Over the years, I have made some interesting cross cultural mistakes, and therefore sometimes freeze up when I don’t know what I am supposed to do without offending people.
It happened again on friday night.
We were playing indoor hockey (innebundy) and I accidentally tripped a girl over. And my thought process went spastic.
If I had been in Australia I would have thrown my hand out to pick the girl up, made sure she was ok, and then continued the game. But in Sweden there is this underlining sense of gender equality that sometimes ends up being ‘don’t help me, I’m not weak’ so in that moment my brain thought ‘if I help her up, thats the most dishonouring thing i could do’ and if she had been a boy in Australia I would’ve apologised and walked off straight away. But I was frozen, in my own cultures thoughts, and my assumed conclusion on Swedish culture. So i literally hung my head in faux shame and took myself off the field to a chorus of very loud boos. The crowd was actually booing me, which concluded my assumptions that I had done something wrong, even tho i hadn’t don anything outside of an accidental tripping.
Later I asked a Swedish girl and she concluded that ‘don’t worry about whatever she thought, just be nice’. There is nothing offensive to helping someone up, and if they take offence to me being nice… then… whatever. In hindsight i should have helped her up and then taken myself off the field as a penalty.
There are universal niceties, that should not be influenced by cultural conclusions.
Another thing i have realised – some cultures speak english fast and with heavy accent, so I am constantly asking ‘what?’. But if I speak back as fast and as accented or mumbly… that is not helpful.
Humility and bold honour.