Francis Wade on his Network of FriendsThanks to Global Voices Online, I've come upon a kindred spirit in Jamaica. Francis Wade, a management consultant, wrote a New Year's Eve post on his blog, contrasting his experience with making friends in Jamaica, where he lived his first 18 years, and making friends in the US, where he lived for 20 years.
Wade notes, "Recently, my wife commented that if she doesn't reach out to her American friends, then they are content to have the relationship just wither away." He suggests that "relationships in America are like tin foil, plastic containers, broke appliances and used tires disposable," and adds, "It's not that they are bad people hardly. Instead, Americans are content to let 'friends' drift in and drift out, without making any special effort to stay connected."
Here in the Caribbean, we see relationships very differently. As I explained to a fellow consultant at one point, when we West Indians meet someone for the first time our assumption is very different we see it as the first meeting of many. We assume that the person will be in our life forever.I felt a kinship with Wade because maintaining relations with people I meet and enjoy has always been important, and I try not to lose touch with people regardless of whether we continue to live near each other or to work together. The "disposable" attitude toward people I've enjoyed knowing has never appealed to me.
Americans seem to think differently and I remember thinking that way when I lived there "this is someone I will never see again."
The actions taken are quite different from that point on. We Jamaicans notice that Americans want to know (and tell) everything in the first introduction.
Americans notice that Jamaicans are reticent in the first meeting, and don't seem to make a special effort.
It's just that the background context is very, very different leading to almost opposing actions.
I guess they also lead to a very different idea about relationships.