What we take for granted
We recently watched an interesting TED Talk that spent a moment on how neighborhoods are set up here versus in Japan and I had no idea that we took for granted how a neighborhood is structured. Of course here, we have streets, ideally on a grid, and each home is numbered so that driving down a street, homes are in order.
This is not so in Japan where streets don’t have names. Seriously. The spaces in between streets are named and house numbers are given according to when they were built. Derek Sivers explains:
In college, I studied English Literature and Spanish language, both of which required me to take a LOT of courses about culture. I’m relatively well versed in Western culture, but Eastern culture is very difficult for me to understand, even though it is simple to spell out on paper.
In our culture, we focus on goal setting, but Eastern cultures focus more on the journey. In our culture, the focus is on self, but Eastern cultures focus on the universe and their relationship with it. They control their emotions through meditation, we control through analysis.
See, it is easy to write down but it’s very hard to put yourself in another culture’s shoes, the same way it is hard to walk the streets of Japan and understand why there are no street names and why the numbering system is important to each culture.
These cultural differences are important to try to understand not only because studying other cultures helps us in a transaction (when you’re across the table from someone from another culture) but because it helps us to understand our own culture, especially the things we take for granted.