This I Believe

Kurt - Port Huron, Michigan
Entered on September 6, 2007

Arabs and Americans

People from the Arab world and people from the Western world often misunderstand one another. For roughly two thousand years there have been disagreements ending with dire results. The Crusades offer a great historic example, in which both the Muslims in the Middle East and Christians in the Byzantine Empire of the west wanted control of the Holy Land of Jerusalem. The land held extreme importance to both sides religiously. The Crusades lasted hundreds of years with many battles and amassed thousands of casualties. Lately in the news, Americans hear about the latest conflict, whether it involves oil, religion, nuclear weapons or the military occupation in Iraq. These two separate worlds differ in culture and by learning the culture of the otherworld; the two can reach a better understanding of one another and ease some of the built up tension.

Tne such example of the cultural differences between the Western and Arab worlds is that in America everybody has their own bubble that surrounds and accompanies them everywhere. When one is sitting on a bench in public, the public bench appears “owned” by the person who is occupying it. This sends a message to all others looking for a place to sit to find a different park bench, or at least sit with a reasonable amount of space between. If someone sits too close, an automatic feeling of discomfort and annoyance usually sets in. In the Arab world, no one person can own or claim a public space and everyone has equal rights to use anything public. A park bench; with this being true, any person can try to get the prime seat on the park bench if they want it, and they will do anything in their power to get it. It is in this light that those from these two different worlds misunderstand each other’s aims and develop judgments on the others behavior. Arabs, coming from a close, friendly, and friendly culture feel that Americans are rude in wanting to be alone to their own roomy private bubble. Also, Americans feel that Arabs are being disrespectful because they intrude on personal space and seem pushy in a public setting.

Simple, cultural misunderstandings allow false judgments and stereotypes to develop about people unlike ourselves. By learning about other cultures, one can gain a more broad understanding of people and the world as a whole. I feel that I could gain the most by learning about the many dimensions of the Arab culture from a classmate given that lately the western world has been quarreling with them.