[Editor’s note: Today I am excited to share a guest post with you, written by Sven von Scheidemann, Wristband #28. Sven has been a loyal reader for a long time now, and I have had the pleasure of exchanging many wonderful emails back and forth with him over the past year. His perspective is one we can all learn from and be entertained by.]
Did you hear the rumors that Germans cut their greensward with nail scissors?
Well, it’s not a rumor …
Sure, they don’t cut the whole thing with a nail scissor. Just the edges. (90 degrees had to be 90 degrees.) I’ve even seen a couple of people using a bubble level to give their hedge its last perfect touch.
As an open-minded person who visited different cities, countries, and cultures on this planet, growing up and living in this stuffy German village with 3,000 inhabitants was my personal purgatory.
Everything is organized, efficient, and clean. Everybody is hard-working and always just-in-time.
Every house, every garden, and every street is so clean and perfect that sometimes you start wondering if you are in a Disney World Resort. (Note: If you see Mickey Mouse somewhere walking around, you might have a big problem.)
And when you grow up under these special conditions, living abroad in a totally different culture can be quite a challenge.
Because no matter how much you disagree with your home country‘s philosophy — like I did — it is still part of your soul.
You grew up with special behaviors and typical habits, and there’s no way to hide it.
I decided very early on to leave my home country to look for a place where people care about life and each other, instead of showing their neighbors how accurate the garden is. Or how clean their car is.
I found that place ten years ago in the Canary Islands.
The different world of Gran Canaria
My first exciting thought after leaving Gran Canaria’s airport to drive to my new home was “Wow, potholes on the highway.”
I was even excited about the bunch of unsorted electricity cables hanging outside houses like psychopathic vines capturing their victims.
That was the moment when I realized that I had reached a destination far away from my comfort zone.
For the first year when I was on holidays, I enjoyed a free and easy life without worrying about anything.
And when you’re on holiday, of course everything is wonderful, beautiful, awesome, fascinating, gorgeous, incredible, amazing, picture-postcard-perfect.
But when I started to live and work like a local, life started to confront me with special circumstances every day that let me sometimes forget my good breeding.
For example, you can’t imagine how much time you waste in Gran Canaria’s local authority offices. To organize a simple paper, you need to take a day off. And a second day to collect your ready papers. Maybe even more when you forgot an important copy the first time you went.
Or let’s say you want to make an appointment with someone in Gran Canaria at 6 p.m.; tell him you’ll meet at 3 p.m. and he will arrive punctually … at 6 p.m.
Another great example is ordering a phone line.
I took the no-brainer route and called the hotline to place the order. But the technician didn’t find my house. Instead, he called me from the other side of the island and asked for the house number.
Four hours later he reached the correct destination. And instead of installing the cable and activating the phone line, he drank all my beer reserves while waiting for a sausage from the grill. (Yes, he came back the other day and installed everything.)
And don’t think you can just go to the supermarket to do a quick shopping trip, because many times the cashier talks with customers about last night’s Fiesta while he’s scanning the products. And often, they don’t stop talking even after the customer has already paid.
Now, imagine yourself standing in the queue while you’re in a hurry …
Those examples are not exceptions. That’s how life works here, more or less.
Adapting to life in a crazy new culture
I guess you can imagine that these kinds of situations can be quite annoying. And it costs you a lot of energy to get accustomed to the local way of how to get things done.
Many times I found myself mocking those things in public, and saying that in my home country everything works better.
Sometimes I just wanted to beam back to my personal purgatory — instantly.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Canaries and its people, and I feel at home here, much more than in my parents‘ country. But I needed to learn how to live with the local quirks that baffle me. And to strip off parts of my German nature.
For any expat, there’s no other way to live a happy life wherever in the world you are or are planning to be.
So how does it work?
You need to immerse yourself in the local culture.
And you have to accept that people are different than you.
Of course, you don’t need to forget where you come from and who you are … but never try to change the system.
Because here’s the thing: Trying to do so means you’re pretty arrogant — to ask other people to adapt to your way of life in their country.
It is you who has to change.
By balancing your pride and humility.
Maintain the pride you have in growing up where you grew up, with all of its benefits .. but have (or develop) the humility to familiarize yourself with the way of life in a totally different culture.
To make it even clearer: It’s your problem if you waste your time with negative thoughts and complaints.
If you are not able to find the right balance, it doesn’t only provoke ugly wrinkles on your forehead, but you will probably end up back home faster than you would like to be.
How Primility helped me to keep that healthy balance
Primility helped me to smile in strange situations and just take things as they come through life.
A simple red wristband has a similar effect to me as 30 minutes of meditation.
Even though I had my emotions pretty much under control in the above-mentioned special occasions, Jerod´s philosophy with Primility gave the final touch I needed in the most severely trying of times.
Today, before I’m almost knocking my head against the wall, I take a look at my wristband … and that instantly soothes me and brings up the sweet-tempered face. The same one you see in grandfathers’ faces when they look at their grandchildren after they’ve done something bad, but not too bad — a mixture of trying to being serious while also trying not to laugh.
My wristband reminds me that humans grow up in different cultures, with different education, different intelligence, different everything. With all the positive and negative side effects.
It reminds me that I’m just the lurker watching a scene from a distance.
When I can’t control the balance, I get too involved in trying to change the scenery rather than accepting it for what it is, which becomes my problem, eating my energy.
So this is my personal story on how Primility changed my way of looking at daily obstacles with energy vampires.
Maybe you can use it for yourself.
The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude. The choice is always yours. ~ Dennis S. Brown
Flickr Creative Commons image via Jesús Belzunce Gómez