I’ve had the absolute privilege of learning about and experiencing a number of different cultures during my travels over the last few months and a few years ago as well. Even in the company I am currently working at, Mindvalley in Malaysia, there are 35+ countries represented in the office alone! While I love learning about the differences between cultures, I equally love observing and experiencing the universal human behaviors that connect us all together and are, in some form or another, expressions of love or kindness. For example, I’ve come to notice that no matter where I am in the world:
- A hug knows no differences between people; it knows no credentials, past accomplishments or failures. It knows no ego. It knows connection and embrace and will always make you feel welcome.
- A random act of kindness from a complete stranger knows no expectation of getting something in return. It knows benevolence and will always make your heart smile.
- A playful wink knows no judgement. It knows a certain level of comfort and understanding.
- A smile (especially a Duchenne one) knows no differences between people. It knows warmth, appreciation and empathy.
Here’s a personal (and humbling) story to help bring these observations life:
I was walking down the street yesterday and it was raining hard. I was minding my own business and listening to my iPod when I hit a really slippery patch on the road; my arms went up, my umbrella went flying, my iPod went flying and I almost had an epic face plant; would’ve lost a few teeth I’m sure. Luckily, I caught myself right before a big dramatic ending ensued but omg, I was probably a hilarious sight to see as I wildly and desperately tried to catch myself (picture something along the lines of the image on the right…minus the bike). Grateful that I didn’t actually bail, I proceeded to get myself together which included straightening the clothes, a quick fix of the hair, a pulling back of the shoulders and a quick look around to see if anyone had witnessed my bambi on ice moment.
Did I escape without any witnesses? Not a chance. As I looked to my left there stood a local Malaysian person looking right at me. He had witnessed the entire thing. If there was a voice-over for our subsequent wordless exchange it would have gone something like this:
1. When our eyes met I couldn’t help but smile – busted!
2. He looked back at me with a kind of smile that said “I saw the whole thing and it was hilarious, I feel for you” then added a quick wink that communicated “don’t worry it’s happened to me before.”
3. I smiled again, looked at the ground and then back at him with a “I’m actually laughing really hard at myself right now but I thank you for containing the laughter that I’m sure is raging in your head” kind of expression. I then shruggled my shoulders to imply “you have to admit though that scene was at least a 9.5/10?! lol.”
4. His smile turned into a laugh as he handed me my iPod, my smile turned into a laugh as well (mostly at myself). I collected my iPod and then continued on my way. Don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.
Even if we don’t always speak the same language as someone else (I’m sure he spoke english) these universal human behaviors require no words but allow us to communicate, connect with and understand one another no matter where we are from or where we are in the world. They allow us to develop instant connections with total strangers or deeper connections with people we know. It’s a beautiful thing.
Differences are absolutely fascinating but don’t forget to notice that we all smile in the same language 🙂