Rumena Zlatkova has been one of the most prolific and excellent commentors on this site and I've learned a lot from her and always been grateful for those insights. We started corresponding a bit by email recently, and there were some real gems of insights in her writing.
We were talking about work and advantages from having grown up in one culture and now living in another. Here's Rumena -
Yes, the skillset / mindset that you can develop having lived in Bulgaria and then moving to the UK is quite unique and gives you a very different perspective compared to the other people around you. For me, so far it's been very useful in identifying 'black holes' and things / aspects of society that I don't want to participate in - so having the perspective on why for example Bulgaria is a messy, unorderly place, while the UK is the most structured country I've been in so far, also gives some insight of why it's that and what purpose it's helping. I mean, in Bulgaria people always complain they are not taken care of by the country, that everything is left pretty much to the laws of the jungle (I don't know of you're familiar with any Eastern European country, but it's part of the culture there - maybe a little less harsh than what you've been describing about Mongolia), but that gives you the unique skillset of being an 'all-around' person (also because the country is poor, we don't 'hire' someone, we try to fix things ourselves). You don't just trust or 'buy in' what the State / or overpriced business is selling to you - and you know you have only yourself to rely on if you want something done. Whereas in the UK, people are so much taken care of, that they are too relaxed, and probably unadaptable. I'm guessing you can also relate to that coming from a country such as the USA, where most things come easily and you don't need to think too much (or that's what it looks like).
I thought that was interesting - observing that people feel like they're not taken care of, yet simultaneously don't have the resources and trust to get skilled professionals and get the benefits of a division of labor. I asked Rumena if I could share, she said yes and kindly shared some more insights -
Here is another point that might be of interest for you or your readers that I have been thinking about recently: individual vs. team work.
In Bulgaria, no one really teaches you how to work in teams (probably because it's not part of the culture - the unwritten rule that you can't rely on anyone). Everyone is for himself, and people don't really trust others. So most of the people describe themselves as 'individualistic' - especially in terms of work. Most do things on their own, don't like asking for help or feedback and if they happen to receive some comments, they are terrified that someone 'has found a flaw in their work'. Modern organisations try to introduce 'team work', especially western companies with Bulgarian offices. But what tends to happen is the 'team' is actually a collective of individuals with delegated tasks.
Whereas here, in the UK, team work is the 'default setting' in a project. Even for tasks you would expect to be given to a single person, there is an element of team involvement.
I have had some wonderful collaborations this year, and for the first time I'm learning to rely on others and to enjoy working 'in a team'. Also, the combined energy and talent is more than the 'total' of the team members' individual input. You can have real 'synergy'. It's a very different experience for someone coming from a culture of 'individuals'.
So yeah, I'm happy I chose to travel and get exposed to a different society and culture. If you are able to see and appreciate the different values and you are open to change, it really helps you to gain perspective. You can equip yourself with a very interesting and unique set of skills and insights.
It also helps you to see there is no 'right' or 'wrong' - different approaches work in and are part of different cultures and contexts.
You can find Rumena's blog at http://rumenazlatkova.wordpress.com/'
She describes it as, "It's a place where I write about media, society and lessons from my involvement in media projects. I tend to be very descriptive but hopefully insightful - I'm investing a lot of time, energy (and of course money) in this education (I'm studying Media Production), and I'm determined to learn and to get to know myself in the process." Thanks again for the cultural contrasts Rumena - fascinating stuff.
Hm, I agree a lot with your logic and the opinion you have presented but I think that was a bit short.
Yes, you mentioned that in UK it's so taken care of, that it renders the people unadaptive, but I find it quite important to stress a bit more on the gems of self-resolving issues and passivity over the ocean.
I work with people from UK everyday but my colleagues are from Bulgaria which puts me in very interesting position I imagine.
Most of the time I am called in regards to issues which can be summed by "Read The Mannual" or "Use some Common Sense!" and it is peculiar, because though I resolve the issue and show them how or why they had the issue, the very same people call again for the exact same issue quite soon again.
It is mindboggling sometimes but at the same time it is more than obvious that the fact that there will be always someone who will take care of every error, because that's their job makes them uninterested in trying to resolve the issue themselves.
On the other hand, on our side it's "Maistor Trichko" syndrome in which everyone thinks they are good in everything... with sometimes quite unpleasant outcomes.
I don't thinkg an equilibrium is possible but it is interewsting thing to be observed nontheless.
Yes you are out if you don't conform to the expectations of the group. The bad part is that they are often unspoken and arbitrary to the will of the leader.
As for the saying it comes from English speaking scientist and it is six degrees of separation (proven not to be universally true). It is really true about the right person. It is amazing but possible only if you have access to the "group".
Thanks for pointing out the 'group centered societies' bit, Georgi. I think it somehow has to do with the fear of someone 'finding flaws in our work' that we're all so familiar with back here. As if there is a flaw or anything else that doesn't quite fit with the expectations of the group, you'd be left outside. At the same time, being 'group centered' is quite an important and precious way for us to go through life. Notice: in at least every other conversation in Bulgaria, someone knows someone that is *just* the person you're looking for - whatever that is. I am also quite confident the quote that you can reach anyone through 1 person in your network and then one person in his network etc. - in less than 6 (I can't quite say it in English, the saying in Bulgarian is less clumsy) - comes from the Balkans :-)
Thanks for the insights Rumena. I'm from and in Bulgaria and totally agree. There was a quote something like - you gotta live in a foreign country for a while to know yours.
As for "individualism" you correctly put it in quotes. I'm interested in the topic and we fall in the group of group centered societies. "Individualism" comes in my opinion from belonging to the many cliques in a workplace. But that is not enough to explain it because there isn't devotion to the group as strong as in Japan. Just my rumbling thoughts.
I totally agree that there are similarities between Sebastian's depiction of Mongolia and Bulgarian culture in the aspect of the disorder of social relations.
But as is in a song "there is hidden logic" I just don't comprehend it yet.
Mike Radivis just asked asked some good questions on "Chase Meaning, Not Happiness" -
How do you measure meaning if not in terms of happiness? Aren't things that create more happiness for a longer time for a larger number of individuals better than those things who lack those qualities but are proclaimed to be personal achievements anyway? Does the scope of happiness make happiness meaningful to you or not? What are achievements good for if they aren't good at facilitating happiness? Imagine you wouldn't experience any pleasant or unpleasant emotions and would have to decide rationally what to pursue (assuming that is possible at all). Then what you want to do with your life? (Another way to formulate this question maybe would be to ask what's your grand strategy in that situation.)
I'm quite interested in your answers. I like that your blog posts are so outspoken. It's just that the message of this post is hard for me to grasp, as I'm pretty much utilitarian in my thinking.
Good questions. I'll go through it line by line.
How do you measure meaning if not in terms of happiness?
Yesterday, at 5:35 am, I finished my fourth book of 2014. It was Robert Greene's 'The 48 laws of power'. In this blogpost, I will explain why I push myself to read, why it's so important to me, and why I'm (sort of) glad that most people don't read.
Over the past couple of years, self-development has become really important to me. I realised at one point that if I don't work on improving myself in skills, physique, intelligence, personality and way of thinking, I would end up with a really shitty life. So I started reading books in order to grow. What makes books so important? I'm a very practical person. I'm hands-on and more comfortable with doing things than talking or thinking about them. Books help me improve my weak side, the theoretical side of life, the abstract. (i.e. marketing, PR, social psychology, story telling, politics, boedhism,...) I exercise both my art skills and my physique, but I need brains in order to put that into good use. And the brain can be trained by reading and studying books.
Books give me a better sense of my lifes purpose. I can build or improve my own character and insights from the insights and stories from various books. For example, Seneca's 'Letters from a Stoic' has had a profound impact on the way I look at wealth, audience and morals. Here's one of his quotes:
'“A cheerful poverty is an honourable state” - Epicurus.- But if it is cheerful it is not poverty at all. It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.'- Seneca