Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Mind Your Own Business”

mr_nosey

 

You can be married for a long time and still be surprised. 🙂

 

I was thinking about other cultures, and then I thought about growing up in Alaska. Alaska is one of those kind of end-of-the-line places. Maybe it’s changed, but except for the native Americans, most people had come from somewhere else. Very few were second generation.

 

People at end-of-the-line places often have backstories they don’t want to talk about – bad divorces, or worse – bad marriage –  no divorce, criminal records, or a million other situations they don’t want to talk about. From an early age, you learn not to ask. There were also a lot of laconic Scandinavians around; they talk about fishing and hunting but are seriously tongue-tied if asked a personal question. So again – you learn not to ask.

 

“Mind your own business,” I can remember my own mother saying, so I thought it was a rule. “Don’t be a Nosey-Parker.”

 

All my life I thought that was the rule. It was the way I was raised. Every now and then that curtain of pre-conceptions parts and a light gleams through. I was thinking about other cultures and it occurred to me to ask AdventureMan if he grew up with the same rule.

 

He just laughed.  He looked at me in utter amazement, and laughed.

 

“I grew up in a town of 3,000,” he laughed, “and some of those were relatives, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins – everyone knew everything!”

 

“There’s no such thing as ‘mind your own business’ when your entire life is known by every single person in town!”

 

He hooted with laughter at the very thought.

 

 

“Everyone knew everything!” he repeated.

 

It’s expat world right here in my own house. This is a whole new way of thinking about things. I’ve always thought personal privacy was sort of universal, but not so.

 

One of the many times we lived in Germany, we lived in a small village where people told us everything. It was amazing, a whole different world, being on the inside, but not really being a part of it all. People seemed to feel we needed to be filled-in. One family didn’t speak to another family in the village, and it was awkward, because there were only like 300 people in the village, but many years ago someone’s grandmother had a terrible disagreement with the other family’s grandmother and no one in the families speak to one another now, even though no one can remember the reason.

 

I’ve escaped a lot of that being an expat, not sticking around longer than five years max, not long enough to develop a reputation you can’t shake. 🙂 But it makes me wonder if things are looser these days, if you can grow and change and be allowed to outlive your mistakes in small places where everything is everyone’s business . . .

 

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November 7, 2013 - Posted by | Alaska, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Marriage, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues

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