Increasing our cultural awareness is often all about challenging our assumptions and seeing the situation from another perspective. A great example of this happened yesterday here in Bangkok.
We are staying in the city at the apartment of two good friends of ours. Their apartment is lovely, with a large living room, 3 spacious bedrooms and a view over the rooftops and tropical greenery. They have a balcony for airing laundry and a gally kitchen. In the kitchen are two containers for rubbish. One for dry rubbish and one for wet rubbish.
‘That’s great’, I said, ‘that you recycle here. Is there a recycling station in the basement?’
The reply surprised me. And reminded me to challenge my assumptions. The reason they separated the rubbish was not for recycling purposes in the way that I meant it. That was my assumption from my English-Swedish perspective.
No, the reason is that in Bangkok, when you throw out the rubbish, this is what happens. People sift through it to pick out plastic, tin, card – anything that they can sell and get money for. The reason my friends separated the dry from the wet was to make it easier for the rubbish sifters. To make it less sticky and messy for them in the sweltering heat.
They were being nice.