My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: VI. Cultural Differences and the Intercultural Encounter
Stories of friendship: The washing machine
A simple incident depicts how culturally different the rural Palestinian or Bedouin way of dealing is from what would be customary in dominant cultures in Western Europe or North America, and what happens in the interaction between the two cultures.
Anata, June 2011, at the garage. It was after midnight and for me rather late, when I intended to go home. Bashar and I had just finished going through what I had written on “uncertainty avoidance”. Bashar suddenly raised the idea that I help him with my car by taking to his home a second hand washing machine he had appropriated. This is a drive of a little over twenty minutes to another village. We received assistance from one of the workers in getting the machine in the car and I wondered aloud how we would manage to get it out of the car at his place. Bashar did not seem concerned. He took the steering wheel. He is a good driver, but I found it frightening when on the hilly road his driving speed was far above the legal limit. At his home, he asked me to help with moving inside the new sofas, he had become owner of through some deal. They had been standing outside for several days. He said that the sofas were not heavy, but I warned that they still might be too heavy for me. There was hardly any light and my eyesight in the dark is not as developed as his. In the move, one of the sofas was damaged – a little – since I was not able to lift it high enough. After that, we transferred the washing machine. I saw that its handle was broken and asked how he will open it. He replied that he would find a way. Initially, Bashar had said that he would stay at his home for the night, so I was surprised to see him locking the door after we finished getting everything inside. It turned out that in the meantime he had received a phone call that made him change plans. (I had heard him talking on the phone, but could not understand.) A family member was waiting for him in the garage and he wanted to go back. I brought him back to the garage, after which I went home.
Throughout this incident, Bashar remained relatively calm. For him, this had been nothing out of the ordinary. In contrast, I had many reasons for being anxious and concerned; not in the least about the damage to the sofa. This had been a heavy job for me; my muscles continued to hurt for days and my mind kept going back to this for me extraordinary incident.