Monday, December 05, 2011

Different cultures different ideas?

As you may have gathered if you've read my recent posts, in the kindness of strangers part 2, I fell out my chair. Now, I know that you non chair users are all shocked and the chair users are sitting there snickering a bit in a 'been there done that' kind of way, but the truth is I wasn't hurt. Actually (in an attempt to gain some sympathy), I did end up with a bruise on my arm (from where it hit the wall) and my back was very sore the next few days. Now, before you panic, I need to be truthful here - none of that is so out of the ordinary for me, since if I'm not falling out my chair I'm simply falling over on a regular basis...

Anyway, hubby resisted the temptation to laugh or take pictures of my upside down chair and me acting like a beetle on my back and grabbed the chair to right it as I sat up and leant against the wall. I assessed my body - was did anything hurt (more than normal), was I concussed, bleeding or shocked? My arm seemed a bit scraped from the wall, which was by then acting as my friendly support and a man rushed over to help. He stood and looked at me - I smiled back, which I guess reassured him a bit and then he looked on as I fussed with the chair (putting brakes on etc) ready to get it. Did he interfere? No. What he actually did was say to me "Do you need help getting in? Do you need me to lift you?" I said I was fine, but he stayed close by until I transferred into the chair at which point I thanked him and he headed off to the bar.

It was an odd experience for me - the perfect offer of help and it got me wondering about stuff - a practice that I am sure I am quite famous for, by now!

The thing is, this friendly helpful chap, wasn't British and my experience of this kind of thing while on home soil usually results in one of two things:
1. People completely ignore you, making sure they are looking the other way and 'didn't see anything (guv!)'.
2. People rush to help, grabbing you by the arm (please don't restrict the bits of me that actually work fine - thank you!) and ignoring all protestations of "I'm ok, please let me do it on my own!".

So, the question is, why the difference? Is there better disability awareness in other countries? Do other countries have better manners? In fact, this guy was German and they aren't widely renowned for their good manners are they? (Although I base this observation purely on the fact that they are famous for putting towels on sun beds early in the morning *1 and don't wish to offend any German readers at all) Do they have more respect for the elderly (and possibly infirm)? I just don't know, I simply don't know the answers to any of these questions. Let's face it, if I did I wouldn't be wondering about it either...

The strange thing is that it extended further than the German guy. I was wheeling down beside the pool and as I approached a gap between the flower bed and a sunbed, the (Russian?) lady indicated 'was the gap wide enough?'
In Britain, I am more used to:
1. People completely ignore you, making sure they are looking the other way and 'didn't see anything (guv!)'. Or
2. People leap to their feet, moving their sunbed, their partner's sunbed and anything else within a ten foot radius ignoring all protestations of "Its ok there's plenty of space"

These are just two examples, but I could give you many more. They all make me wonder why things are the way they are. I actually think with Brits, that those who ignore you mostly do it because they don't quite know what to do. They don't want to appear patronising, and so they do nothing so as to allow you to be independent. Other people go to the opposite extreme - they are desperate to help, but don't know how much (or how little) to give and so go over the top. In all cases, I think that people are basically kind and helpful. But then...the big question is, just why are people from the continent so different? Any ideas anyone?

*1 which may in fact be just due to the fact that they get up early in the morning maybe?