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Culture, Character and the Cicada

When you're married to someone from a different culture, it is easy to chalk up all disagreements to inherent cultural differences.

By 1 min read 4

It’s summer in Japan and that means almost everywhere you go you will hear the screeching sounds of the cicada. Last week, I saw a wiggling cicada trapped on its back on the sidewalk and trying to be a “good person,” I grabbed a stick and turned the bug over.

As soon as the cicada was back on its feet, it flew up and landed on my face!

My husband insists that I have the unfortunate habit of getting involved in unrelated things. “I’m American,” I always reply. “As a culture, we tend to get in everyone else’s business.”


However, every once in a while, I have to wonder how much is culture and how much is personality? When you’re dating or married to someone from a different culture, it is surprisingly easy to chalk up all disagreements to inherent cultural difference… after all Japan and America fall in very different camps when it comes to gender roles, religion, volunteering, and unpaid overtime.

I’ve come to realize this simplification can be a bit dangerous.

Do I have the need to flip a trapped cicada back onto its feet because I’m American? Or because I, personally, feel sorry for little animals (because, you know, cicadas already have a terribly short lifespan)?

Does he want to leave the cicadas on the ground because he is Japanese (and therefore used to the short lifespan of the cicadas)? Or because he, personally, doesn’t like bugs? I have no idea how to dissect culture VS personality.

Nonetheless, my husband is milking the “last time you didn’t listen to me, a cicada landed on your face” for all it’s worth.

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  • Alistair Troublesome says:

    I would also turn the cicada back in the right posture. I dont mind it flying on my face either, but this has yet to happen……

  • Sik says:

    Eh, in this case it’s probably just you, nearly everybody would have ignored the cicada (if they even noticed it for starters).

  • Vamp898 says:

    I can understand your husband, i just love that “I told you!” feeling 😀

  • Nicola says:

    I totally know what you mean! I am married to an Indian and it is too easy to blame everything on culture. Culture determines a lot of our identity but we should never forget the personal and also the universal aspect. (Hofstede triangle) Luckily, as humans we do have a lot in common, then there are values and behaviors we have in common with other members of our group/culture, and we have our personal preferences etc. Your example of the cicada probably falls more in the personal category than the cultural, but like you said, it is sometimes hard to know. I also teach Intercultural communication which is an absolutely fascinating subject matter. I lived in Japan for about 8 years so I often use Japanese examples to highlight cultural differences. If you are interested, you should read about Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, which mainly focus on the overarching cultural aspects of intercultural communication.



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