The next day, it was business as usual, until I came across one of the Jordanian air force crew. This Jordanian guy actually came up to me and says, “You are a very stupid American.” My first instinct is to roll-up my sleeves and come to blows with this Arab guy. In my culture, an individual using strong negative words is looking for a fight. Although livid about the “stupid American,” comment, I held my outburst. How dare he insult me with words, he doesn’t even know me.
I calmed down pretty quick and began to question in my mind why this guy said what he had. The best way to find out is to ask the source, so I did. I asked what the individual meant by his comment. I was informed that I had saved the crew from the embarrassment of social stripping (removal of status) and possibly even death.
Believe it or not, the crew was somehow indebted to me for helping them and had gifts prepared to bestow upon me. The member of the air crew mentioned gold. He also mentioned royal palace visits to
Correction! I hit a home run. I received one of the best life lessons ever. I received a lesson worth far more than silver or gold. I received a life changing event that led me into intercultural communication and the study of people.
Three cultural strikes and I was “Out-of-there…”
We can’t play the game unless we know the rules. My recommendation to all, is to do your homework, research, and explore other cultures before you interact, unless you like to strike-out. Find out what is expected before you have an intercultural faux pas like mine.
We interpret the world through our personal experiences – beware of
In conclusion, the Arab people are very hospitable and courteous. Although some of the Arab social conventions are rather elaborate, they will generally “not” be offended by social mistakes stemming from ignorance. However, saying this, my Jordanian Prince experience caused me to self-reflect, seek out knowledge and study other cultures with a passion.
Ignorance is not bliss!