An individualistic perspective
Abdul comes from Afghanistan. He enjoys spending his free time with Loes, his Dutch friend. As they have a similar music taste, they often go to concerts together. On that day, they decided to go to a rock concert in Rotterdam. The ride was about an hour-long, so they took the car. On their way to the concert hall, they stopped at the gas station.
Before Abdul goes in to pay for the petrol, he asks Loes whether she would like to have a snack or a drink for their trip. Loes ate at home and brought her own water bottle, so she kindly denies Abdul’s offer. Abdul insists that he wants to buy something for her, but Loes keeps on denying his offer. At a certain point, Abdul gets annoyed.
In Afghanistan, it is a good manner to offer something to the person you are with. This is considered a kind way of showing appreciation of the time spent together, especially a good friend. It is also a way of being welcoming and kind to guests. The fact that Loes denies Abdul’s offer even after he insisted, was seen as a sign of disrespect for Abdul. That’s why he was offended.
Where lies the connection?
Communication is always the key in any kind of relationship. This misunderstanding might have been sorted by Loes explaining to Abdul that she had a very big lunch with her family and therefore she does not feel like eating or drinking anything. On the other hand, Abdul could have explained to Loes how important is for him to treat guests in a certain way. This is how he grew up, and how he learned to show appreciation to a friend.
Collectivistic cultures highly value hospitality and the act of offering food or beverages to guests. This means that denying the offer can be seen as a sign of disrespect. Individualistic cultures are the opposite, indeed they are more self-centered and individuals use to provide autonomously to their needs and wishes. As Loes did not feel hungry or thirsty, she did not want to accept Abdul’s offer. She felt disrespected because Abdul did not accept her response and she did not understand why he was so offended.
Important to know
This anecdote is based on stories that have been shared with us. Connect2Us aims to illuminate the dilemma from both sides and not to label people or suggest that one or the other should behave differently. We see in our daily intercultural work that awareness is enough for those involved to move towards each other without denying themselves. Connect2Us wants to help readers recognise and avoid prejudice.