Language. It is a beautiful vehicle, a doorway in cultures and behaviors. Since I have moved to India I am trying to learn hindi. A rich, expressive, but difficult language, which is in the top 5 of most spoken languages of the world. Foremost I was attracted to the beautiful Devanagari script with it’s soft curls, graceful strokes, and mysterious dots, connected by a firm line on the top. Second, I was hoping it would provide me a closer connection to the people I am living with.
With learning this language I came to know more about Indians which otherwise would have stayed hidden. Earlier I wrote about a multicultural team I was working with, mentioning the Indians would not include ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in their questions. I never understood this lack of simple politeness. Now I finally know why! In hindi, thanks and politeness is not expressed by a word. It is expressed through the conjugation of the verb. I was relieved to find out, as it made Indians a lot less rude in my eyes.
This little example showed me also how sensitive and complicated intercultural relationship can be. When you don’t know, don’t explain, and assume it can easily lead to prejudice and misunderstanding between people. A former colleague used to tell me; never ASSUME anything. As it will make an ASS out of U and ME. I used to think this was a bit funny, but getting to know more and more about different cultures, behaviors and customs from all over the world, I can clearly see the value in this lesson.
Traveling the world has made me humble, aware and more connected to people. The beauty lies in understanding and learning all languages, the spoken and the unspoken ones. The languages of words, actions and behaviors. So do not be ignorant, and explore, see, listen, and educated yourself.