A Clash of Cultures

I spent the first ten years of my life in Serbia and the next 39 in Canada, but am completely Canadian WASP in my outlook, thought processes and behavior. My brother was born in Canada and has always been a Canadian resident and citizen, but is highly Serbian. My father, of course, came here when he was In his early 30s, having spent his whole previous life in Serbia, so he’s more Serbian than Karageorge. That leads to certain conflicts simply based on culture. Here’s the transcript of a brief conversation we had this morning:

BROTHER: Khel, would you mind translating something I’m saying to Dad, because he seems to have trouble understanding me.

ME: Sure, go ahead.

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): I don’t want to drag Khel into my problems.

BROTHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, sounding enervated): Okay, Khel, never mind. Forget I said anything. [exit brother]

ME: Dad, are you prepared to tell me anything about what’s going on?

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): No!

ME: Well, there is something I need to ask you. I have a doctor’s appointment a week from now, and you always drive me there, so will you be in a position to do so this time?

FATHER (sounding outraged): Have I ever not driven you there??????

ME (trying to remember): Well, there was one occasion when I wanted to take public transit, but all the other times you have. But I notice you’re having problems and was just asking about this time.

FATHER (laughing): One time out of how many time I’ve driven you, so you remember that!!!!!!!

ME; Would it be possible for you to give me a simple yes or no about this one specific time next week?

FATHER (hand- and shoulder-talking, volubly): Yes and no.

ME: Okay, I’m really sorry, but I’m not able to endure your style of communication. It just bothers me. So how about I just take public transit? [walks away while father is ranting in response]

He later came to me and apologized and said he’d been preoccupied. I apologized too for the bad timing of what I’d asked him, but added that I’d just been trying to be considerate in case he was unable to do the usual. So it works out that we’ll just decide the transportation arrangements on the day of, because it won’t be too much hassle for me to just jump on the subway on short notice. But there was still unnecessary drama that I didn’t need, and my view is that, beyond just picking a bad time to ask a simple, polite question, I did nothing to cause the drama. You be the judge.

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One thought on “A Clash of Cultures

  1. That reminds me of many family episodes. I have been on both sides of that story. You realize, I’m sure, that you can’t take those incidences personal. Looking back for me I can see the humor in those events. At the time it’s happening it can be harder to laugh at. Enjoy your family Kheleya, they are yours.

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