Another example of learning more about my own culture:

Showing respect

On my first day in Kabul, I attended a large meeting with government officials, and as certain people came into the room everyone stood up. I didn’t think too much more about it. Then when I was working in my office and someone would enter the room all of the Afghans (usually 8 guys) working in the office would stand and greet the person who entered. When I was sitting in small group meetings with my counterpart or his staff and his boss entered the room, it was the same thing. Everyone stands, and everyone takes a turn to greet the boss. Seriously, this impacts getting work done, staying on task, etc. in an office setting. (I should probably add that for my first week my counterpart’s staff would stand when I entered the room, but I put an end to that pretty quickly.)

I asked the 2 Afghan women that I work with why it is necessary to stop what we are doing to stand and greet the boss, especially because the boss was not coming to see us (he was there to speak to someone else in the room). They said it is to show respect. I told them that in the US there are few people who we would stand up for simply because they enter the room (The President being the only example I could come up with off the top of my head). One of the girls asked me, “What do you do when your father enters the room?” Hmm, my dad, well, I pictured sitting on the couch watching tv and my dad entering the room (back when I was lived at home because these girls live with their parents), and I said “If my father enters the room, I would glance up and say hey.” They were pretty astonished by the lack of respect that I show him. However, what they see as a lack of respect is actually much more a lack of formality in the U.S. This is something I’ve definitely touched on in other posts.