Thursday, March 4, 2010

Are North Americans "Wimpy?"

I had an interesting conversation with a hairdresser today as she was cutting my hair. Although I procrastinate alot at getting hair cuts, I do like talking to hair dressers - you never know what they will talk about. Telling them I'm a counselor (which is usually followed by a long pause) often leads into interesting topics. Today we ended up talking mostly about men being abused by women (and if this was a reality in domestic violence) but then somehow we got into cross cultural differences. My hairdresser was a middleaged Filipino lady and she remarked that she was surprised when she came over to North America and encountered such things as "stress" and "depression." She told me that in her country these things were mostly unheard of. Her view was that in her country where everything was hard and people didn't have high expectations on getting whatever they wanted in life - depression and feeling stress were almost unknown.

I have heard this kind of thinking before. When we were talking with some people who had been overseas an on a beach when a Tsunami hit. I asked them if they were traumatized by the event; their near death and the deaths of so many people around them. "No, we're not North American's," they said. "We are used to suffering and know how to get through it." Of course there are undoubtedly many non-North Americans who get depressed and many North Americans who never get depressed but I wonder at the proclivity of certain cultures to suffer certain mental discomforts and illnesses more intensely. Apparently there is some research to back this up. My hairdresser pointed to the fact that in her culture people are more connected (especially in the form of family and thought this was why people managed stress and depression so much better. The research I previously linked to makes the exact same assertion. Interesting!

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