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TBIMG Question #5 - Communication
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 11:12 am
Pg. 34. My five-year sojourn at the Colorado School of Mines was the most carefree time of my life. The college, nestled in the former gold-mining town of Golden, Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, was one of the most prestigious mining and engineering schools in the world. I was amazed by the directness of Americans, and the way their social interaction is based on trust and straight-forwardness.
What do you think of the difference in the way Iraqis and Americans communicate?
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 11:26 am
Wow that is quite a question. From what I have seen from that area, the people in the middle east are very tribal. They are insular within their tribes, yet are very friendly to outsiders and concerned about their welfare. They don't speak about themselves as readily as we do and are more private. They will open up quite readily to explain their culture to those from outside who wish to question and learn, but are still not as open and friendly as Americans, if that makes any sense.
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 12:30 pm
Thank you, Shadowydog. It's interesting to hear from someone who knows from firsthand experience.
I realize that many of us can only speculate by what we read and see on TV. I, myself, have never met anyone from Iraq, although I roomed with an Iranian in college. I found her and her friends to be very friendly, fun-loving, honest and outspoken, with a touch of reserve. But they are two different cultures. We got along quite well as roomies because we were both honest and respectful of each other.
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 12:44 pm
I think there are many cultures besides the Iraqis that think Americans are straight forward. They might even call us brash. The Iraqi's seem to be more reserved, have more strict religious customs, and this probably results in being more polite in their social encounters.
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 2:02 pm
Just judging by the book, it seems to me that the Iraqis feel the need to be defensive when interacting with others. They are never sure if someone can be trusted or not. And the consequences of saying the wrong thing could be horrendous!
In America most of us truly do feel that we have freedom of speech.
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:02 pm
I just love the thought that all Americans--or all Iraqis--are alike. I haven't met many Iraqis, but I've met a lot of Americans I wouldn't trust, and a lot of duplicitous, manipulative, non-straightforward Americans.
(Somewhat off topic--we had a Belgian foreign-exchange student stay with us for a week last year. I spent days telling him that there's very little that "all" Americans have in common, and I'm not sure he ever believed me.)
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:05 pm
At different points in the book, Dr. Obeidi talked about the formal greetings that men would go through before they got down to business. A much more structured conversation than one would expect in the West....and frequently it seemed they were saying one thing and meaning another and everyone understood it.
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:40 pm
I would say it is definitely a cultural difference. I know many cultures see Americans as brash and rude (and let's face it it's not all a myth) but that is what makes the world such an interesting place, how different we are. I don't know that one way is better than the other, as long as everyone understands what needs to be understood. I can see how it makes tolerance and understanding between cultures more difficult.
shadowydog, was the meat confiscation related to mad cow disease somehow?
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 7:05 pm
I took this observation by Obeidi to be a direct reflection of the difference between growing up in a culture of fear and growing up in a culture of openness. So a cultural difference rather than a true difference in people(if that makes sense?) He would never have dared speak the way he spoke to his fellow students when at home in Iraq for fear of possible consequences from so many quarters. It must have been a very liberating experience for him...again, it just makes me so very grateful to have the freedoms that I have.
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 7:11 pm
I liked the comment on page 43: "As an Arab accustomed to the poetry of the unsaid, I am attentive to the subtleties of dialogue and hidden meanings behind a person's words". That suggested to me that it is a characteristic independent of the issue of freedom of speech. It is interesting that he sees himself and his culture that way, but I have no idea how typical it is. But come to think, it does now remind me of a comment Johnny made about listening to what hasn't been said, what's between the words. I can't rememember it fully - hopefully someone else will. But perhaps it is one of the ways he empathises with him, to refer back to our first question. And I would say that he is more than capable of hearing the poetry of the unsaid.
Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:17 pm
So much to comment on here. I tend to agree with what Rainbowsoul and Betty Sue touched on -- lack of freedom of speech in their own country and the retributions that they have to face for speaking freely. I think maybe that is the key here and the major difference between the two countries. We may not be totally free anymore due to terrorism, but at least we have freedom from tyranny.
I also find it interesting what Suec said about reading between the lines of what people say. It is like the Iraqis had a code that they all knew about; and as long as you kept to the code, as it were, you were OK. Suec, I think that Johnny has spoken in a code of sorts during many an awards show.
Re: TBIMG Question #5 - Communication
Posted: Tue Jul 24, 2007 4:59 pm
I can't imagine living in a society where every word must be guarded. We are very lucky to live in a society where we don't have to be afraid of expressing our opinions on any subject. A book like this is a reminder that there are places where the "wrong" opinion is severely punished.
I haven't read the other opinons expressed on this topic, so I'm off to catch up now.