Global Not Focus: some culture difference stuff

Some interesting experiences about the culture difference while I was in Menri Monastery of Bon.

(1)How can you have the heart to reject me? Q_Q

I met my German friend Christiane who wishes to study the music of Bon religion. She came especially to study the music and got a welcome reply that they will be willing to answer and share anything she asks. So she asked the monk some simple questions like how many syllabus in the music. But the monk refused to answer that at the end.

She was surprised, and at the same time, there were few possibilities of the reasons behind appeared in Christiane’s mind.


1. Is that “No!” really means “No “? Or a semi-real (??) “No “?

We Germans have clear concepts of yes and no. The divide between both is also clear. This tendency is also much higher compared to other European.  When you say “Yes “, then is yes, “No”, then is no. We won’t ask you the second time. Because we respect other people’s choices. One of my good friends from Russia once suffered from this culture difference in Germany.

She spoke German well. One time she came to homestay in a German family. The host told her, “It must be tired of you to just got off the plane, take a rest, help yourself with everything in the fridge.” The host left after saying that. It’s actually a very polite way to treat a guest in Germany. They give you your private space and respect your own choice.

But then my friend from Russia called me for help. She said she is so hungry, but she really can’t just take food from other’s fridge. I told her. “Just go get the food!” She struggled until she really can’t stand the hunger. And once she went to the kitchen, the host of the family showed up, sat and ate together. XD

Also the experience I had in Korea. I found that they are a culture that can’t say “No.” This is a huge difference!

So what exactly do the monks mean?


2. Is the way I asked was wrong, the way I asked was wrong, or the way I asked was wrong?

What I mean to do is to help to preserve the Tibetan culture. It’s very hard for exile people to preserve their culture. How many generations can we pass the culture in such situation? The culture outside Tibet vanishes very fast. They also knew that. Many of them encourage western scholars to study Tibetan culture. Before there were other monks told me it was fine to ask. So why did they reject me? What I asked is simple and should not involve some religious secrets, isn’t it?

Is the way I asked was wrong? We have a different understanding of preserving culture? Or how many syllabus in the music really matter more than I thought?

Before I talked to a monk from Menri who I met in Europe about those questions, and they encourage me to ask. So what is the reason behind being rejected? Is that because those monks spend lots of time in Europe, having some general understanding of European thought style, or at least interested in European culture. And that makes the difference between them and the monks that stayed in Indian?

Me: I think you might need a Tibetan scientist to be the connective bridge.


(2)Are you leaving or not? ノ_

My Tibetan friend Mingyur arranged me a meeting with Rinpoche to help me with the questions I had for Losar (Tibetan New Year.) There were 4 people, Rinpoche, Mingyur, Christiane and me, also Mingyur’s daughter playing around us.

After one hour of talking, from the translation of Mingyur, we understood the  Rinpoche said, “It’s enough for today. It’s almost lunch time.”

I checked the watch: 11:15am, and say,” Now it’s around 11.”

Mingyur, ” Oh, then it’s not lunch time yet.”

A few minutes of silence…

(OS:I haven’t gotten any hint, give me more hint then I will stand up and leave!)

But then Rinpoche started a new topic himself, and we kept talking for 15 minutes more.

Mingyur’s daughter started to feel bored and seemed unable to sit still for longer than a few minutes.

(OS:Please… someone say something to make us leave..)

And finally, again Rinpoche said via the translation of Mingyur: “It’s ok for today, anymore doubt?”

We just talked about the topic of the origin of Bon and Buddhism sculpture which I was interested in. So I asked a question that I thought I will only get the answer like “Yes” or “No.” But seems it’s a good question as  Rinpoche said so. After he finished answering, 15 minutes passed.

(OS:Please anyone say LET’S GO!)

And Rinpoche mentioned other things to explain it deeper. He even laughed joyfully when he mentioned something interesting.

(OS:Who should be the first to end the meeting? Should I be the one? Should I stand up first? But Rinpoche smile with so much joy, seems he likes this topic. What is the correct ending timing?)

No one said anything…and we started to exchange word desultorily.



After one hour, around 12:15…we finally left.

During the lunch, Christiane told me, ” I am very surprised that we stayed one more hour there. I thought it’s very clear when first time Rinpoche said it’s enough. But I saw you were very fine to be there still. So I think, it’s must be the culture difference! Since I have a German mind!”

Me:Q_Q   Will the Rinpoche dislike me after this… 


(3)Shall I ask?

Christiane:In Germany we have the culture of asking question. We even play a game in our daily life. For example, if one said, “This cup is good.” The other will reply, “Yes, but..”

This“but”not only means you have your own opinion, but also shows that you are paying attention to what others saying. So in Germany, it’s very important to ask questions during the class. It’s a kind of politeness. But it seems different in East Asia. Before we had some students from East Asia who met some difficulties. They are all very good students who studied hard. But the problem is from culture difference. So I taught them the game of “BUT.” And they really got better.

“Asking question” seems not a good thing to do in some cultures.


Me: Yeah, we don’t encourage asking in our traditional culture. We were asked to listen what elders ask us, and to fulfill that expectation. We are good at imitation, not innovation. Because we don’t encourage having our own opinions, especially the one that conflict to the main stream. If we ask, we might face several problems. One of that is being different. We might be edged out or rebuked if we keep asking questions that others don’t have (because it’s wasting other’s time) or challenge the authority, normally teachers or parents. Hahaha


Christiane:Just can’t figure out what is the picture in Tibetan culture. There was an interesting story. There was a lama who stayed in Europe for long enough time. He seems pretty much understand the European. He stopped temporarily after giving part of the teaching in case anyone have question. After many of the students raised hand and asked. He said carefully,” Are there anyone feeling uncomfortable because haven’t asked your question?” He gave next part of the teaching after made sure about that. XDDD

As to the last time when I was rejected, is there any details of asking culture that we don’t understand? Should I ask more time?


(Few days after..)

Christiane met a French monk who practice in the monastery for many years. And finally got her answer.  

Christiane:Do you know? He really got the key of communication here! He told me that, in Tibetan culture, you have to ask many times! They will reject you also many times to test if you really want to know! I finally know the reason! Hahaha.

And he said that the way of doing things here is to find the higher authority. In Germany, we tried to solve the problem from the lower hierarchy, wish the thing can be solved here. We don’t want to bother higher hierarchy who has more responsibility. But he said, everything here, just go for the. Rinpoche. Once he says yes, then there will be someone helping you.