This is {Wherever} Wednesday #8: Is this normal?

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Wherever Wednesday post, but Gayle over at Texifornia is starting it back up and I decided to join. I realize that the longer I live in Guatemala the easier it is to forget what is unique or different about life here. The truth is my sense of what is “normal” has blurred over the past few years. I forget that in the states it’s not “normal” to see people hanging on the back of buses while it’s moving, or that it’s not “normal” for women to sell little bags of pre-cut fruit on street corners or that usually (and by usually I mean never) is it normal to see a family of 4 riding on one motorcycle together.

But this is Guatemala.

If you’ve ever lived in another country or spent significant time with people from a culture different from your own, you know that what is “normal” for you is not necessarily “normal” for anyone else.  Have you ever thought about how much our sense of “normal” is influenced by  what is familiar and frequent?

For example, I’ll use California because I know it well. In most parts of California has become “normal” to spent $100+ on a pair of designer jeans. And don’t worry, I’m including myself in this “normal.” The brand names are talked about, recognized, the subtle logo conveniently advertised on fellow friends’ rear ends. And boom. It becomes the new normal. It becomes so familiar and frequent that you now would not not but designer jeans, right?

Somehow being from this culture, but living outside of it allows me to look inside with a different lens. At myself, what I used to do, what I still want, and what I consider “normal.”

Here are some other examples:

-Spending $3 or more for a coffee drink

-Getting visibly frustrated when internet pages load too slowly

– Taking a Babymoon (I’ll be honest I love this idea for one day, but when did this become normal?)

– Spending more on home decorations, than giving to those in need

-When did it become normal for yoga pants to cost 70$? (yes, I’m talking about you lulu lemon)

– Being busy is a sign of being important

– Using books and authors as a way to talk about God and feel smart, instead of just living what I’ve learned.

These things all seems relatively “normal” to me. Maybe to you, too…right?

But, honestly, I don’t like that that these things are my “normal.”

Living in Guatemala and being married to a Guatemalan has challenged my faith, my way of living and what I understand as “normal.” I probably have more questions than answers and sometimes it just leaves me paralyzed, indecisive and over-analyzing…EVERYTHING.

This is what I’ve observed is “normal” for Guatemalans:

– Sharing food is important. Quantity usually matters more than quality.

– Greeting every single person when you come and when you leave. (Parents even make their little babies do this!)

– For as indirect as Guatemalans are about confrontation, they will ask “How much did that cost?” without any qualms (about a new car, a cellphone, a computer, a house…ANYTHING)

– A family may have a dirt floor and live in material poverty, but they will have a TV.  TV is important.

-Soccer can be played anywhere.

– Typically Guatemalan parents save their money in order to give their grown child a piece of land for a home, not a wedding.

– When natural disasters strike or just a day of “bad” weather people don’t complain and ask why?. They just accept it.

I have learned these things, but they are not yet my “normal.” However, I think when we engage intentionally and learn how other people live it challenges our own definition of “normal”

What is normal for you in your town or culture? How do you resist or accept it? Do share. Especially people who have lived cross-culturally : )

P.S. And link up next month with This is Wherever Wednesday!

 

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7 thoughts on “This is {Wherever} Wednesday #8: Is this normal?

  1. Thanks for linking up again on Wherever Wed! Moving to a different place does change your view of normal…even just visiting one. I remember the first time I crossed the border to California to Mexico. The changes were immediate and viceral–manacured greenery on one side, dusty roads and shanty houses on the other. It changed my worldview big-time. So did moving from California to Texas, though the differences were less stark. Made me realize more what I love about CA, and what was special about it.

    Really, thoughtful and insightful post!

  2. This is one of my favorite posts you’ve ever written! I love that you’re encouraging us to think about our “normal” habits, and as a result, to maybe question them a little bit. I can definitely relate on the designer jeans although this fall I bought Old Navy for the first time and you know what? I LOVE THEM. Anyhooo….

    In China, it’s totally normal for American guests to be asked to sing at any type of function, which I found really terrifying and odd. That’s how Jonathan and I ended up singing a duet at someone’s wedding. A story for another day.

    As a newish mom, I’m questioning many “kid norms” such as: it’s a norm for people to sign their toddlers up for music and gym classes, to have perfectly decorated nurseries, to own very expensive jogging strollers, to hire midwives or doulas. I guess you could also call these things trends…and they’re not bad…just kinda funny.

  3. Lesley, I LOVE this. haha. Are you and Jonathan singers? Did you know that I taught English in Taiwan one summer and also, was asked to sing in front of the whole CHURCH…barefoot (the Taiwanese are weird about shoes and dirt). I didn’t even know all the words, but I did well with the hand motions to “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” : )

  4. My husband and I were just talking about “normal” last night…
    We live in Compton and the house next door is vacant while they find a renter. Around 9PM we heard a diesel engine and I looked out the window, expecting to see a fire truck or ambulance, and instead saw someone parking the cab portion of a big rig into the driveway. they left again really early this morning. what???

  5. Hoping over from TIWW.

    What a wonderful, thought provoking post. I recently moved from the west coast to the east coast and what is totally normal on the west {maxi dresses, hippies, overly friendly people, laid back attitude} is SO not normal on the east coast! I feel like an alien even though I’m in the same country!! Makes me miss CA. 🙂

  6. I love this post too. I’m quite impressed and happy to read something that provokes thought instead of me just scratching my head. 🙂 In a roundabout way I found it through wherever Wednesday, too.

    I think living in another country has changed me. Somethings have changed for the better, but I have become more bitter in regards to some things too. I Know it’s not all great. I really love things about the US that I am missing, but, I think that the experience is great, it’s something that not too many people get.

    “Normal” for me now is far different from normal 6 months ago. Normal for me makes my friends and family nervous and worry some. But, it all work out in the end, I think. 🙂

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