#109 - Your Eyes or Your Culture?

September 29, 2021

Through which lens do you see the world?

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[00:00:00] Do you see the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:00:03] [INTRO MUSIC]

[00:00:09] Do you see the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:00:12] This is a question that I've thought about from time to time whenever I had an interaction with someone from another country.

[00:00:19] I've talked to people from every continent from various walks of life,

[00:00:23] and a lot of those people had these preconceived ideas of what the U.S. is like,

[00:00:27] and what Americans are like, and what we think and believe.

[00:00:30] Most of the time they were partially correct and partially incorrect in their assumptions,

[00:00:35] but that's always the case when you're making general statements about hundreds of millions of people, right?

[00:00:41] And that's true for every country, I suppose.

[00:00:44] We have reputations that we've created for ourselves and reputations that other people have given us as well.

[00:00:51] None of them ever tell the whole story, though.

[00:00:54] We, as humans have this tendency to look for patterns and then make generalizations about everyone and everything based on those patterns.

[00:01:01] Although this helps us say time when trying to find the answers to our questions or come to conclusions,

[00:01:07] it doesn't mean that we will always find the right answers to our questions or come to the right conclusions.

[00:01:13] Most of the time, the generalizations we make are based on observations that were made without context,

[00:01:19] which only increases the chances that our generalizations will be inaccurate.

[00:01:24] Maybe I'm not making a lot of sense here. So let me give you an example.

[00:01:28] People from Latin America have reputation for being very warm and friendly people.

[00:01:34] The people seem happier and enjoy life more in Latin American countries.

[00:01:38] It's easier to make friends in a Latin American country, or at least that's what they say.

[00:01:45] I've talked to hundreds of people from Latin America,

[00:01:47] and most of them have told me the same thing,

[00:01:50] "Americans are so much colder than we are."

[00:01:54] "You Americans are so serious all the time."

[00:01:57] Although I think that's a question of opinion,

[00:02:00] I still think there may be some truth to that depending on the situation.

[00:02:04] But there are a few problems here.

[00:02:06] Number one, not all Americans are the same.

[00:02:11] We have to acknowledge the fact that the U.S. is a gigantic country.

[00:02:16] There are over 300 million people in this country.

[00:02:21] And within that group of 300 million, there are many sub-groups.

[00:02:25] Black people, white people, Africans, Latinos, Asians, Europeans,

[00:02:30] and within those subgroups, there are many more subgroups, right?

[00:02:34] The rich blacks, the poor blacks,

[00:02:36] blacks from the south blacks from up north,

[00:02:38] the rich whites, the poor whites,

[00:02:40] the liberal whites, the conservative whites,

[00:02:42] African-Americans, foreign Africans,

[00:02:45] Ethiopians, Kenyans, Moroccans, Egyptians,

[00:02:47] American Latinos, foreign Latinos,

[00:02:50] Hondurans, Colombians, Mexicans, Nicaraguans,

[00:02:53] American Asians, foreign Asians,

[00:02:55] the Chinese, the Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese.

[00:02:58] And let's not forget the native Americans, right?

[00:03:02] All of these people in all of these groups are a part of the United States of America.

[00:03:07] And all of these people come from different walks of life.

[00:03:11] All these people were raised inside their own version of American culture.

[00:03:17] For example, there are many types of black Americans culture.

[00:03:22] There are many types of white American culture,

[00:03:25] as well as African-American,

[00:03:26] which is not the same thing as black American,

[00:03:29] also Latino American, and Asian-American.

[00:03:33] We're all the same and yet completely different,

[00:03:36] just like everyone else from every other country in the world.

[00:03:40] So when you say, "Americans are so bah, bah, bah..."

[00:03:45] to which Americans are you really referring?

[00:03:48] Do you even know?

[00:03:50] Most of the time, it's the Americans that you see on TV and social media.

[00:03:55] It's the pop culture stars, the actors, the politicians, the athletes,

[00:03:59] the YouTube and TikTok influencers.

[00:04:02] But that relatively small group of people can not and will not ever represent the entire United States of America.

[00:04:10] Such a minority could never represent the majority.

[00:04:15] Problem number two, 'cold' is a subjective word.

[00:04:20] Another thing we must take into consideration is that the word cold is subjective.

[00:04:25] What's cold to me, may not be cold to you.

[00:04:29] As a Latin American, you might think you're being very warm, friendly, and funny

[00:04:34] while I, as an American might think you're being fake as fuck.

[00:04:39] I might think that you're just smiling and acting like my friend

[00:04:42] because you're trying to give me a certain impression of who you are or because you want something from me.

[00:04:47] I might think you're trying to force the feeling of friendship and connection onto me.

[00:04:53] There are many ways to interpret the same behavior,

[00:04:55] and many times we interpret other people's behavior through the lens of how we would behave.

[00:05:01] That's not always a good idea because we are not other people and other people are not us.

[00:05:08] And you might think Americans are extremely cold and unapproachable,

[00:05:12] but I think that the people you're referring to are not cold.

[00:05:16] They simply are not fake.

[00:05:18] We're just not the type of people to meet someone for the first time and immediately act like we've known them for years.

[00:05:25] Now, in this case, when I say 'we' I'm talking about myself and the people in some of the places where I grew up.

[00:05:31] However, I've also grown up in places where people are,

[00:05:34] what you might think of as really nice and friendly,

[00:05:37] when in reality they're just fake and they only care about appearances.

[00:05:42] It's something that's hard to explain to someone who isn't from here because of the difference of culture.

[00:05:48] Just like in your country or state or city,

[00:05:51] I'm sure that you're aware of cultural behaviors that I would never notice as a foreigner

[00:05:56] because I'd be seeing your world through the lens of my culture.

[00:06:00] That's just the way it is.

[00:06:02] And when I say culture, I'm really talking about my history as a human being, all of my life experiences.

[00:06:08] Those are the things that create and mold my perspective.

[00:06:13] Another example of people who have a reputation for being cold is Russian people.

[00:06:18] So many people from around the world, including Americans,

[00:06:21] have told me that they think Russians are crazy, extremely cold and difficult to approach.

[00:06:27] However, my experience with Russian people has been the exact opposite.

[00:06:33] I've never met a Russian person that I did not like... ever.

[00:06:38] I've never met a Russian person and felt like they were cold at all.

[00:06:43] The Russian people I've met are some of the coolest people on the planet actually.

[00:06:47] However, another person from another country might interpret their behavior as cold,

[00:06:52] and it would be hard for them to make friends with those same Russian people.

[00:06:56] So I think part of your interactions with people depends on how you perceive the people.

[00:07:01] If you enter the situation with preconceived notions about who these people are,

[00:07:05] it will inevitably have some effect on the way you interpret their actions and the way you treat them.

[00:07:11] This is what I call projecting.

[00:07:13] You're taking your internal vision of who someone is and putting it on them,

[00:07:18] instead of letting them show you who they actually are without being judged.

[00:07:23] When you do this, you're likely to misinterpret all kinds of things and reinforce all kinds of inaccurate beliefs that you already have.

[00:07:32] However, if you would've just taken the time to understand their culture and behavior just a little bit better,

[00:07:39] not from your perspective, but from theirs,

[00:07:41] you might see that they aren't cold at all.

[00:07:44] They just have a different way of communicating and forming relationships.

[00:07:50] Problem number three.

[00:07:51] Maybe, if you understood the reason for the difference in cultural behavior,

[00:07:56] you would find a way to adapt and still make great friendships with the people you thought were cold and unapproachable.

[00:08:02] Now, technically that's not a problem. That's a statement.

[00:08:05] But subject number three or observation, number three, let's say it that way.

[00:08:10] You need to understand the culture and the mindset of the people you're communicating with.

[00:08:15] I'm not saying you must adopt the culture or the mindset of those people, but you need to understand it.

[00:08:21] Your understanding of things dictates your perceptions and behavior, right?

[00:08:26] So the better, your understanding of people is, the better your interactions with those people will be.

[00:08:31] And I am, of course, speaking in general terms.

[00:08:35] People spend so much time focused on the technical aspects of language,

[00:08:38] like grammar, vocabulary, words, pronunciation, et cetera.

[00:08:43] Now, of course, those things are really important when you're trying to learn a language.

[00:08:47] However, it seems to me that a lot of people don't understand that it's culture that dictates how the language is used.

[00:08:56] So if you want to sound like a native or make friends with natives, work with natives,

[00:09:02] you must understand how their culture influences their communication style.

[00:09:07] You don't have to change who you are just to make friends or be understood,

[00:09:10] but being able to adapt your communication style to the current situation is a very valuable skill to have.

[00:09:20] Number four... I think.

[00:09:23] Maybe these people that you see as cold and unapproachable,

[00:09:27] maybe, just maybe they don't like you. You have to agree that it's a possibility, right?

[00:09:36] All those people that you think are super cold and rude or mean, or whatever it is,

[00:09:41] maybe they don't like you, maybe it's just, you. It's possible.

[00:09:48] I remember I was talking to this girl from Ecuador,

[00:09:51] and she was helping me with my Spanish and I was helping her with her English.

[00:09:55] And when we first started talking, everything she said was like, so full of energy and emotion.

[00:10:00] It was actually quite intoxicating at first, you know, I liked it.

[00:10:04] It was a pleasure to talk to someone who seemed to be so full of life and so charismatic, you know?

[00:10:09] It didn't really feel fake or forced at all.

[00:10:12] However, after a day or two, I noticed that she was like that all the time.

[00:10:19] Putting so much energy and emotion into every word exaggerating at times,

[00:10:25] you know, making the most mundane sentences and ideas sound extraordinary and extremely important.

[00:10:32] After a while, it started to feel very fake and very forced.

[00:10:36] "There's no way she's like this all the time." I thought to myself.

[00:10:41] The problem was that I simply didn't know.

[00:10:44] I hadn't had much experience with Ecuadorian people and I hadn't had much experience with her, the individual.

[00:10:50] So I really couldn't come to any conclusions about who she was or why she behaved the way she did.

[00:10:57] Then we had our first video call and she had that same over-the-top,

[00:11:02] always excited, always joking, always happy to be here, type of energy, you know?

[00:11:07] And that smile, that type of smile that looked forced to me, you know what I'm saying?

[00:11:12] And she was trying to like tell jokes and create a friendly atmosphere in the first few minutes of the call and things like that.

[00:11:19] And although I see nothing wrong with that, it's just not the way I do things, you know?

[00:11:24] I'm not the type of person to force a relationship or go out of my way to show someone that I'm happy, engaged, approachable, or anything like that.

[00:11:34] If something isn't funny, I'm not going to laugh.

[00:11:38] If I don't have a reason to smile, I don't smile.

[00:11:42] If I don't have anything to say, then I don't speak.

[00:11:46] That's just the way I am.

[00:11:48] So after this girl tried to make a few jokes, she noticed this about me and she said,

[00:11:53] "Man, you Americans are really serious no?"

[00:11:57] And I responded, "No, you're just not funny."

[00:12:02] I could see in her face that she wasn't expecting me to say something like that.

[00:12:05] And maybe it hurt her feelings, I'm not sure.

[00:12:07] But the reason I told you that story is to illustrate the point that we were two very different people from two very different countries, and we both interpreted our behavior in different ways.

[00:12:17] I'm not saying which interpretation was right or wrong or better or worse.

[00:12:21] I'm just saying that she thought I was being cold and serious,

[00:12:25] and I thought she was being fake.

[00:12:28] The truth is most likely that neither of those things were true.

[00:12:31] It was probably just a cultural misunderstanding

[00:12:33] or maybe an individual misunderstanding that had nothing to do with our culture.

[00:12:39] It's the type of misunderstanding that happens every day when we don't take the time to understand that people were talking to,

[00:12:45] and instead we simply make assumptions based on what we think we already know.

[00:12:51] Then we see the entire world through this lens of our assumptions,

[00:12:54] which only reinforces the assumptions we've made,

[00:12:57] because when you're looking for something, you're going to find it.

[00:13:01] In other words, if you believe that all people from a certain place are this way,

[00:13:05] you're naturally going to look for examples that confirm and reinforce that belief

[00:13:10] and ignore the cases that contradict that belief.

[00:13:14] And that's what I mean by making observations without context.

[00:13:19] We all have these ideas about the way the world works and the way people are,

[00:13:23] but most of the time, our ideas are just assumptions, not conclusions based on context or facts.

[00:13:31] All of these assumptions affect the way we talk, the way we interact, the places we go,

[00:13:36] the things we believe, the fears and insecurities we have, they affect everything we think and do.

[00:13:43] So I challenge you to take a moment and ask yourself:

[00:13:47] Are you seeing the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:13:50] [OUTRO MUSIC]

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[00:00:00] Do you see the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:00:03] [INTRO MUSIC]

[00:00:09] Do you see the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:00:12] This is a question that I've thought about from time to time whenever I had an interaction with someone from another country.

[00:00:19] I've talked to people from every continent from various walks of life,

[00:00:23] and a lot of those people had these preconceived ideas of what the U.S. is like,

[00:00:27] and what Americans are like, and what we think and believe.

[00:00:30] Most of the time they were partially correct and partially incorrect in their assumptions,

[00:00:35] but that's always the case when you're making general statements about hundreds of millions of people, right?

[00:00:41] And that's true for every country, I suppose.

[00:00:44] We have reputations that we've created for ourselves and reputations that other people have given us as well.

[00:00:51] None of them ever tell the whole story, though.

[00:00:54] We, as humans have this tendency to look for patterns and then make generalizations about everyone and everything based on those patterns.

[00:01:01] Although this helps us say time when trying to find the answers to our questions or come to conclusions,

[00:01:07] it doesn't mean that we will always find the right answers to our questions or come to the right conclusions.

[00:01:13] Most of the time, the generalizations we make are based on observations that were made without context,

[00:01:19] which only increases the chances that our generalizations will be inaccurate.

[00:01:24] Maybe I'm not making a lot of sense here. So let me give you an example.

[00:01:28] People from Latin America have reputation for being very warm and friendly people.

[00:01:34] The people seem happier and enjoy life more in Latin American countries.

[00:01:38] It's easier to make friends in a Latin American country, or at least that's what they say.

[00:01:45] I've talked to hundreds of people from Latin America,

[00:01:47] and most of them have told me the same thing,

[00:01:50] "Americans are so much colder than we are."

[00:01:54] "You Americans are so serious all the time."

[00:01:57] Although I think that's a question of opinion,

[00:02:00] I still think there may be some truth to that depending on the situation.

[00:02:04] But there are a few problems here.

[00:02:06] Number one, not all Americans are the same.

[00:02:11] We have to acknowledge the fact that the U.S. is a gigantic country.

[00:02:16] There are over 300 million people in this country.

[00:02:21] And within that group of 300 million, there are many sub-groups.

[00:02:25] Black people, white people, Africans, Latinos, Asians, Europeans,

[00:02:30] and within those subgroups, there are many more subgroups, right?

[00:02:34] The rich blacks, the poor blacks,

[00:02:36] blacks from the south blacks from up north,

[00:02:38] the rich whites, the poor whites,

[00:02:40] the liberal whites, the conservative whites,

[00:02:42] African-Americans, foreign Africans,

[00:02:45] Ethiopians, Kenyans, Moroccans, Egyptians,

[00:02:47] American Latinos, foreign Latinos,

[00:02:50] Hondurans, Colombians, Mexicans, Nicaraguans,

[00:02:53] American Asians, foreign Asians,

[00:02:55] the Chinese, the Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese.

[00:02:58] And let's not forget the native Americans, right?

[00:03:02] All of these people in all of these groups are a part of the United States of America.

[00:03:07] And all of these people come from different walks of life.

[00:03:11] All these people were raised inside their own version of American culture.

[00:03:17] For example, there are many types of black Americans culture.

[00:03:22] There are many types of white American culture,

[00:03:25] as well as African-American,

[00:03:26] which is not the same thing as black American,

[00:03:29] also Latino American, and Asian-American.

[00:03:33] We're all the same and yet completely different,

[00:03:36] just like everyone else from every other country in the world.

[00:03:40] So when you say, "Americans are so bah, bah, bah..."

[00:03:45] to which Americans are you really referring?

[00:03:48] Do you even know?

[00:03:50] Most of the time, it's the Americans that you see on TV and social media.

[00:03:55] It's the pop culture stars, the actors, the politicians, the athletes,

[00:03:59] the YouTube and TikTok influencers.

[00:04:02] But that relatively small group of people can not and will not ever represent the entire United States of America.

[00:04:10] Such a minority could never represent the majority.

[00:04:15] Problem number two, 'cold' is a subjective word.

[00:04:20] Another thing we must take into consideration is that the word cold is subjective.

[00:04:25] What's cold to me, may not be cold to you.

[00:04:29] As a Latin American, you might think you're being very warm, friendly, and funny

[00:04:34] while I, as an American might think you're being fake as fuck.

[00:04:39] I might think that you're just smiling and acting like my friend

[00:04:42] because you're trying to give me a certain impression of who you are or because you want something from me.

[00:04:47] I might think you're trying to force the feeling of friendship and connection onto me.

[00:04:53] There are many ways to interpret the same behavior,

[00:04:55] and many times we interpret other people's behavior through the lens of how we would behave.

[00:05:01] That's not always a good idea because we are not other people and other people are not us.

[00:05:08] And you might think Americans are extremely cold and unapproachable,

[00:05:12] but I think that the people you're referring to are not cold.

[00:05:16] They simply are not fake.

[00:05:18] We're just not the type of people to meet someone for the first time and immediately act like we've known them for years.

[00:05:25] Now, in this case, when I say 'we' I'm talking about myself and the people in some of the places where I grew up.

[00:05:31] However, I've also grown up in places where people are,

[00:05:34] what you might think of as really nice and friendly,

[00:05:37] when in reality they're just fake and they only care about appearances.

[00:05:42] It's something that's hard to explain to someone who isn't from here because of the difference of culture.

[00:05:48] Just like in your country or state or city,

[00:05:51] I'm sure that you're aware of cultural behaviors that I would never notice as a foreigner

[00:05:56] because I'd be seeing your world through the lens of my culture.

[00:06:00] That's just the way it is.

[00:06:02] And when I say culture, I'm really talking about my history as a human being, all of my life experiences.

[00:06:08] Those are the things that create and mold my perspective.

[00:06:13] Another example of people who have a reputation for being cold is Russian people.

[00:06:18] So many people from around the world, including Americans,

[00:06:21] have told me that they think Russians are crazy, extremely cold and difficult to approach.

[00:06:27] However, my experience with Russian people has been the exact opposite.

[00:06:33] I've never met a Russian person that I did not like... ever.

[00:06:38] I've never met a Russian person and felt like they were cold at all.

[00:06:43] The Russian people I've met are some of the coolest people on the planet actually.

[00:06:47] However, another person from another country might interpret their behavior as cold,

[00:06:52] and it would be hard for them to make friends with those same Russian people.

[00:06:56] So I think part of your interactions with people depends on how you perceive the people.

[00:07:01] If you enter the situation with preconceived notions about who these people are,

[00:07:05] it will inevitably have some effect on the way you interpret their actions and the way you treat them.

[00:07:11] This is what I call projecting.

[00:07:13] You're taking your internal vision of who someone is and putting it on them,

[00:07:18] instead of letting them show you who they actually are without being judged.

[00:07:23] When you do this, you're likely to misinterpret all kinds of things and reinforce all kinds of inaccurate beliefs that you already have.

[00:07:32] However, if you would've just taken the time to understand their culture and behavior just a little bit better,

[00:07:39] not from your perspective, but from theirs,

[00:07:41] you might see that they aren't cold at all.

[00:07:44] They just have a different way of communicating and forming relationships.

[00:07:50] Problem number three.

[00:07:51] Maybe, if you understood the reason for the difference in cultural behavior,

[00:07:56] you would find a way to adapt and still make great friendships with the people you thought were cold and unapproachable.

[00:08:02] Now, technically that's not a problem. That's a statement.

[00:08:05] But subject number three or observation, number three, let's say it that way.

[00:08:10] You need to understand the culture and the mindset of the people you're communicating with.

[00:08:15] I'm not saying you must adopt the culture or the mindset of those people, but you need to understand it.

[00:08:21] Your understanding of things dictates your perceptions and behavior, right?

[00:08:26] So the better, your understanding of people is, the better your interactions with those people will be.

[00:08:31] And I am, of course, speaking in general terms.

[00:08:35] People spend so much time focused on the technical aspects of language,

[00:08:38] like grammar, vocabulary, words, pronunciation, et cetera.

[00:08:43] Now, of course, those things are really important when you're trying to learn a language.

[00:08:47] However, it seems to me that a lot of people don't understand that it's culture that dictates how the language is used.

[00:08:56] So if you want to sound like a native or make friends with natives, work with natives,

[00:09:02] you must understand how their culture influences their communication style.

[00:09:07] You don't have to change who you are just to make friends or be understood,

[00:09:10] but being able to adapt your communication style to the current situation is a very valuable skill to have.

[00:09:20] Number four... I think.

[00:09:23] Maybe these people that you see as cold and unapproachable,

[00:09:27] maybe, just maybe they don't like you. You have to agree that it's a possibility, right?

[00:09:36] All those people that you think are super cold and rude or mean, or whatever it is,

[00:09:41] maybe they don't like you, maybe it's just, you. It's possible.

[00:09:48] I remember I was talking to this girl from Ecuador,

[00:09:51] and she was helping me with my Spanish and I was helping her with her English.

[00:09:55] And when we first started talking, everything she said was like, so full of energy and emotion.

[00:10:00] It was actually quite intoxicating at first, you know, I liked it.

[00:10:04] It was a pleasure to talk to someone who seemed to be so full of life and so charismatic, you know?

[00:10:09] It didn't really feel fake or forced at all.

[00:10:12] However, after a day or two, I noticed that she was like that all the time.

[00:10:19] Putting so much energy and emotion into every word exaggerating at times,

[00:10:25] you know, making the most mundane sentences and ideas sound extraordinary and extremely important.

[00:10:32] After a while, it started to feel very fake and very forced.

[00:10:36] "There's no way she's like this all the time." I thought to myself.

[00:10:41] The problem was that I simply didn't know.

[00:10:44] I hadn't had much experience with Ecuadorian people and I hadn't had much experience with her, the individual.

[00:10:50] So I really couldn't come to any conclusions about who she was or why she behaved the way she did.

[00:10:57] Then we had our first video call and she had that same over-the-top,

[00:11:02] always excited, always joking, always happy to be here, type of energy, you know?

[00:11:07] And that smile, that type of smile that looked forced to me, you know what I'm saying?

[00:11:12] And she was trying to like tell jokes and create a friendly atmosphere in the first few minutes of the call and things like that.

[00:11:19] And although I see nothing wrong with that, it's just not the way I do things, you know?

[00:11:24] I'm not the type of person to force a relationship or go out of my way to show someone that I'm happy, engaged, approachable, or anything like that.

[00:11:34] If something isn't funny, I'm not going to laugh.

[00:11:38] If I don't have a reason to smile, I don't smile.

[00:11:42] If I don't have anything to say, then I don't speak.

[00:11:46] That's just the way I am.

[00:11:48] So after this girl tried to make a few jokes, she noticed this about me and she said,

[00:11:53] "Man, you Americans are really serious no?"

[00:11:57] And I responded, "No, you're just not funny."

[00:12:02] I could see in her face that she wasn't expecting me to say something like that.

[00:12:05] And maybe it hurt her feelings, I'm not sure.

[00:12:07] But the reason I told you that story is to illustrate the point that we were two very different people from two very different countries, and we both interpreted our behavior in different ways.

[00:12:17] I'm not saying which interpretation was right or wrong or better or worse.

[00:12:21] I'm just saying that she thought I was being cold and serious,

[00:12:25] and I thought she was being fake.

[00:12:28] The truth is most likely that neither of those things were true.

[00:12:31] It was probably just a cultural misunderstanding

[00:12:33] or maybe an individual misunderstanding that had nothing to do with our culture.

[00:12:39] It's the type of misunderstanding that happens every day when we don't take the time to understand that people were talking to,

[00:12:45] and instead we simply make assumptions based on what we think we already know.

[00:12:51] Then we see the entire world through this lens of our assumptions,

[00:12:54] which only reinforces the assumptions we've made,

[00:12:57] because when you're looking for something, you're going to find it.

[00:13:01] In other words, if you believe that all people from a certain place are this way,

[00:13:05] you're naturally going to look for examples that confirm and reinforce that belief

[00:13:10] and ignore the cases that contradict that belief.

[00:13:14] And that's what I mean by making observations without context.

[00:13:19] We all have these ideas about the way the world works and the way people are,

[00:13:23] but most of the time, our ideas are just assumptions, not conclusions based on context or facts.

[00:13:31] All of these assumptions affect the way we talk, the way we interact, the places we go,

[00:13:36] the things we believe, the fears and insecurities we have, they affect everything we think and do.

[00:13:43] So I challenge you to take a moment and ask yourself:

[00:13:47] Are you seeing the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:13:50] [OUTRO MUSIC]

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Do you see the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:00:03] [INTRO MUSIC]

[00:00:09] Do you see the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:00:12] This is a question that I've thought about from time to time whenever I had an interaction with someone from another country.

[00:00:19] I've talked to people from every continent from various walks of life,

[00:00:23] and a lot of those people had these preconceived ideas of what the U.S. is like,

[00:00:27] and what Americans are like, and what we think and believe.

[00:00:30] Most of the time they were partially correct and partially incorrect in their assumptions,

[00:00:35] but that's always the case when you're making general statements about hundreds of millions of people, right?

[00:00:41] And that's true for every country, I suppose.

[00:00:44] We have reputations that we've created for ourselves and reputations that other people have given us as well.

[00:00:51] None of them ever tell the whole story, though.

[00:00:54] We, as humans have this tendency to look for patterns and then make generalizations about everyone and everything based on those patterns.

[00:01:01] Although this helps us say time when trying to find the answers to our questions or come to conclusions,

[00:01:07] it doesn't mean that we will always find the right answers to our questions or come to the right conclusions.

[00:01:13] Most of the time, the generalizations we make are based on observations that were made without context,

[00:01:19] which only increases the chances that our generalizations will be inaccurate.

[00:01:24] Maybe I'm not making a lot of sense here. So let me give you an example.

[00:01:28] People from Latin America have reputation for being very warm and friendly people.

[00:01:34] The people seem happier and enjoy life more in Latin American countries.

[00:01:38] It's easier to make friends in a Latin American country, or at least that's what they say.

[00:01:45] I've talked to hundreds of people from Latin America,

[00:01:47] and most of them have told me the same thing,

[00:01:50] "Americans are so much colder than we are."

[00:01:54] "You Americans are so serious all the time."

[00:01:57] Although I think that's a question of opinion,

[00:02:00] I still think there may be some truth to that depending on the situation.

[00:02:04] But there are a few problems here.

[00:02:06] Number one, not all Americans are the same.

[00:02:11] We have to acknowledge the fact that the U.S. is a gigantic country.

[00:02:16] There are over 300 million people in this country.

[00:02:21] And within that group of 300 million, there are many sub-groups.

[00:02:25] Black people, white people, Africans, Latinos, Asians, Europeans,

[00:02:30] and within those subgroups, there are many more subgroups, right?

[00:02:34] The rich blacks, the poor blacks,

[00:02:36] blacks from the south blacks from up north,

[00:02:38] the rich whites, the poor whites,

[00:02:40] the liberal whites, the conservative whites,

[00:02:42] African-Americans, foreign Africans,

[00:02:45] Ethiopians, Kenyans, Moroccans, Egyptians,

[00:02:47] American Latinos, foreign Latinos,

[00:02:50] Hondurans, Colombians, Mexicans, Nicaraguans,

[00:02:53] American Asians, foreign Asians,

[00:02:55] the Chinese, the Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese.

[00:02:58] And let's not forget the native Americans, right?

[00:03:02] All of these people in all of these groups are a part of the United States of America.

[00:03:07] And all of these people come from different walks of life.

[00:03:11] All these people were raised inside their own version of American culture.

[00:03:17] For example, there are many types of black Americans culture.

[00:03:22] There are many types of white American culture,

[00:03:25] as well as African-American,

[00:03:26] which is not the same thing as black American,

[00:03:29] also Latino American, and Asian-American.

[00:03:33] We're all the same and yet completely different,

[00:03:36] just like everyone else from every other country in the world.

[00:03:40] So when you say, "Americans are so bah, bah, bah..."

[00:03:45] to which Americans are you really referring?

[00:03:48] Do you even know?

[00:03:50] Most of the time, it's the Americans that you see on TV and social media.

[00:03:55] It's the pop culture stars, the actors, the politicians, the athletes,

[00:03:59] the YouTube and TikTok influencers.

[00:04:02] But that relatively small group of people can not and will not ever represent the entire United States of America.

[00:04:10] Such a minority could never represent the majority.

[00:04:15] Problem number two, 'cold' is a subjective word.

[00:04:20] Another thing we must take into consideration is that the word cold is subjective.

[00:04:25] What's cold to me, may not be cold to you.

[00:04:29] As a Latin American, you might think you're being very warm, friendly, and funny

[00:04:34] while I, as an American might think you're being fake as fuck.

[00:04:39] I might think that you're just smiling and acting like my friend

[00:04:42] because you're trying to give me a certain impression of who you are or because you want something from me.

[00:04:47] I might think you're trying to force the feeling of friendship and connection onto me.

[00:04:53] There are many ways to interpret the same behavior,

[00:04:55] and many times we interpret other people's behavior through the lens of how we would behave.

[00:05:01] That's not always a good idea because we are not other people and other people are not us.

[00:05:08] And you might think Americans are extremely cold and unapproachable,

[00:05:12] but I think that the people you're referring to are not cold.

[00:05:16] They simply are not fake.

[00:05:18] We're just not the type of people to meet someone for the first time and immediately act like we've known them for years.

[00:05:25] Now, in this case, when I say 'we' I'm talking about myself and the people in some of the places where I grew up.

[00:05:31] However, I've also grown up in places where people are,

[00:05:34] what you might think of as really nice and friendly,

[00:05:37] when in reality they're just fake and they only care about appearances.

[00:05:42] It's something that's hard to explain to someone who isn't from here because of the difference of culture.

[00:05:48] Just like in your country or state or city,

[00:05:51] I'm sure that you're aware of cultural behaviors that I would never notice as a foreigner

[00:05:56] because I'd be seeing your world through the lens of my culture.

[00:06:00] That's just the way it is.

[00:06:02] And when I say culture, I'm really talking about my history as a human being, all of my life experiences.

[00:06:08] Those are the things that create and mold my perspective.

[00:06:13] Another example of people who have a reputation for being cold is Russian people.

[00:06:18] So many people from around the world, including Americans,

[00:06:21] have told me that they think Russians are crazy, extremely cold and difficult to approach.

[00:06:27] However, my experience with Russian people has been the exact opposite.

[00:06:33] I've never met a Russian person that I did not like... ever.

[00:06:38] I've never met a Russian person and felt like they were cold at all.

[00:06:43] The Russian people I've met are some of the coolest people on the planet actually.

[00:06:47] However, another person from another country might interpret their behavior as cold,

[00:06:52] and it would be hard for them to make friends with those same Russian people.

[00:06:56] So I think part of your interactions with people depends on how you perceive the people.

[00:07:01] If you enter the situation with preconceived notions about who these people are,

[00:07:05] it will inevitably have some effect on the way you interpret their actions and the way you treat them.

[00:07:11] This is what I call projecting.

[00:07:13] You're taking your internal vision of who someone is and putting it on them,

[00:07:18] instead of letting them show you who they actually are without being judged.

[00:07:23] When you do this, you're likely to misinterpret all kinds of things and reinforce all kinds of inaccurate beliefs that you already have.

[00:07:32] However, if you would've just taken the time to understand their culture and behavior just a little bit better,

[00:07:39] not from your perspective, but from theirs,

[00:07:41] you might see that they aren't cold at all.

[00:07:44] They just have a different way of communicating and forming relationships.

[00:07:50] Problem number three.

[00:07:51] Maybe, if you understood the reason for the difference in cultural behavior,

[00:07:56] you would find a way to adapt and still make great friendships with the people you thought were cold and unapproachable.

[00:08:02] Now, technically that's not a problem. That's a statement.

[00:08:05] But subject number three or observation, number three, let's say it that way.

[00:08:10] You need to understand the culture and the mindset of the people you're communicating with.

[00:08:15] I'm not saying you must adopt the culture or the mindset of those people, but you need to understand it.

[00:08:21] Your understanding of things dictates your perceptions and behavior, right?

[00:08:26] So the better, your understanding of people is, the better your interactions with those people will be.

[00:08:31] And I am, of course, speaking in general terms.

[00:08:35] People spend so much time focused on the technical aspects of language,

[00:08:38] like grammar, vocabulary, words, pronunciation, et cetera.

[00:08:43] Now, of course, those things are really important when you're trying to learn a language.

[00:08:47] However, it seems to me that a lot of people don't understand that it's culture that dictates how the language is used.

[00:08:56] So if you want to sound like a native or make friends with natives, work with natives,

[00:09:02] you must understand how their culture influences their communication style.

[00:09:07] You don't have to change who you are just to make friends or be understood,

[00:09:10] but being able to adapt your communication style to the current situation is a very valuable skill to have.

[00:09:20] Number four... I think.

[00:09:23] Maybe these people that you see as cold and unapproachable,

[00:09:27] maybe, just maybe they don't like you. You have to agree that it's a possibility, right?

[00:09:36] All those people that you think are super cold and rude or mean, or whatever it is,

[00:09:41] maybe they don't like you, maybe it's just, you. It's possible.

[00:09:48] I remember I was talking to this girl from Ecuador,

[00:09:51] and she was helping me with my Spanish and I was helping her with her English.

[00:09:55] And when we first started talking, everything she said was like, so full of energy and emotion.

[00:10:00] It was actually quite intoxicating at first, you know, I liked it.

[00:10:04] It was a pleasure to talk to someone who seemed to be so full of life and so charismatic, you know?

[00:10:09] It didn't really feel fake or forced at all.

[00:10:12] However, after a day or two, I noticed that she was like that all the time.

[00:10:19] Putting so much energy and emotion into every word exaggerating at times,

[00:10:25] you know, making the most mundane sentences and ideas sound extraordinary and extremely important.

[00:10:32] After a while, it started to feel very fake and very forced.

[00:10:36] "There's no way she's like this all the time." I thought to myself.

[00:10:41] The problem was that I simply didn't know.

[00:10:44] I hadn't had much experience with Ecuadorian people and I hadn't had much experience with her, the individual.

[00:10:50] So I really couldn't come to any conclusions about who she was or why she behaved the way she did.

[00:10:57] Then we had our first video call and she had that same over-the-top,

[00:11:02] always excited, always joking, always happy to be here, type of energy, you know?

[00:11:07] And that smile, that type of smile that looked forced to me, you know what I'm saying?

[00:11:12] And she was trying to like tell jokes and create a friendly atmosphere in the first few minutes of the call and things like that.

[00:11:19] And although I see nothing wrong with that, it's just not the way I do things, you know?

[00:11:24] I'm not the type of person to force a relationship or go out of my way to show someone that I'm happy, engaged, approachable, or anything like that.

[00:11:34] If something isn't funny, I'm not going to laugh.

[00:11:38] If I don't have a reason to smile, I don't smile.

[00:11:42] If I don't have anything to say, then I don't speak.

[00:11:46] That's just the way I am.

[00:11:48] So after this girl tried to make a few jokes, she noticed this about me and she said,

[00:11:53] "Man, you Americans are really serious no?"

[00:11:57] And I responded, "No, you're just not funny."

[00:12:02] I could see in her face that she wasn't expecting me to say something like that.

[00:12:05] And maybe it hurt her feelings, I'm not sure.

[00:12:07] But the reason I told you that story is to illustrate the point that we were two very different people from two very different countries, and we both interpreted our behavior in different ways.

[00:12:17] I'm not saying which interpretation was right or wrong or better or worse.

[00:12:21] I'm just saying that she thought I was being cold and serious,

[00:12:25] and I thought she was being fake.

[00:12:28] The truth is most likely that neither of those things were true.

[00:12:31] It was probably just a cultural misunderstanding

[00:12:33] or maybe an individual misunderstanding that had nothing to do with our culture.

[00:12:39] It's the type of misunderstanding that happens every day when we don't take the time to understand that people were talking to,

[00:12:45] and instead we simply make assumptions based on what we think we already know.

[00:12:51] Then we see the entire world through this lens of our assumptions,

[00:12:54] which only reinforces the assumptions we've made,

[00:12:57] because when you're looking for something, you're going to find it.

[00:13:01] In other words, if you believe that all people from a certain place are this way,

[00:13:05] you're naturally going to look for examples that confirm and reinforce that belief

[00:13:10] and ignore the cases that contradict that belief.

[00:13:14] And that's what I mean by making observations without context.

[00:13:19] We all have these ideas about the way the world works and the way people are,

[00:13:23] but most of the time, our ideas are just assumptions, not conclusions based on context or facts.

[00:13:31] All of these assumptions affect the way we talk, the way we interact, the places we go,

[00:13:36] the things we believe, the fears and insecurities we have, they affect everything we think and do.

[00:13:43] So I challenge you to take a moment and ask yourself:

[00:13:47] Are you seeing the world through your eyes or through your culture?

[00:13:50] [OUTRO MUSIC]

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