Cultural Differences

When my husband and I bought our house, the seller had a few household items he no longer needed, among them a ladder, a lawn mower and a weed eater. He offered to sell them to us at a good price if we needed them and the debate began. We readily agreed on the ladder and lawn mower and when it came to the weed eater,  I immediately assumed we would be getting it as well.

“But we don’t need it!” argued my husband.

“What, of course we need it!” I returned.

“What for? We’ll only use it once or twice a year.”

“Once or twice a year? Are you joking? We used ours every week.”

“Every week? That’s ridiculous. Why would you need it that often?”

“To edge around the house and along the fence and get rid of all that grass growing there that you can’t cut with the mower,” I stated obviously.

“We only used ours when the grass at our summer place grew too long for the lawn mower.”
“What about the grass growing around the house?”

“We didn’t have grass. We had small stones.”

The argument continued in a similar manner for quite some time, only with increasing frustration. Neither of us expected the weed eater to become such a point of contention. It was a WEED EATER. OBVIOUSLY we needed it and it wasn’t that expensive. My husband’s perspective was that it was a WEED EATER. OBVIOUSLY we didn’t need it and we’d be better off saving the money for more necessary stuff for the house. We like to agree on purchases and he argued that I also prefer to be a minimalist and only have things on hands that we really actually need to have on and a weed eater was not one of those items.

“But it is!”

He gave up. I gave up. We had more important things to do. By myself later, I found myself thinking about our argument and trying to figure out what the heck the sticking point was that we just couldn’t get over. Then it dawned on me. We were looking at the issue from different cultural spheres. In the anglo cultural sphere, having a nice manicured lawn is a necessity, it’s extremely important and something you MUST have. Not so in Finnish culture. Most Finns live in apartments and have a summer place they go to on vacation or on weekends. Mowing the lawn isn’t a priority and people prefer to plant shrubs or flowers or so. I thought back to my host family’s house in Germany and remembered that the only had one real decent patch of grass you could call a lawn and even it had trees growing on it. The rest of their sizable lot was for a vegetable garden, a flower garden, various other plants, stones, and for grazing animals (goats, geese, chickens and ducks at last count. They also had fruit trees. Getting off the plane in Germany and walking through residential area is like walking into a flower shop. There are flowers everywhere and it’s amazingly brillant compared to walking through a typical American suburban neighborhood. In the U.S., you see mainly lawn after green lawn after green lawn, each manicured to an inch of its life.

What an American lawn might look like

Meanwhile, DH was expecting something more along the lines of this:

What a Finnish lawn may look like

When I went with my host family on a visit to London, I admired the beautiful lawns in London and my host sister commented, “These lawns are such an English thing. That’s where you Americans got it, you know.” I hadn’t known. I’d never even really thought about it. I just took the lawns for granted without realizing other cultures didn’t value them nearly as much as we did.

I went back to my husband and explained to him the source of our disagreement. He agreed that we could get the weed eater. Then it turned out the seller had actually loaned it to a neighbor ages ago and didn’t have it anyway. Then it turned out we actually needed a weed eater to weed eat aroudn our raised garden beds as the grass was growing tall enough around it to go to seed and we still didn’t get one. Sigh. Eventually, I’m sure we will. If only to cut the tall grass we never actually get around to mowing due to the size of our yard.