White American Girl meets brown Pakistani guy. Hilarity ensues.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Obligation And Complete Opposites
While visiting my SIL this weekend, I thanked her MIL for something she'd done - I can't even remember what - and she responded "This is not a thank-you kind of thing, this is my obligation." Usually with regards to cultural differences I think of it like a spectrum, a rainbow, many variations, blah, blah blah. But this, I think, is one thing that's completely opposite between American & Pakistani cultures. To an American, saying "this is no big deal, it was an obligation" could be offensive, even. Americans don't like to feel like an obligation, almost the same way that Pakistanis I know think of "thank you" as negating the good deed, Americans I know think of obligation as negating the good deed. But in this context, she was trying to say that she holds me as close as if I were her own family member, someone she would be obligated to, and that whatever kind thing she had done for me was borne from that high esteem. Which is really a compliment.
It can still be weird to hear, though.
(Maybe it means something more/different too, but I'm not sure and M's asleep so we'll have to wait to explore any further, my fellow culture spelunkers.)