cultural differences | tissue culture

I recently taught my students something about American culture. American tissue culture, to be exact.

Here in my Asian home there is ONE kind of tissue. Usually, it’s on a roll. Sometimes it’s not. There are different packages and a few variations of thickness, but mostly it’s all the same and it’s all multi-functional.

I explained to my students that, in America, the rolls of tissue that are sitting on all of the restaurant tables here – we only use for the toilet – Toilet Paper. They were shocked. I told them that we have Napkins for the table. I explained how they were different – thicker, folded in fourths, often with a pretty/cute design, or colored. And we have a different kind that we use in the kitchen, or when we spill something in our house, called Paper Towels – also on a roll, but a bigger roll and the paper is thicker, and often has a pretty/cute design. And then there are Kleenexes – not on a roll but in a box with a pretty design on the box – but never on the tissue. If we run out of one, we will use another for a substitute… but then we will quickly run to the store because we need to have all 4.

They think we’re crazy. And, while I find their reactions to our tissue varieties funny… At this point, I kind of agree with them. I’ve adjusted. (Remember, I’m green.)  When I first got here – I seriously missed paper towels. I could live without the napkins, but I wanted good, thick paper towels. And I said that [complained about that]. A lot. Now… I. Do. Not. Care. I think we, Americans, are spoiled. Rotten. And we think we need things that we really really don’t. And we waste, a lot. I don’t mean to be judging. I’m just saying. We’re silly, ridiculous people.

So, when you go to grab a tissue of one of the 4 varieties today… think about the fact that most of the world does not live the way we are used to. And when I say that I don’t mean, “Look how much more blessed you are than all the other people.” I don’t think that’s true. I also don’t mean that you’re evil for thinking you need toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, and kleenexes. It’s just one example of our differences. And I find the differences interesting, and telling.  And we can learn a lot from these differences – even from the simplicity of ONE multi-functional tissue.

And on the subject of cultural differences… I recently got the documentary “God Grew Tired of Us” about the Lost Boys of Sudan, who were brought to live in the US as refugees. I highly recommend it. Here are some clips that will teach you about some cultural differences. More things we can learn from.


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