodia, there are no gender-based colors. Grown men drive down the street on pink motorbikes with absolutely no shame. Baby boys and baby girls are more easily distinguished by their lack of diapers than by their pink or blue booties. One of my male Khmer friends commented the other day about how much he liked my bright fuchsia-colored phone. Instead of being surprised by this, I just thanked him and told him how much I paid for it.

Which brings me to my next cultural point. In America, it is certainly a cultural taboo to go about asking people how much they paid for things. I mean, everyone likes to share about a good deal that they got on something. But, it is not appropriate to walk up to a stranger on the street, tell them that you like their pants, and then ask how much they paid for them. It is kind of on the same level as asking someone how much they make. It is a conversation that you may have with family or good friends, but it is not one that you discuss with strangers while standing on a street corner waiting for the light to turn green. Or is it?
I recently learned that a perfectly appropriate and expected question when someone is speaking with you and likes something you are wearing or carrying is "How much did that cost?" Being from a culture where that is not an appropriate question AND realizing that I live on considerably more than the average person here, I am naturally uncomfortable with this question. However, I am learning that it is just part of life here, so I suck it up and hope that my bartering skills allowed me to get a good deal. Or, I revert to my old familiar lie, "I don't remember."

Culture is a fascinating thing. Can you think of any aspects of your own culture that you have caught yourself questioning?

1 comment:

  1. How about me - I love to drop by folks' homes to surprise them for tea/dinner whatever. They usually do like it but it sure surprises them. I am still so different for so many folks. sometimes it is a good thing and sometimes not! Love you and thankful the Lord is doing a good thing in your life! :)