Culture / Travel / Volunteering abroad

Same Same, But Different

“Seeing heaven in a grain of sand is not a trick only poets can accomplish.” – Clifford Geertz​

When I was contemplating traveling around Asia, I couldn’t imagine NOT going to the other side of the world – a world so incomparably different from my own with fascinating sights, scents, and sounds. Cultures with their own gripping histories peppered by poverty and corruption and with parts still coming into their own. Cultures with different social norms and ways of viewing our world. I saw it as an escape, an exciting adventure, an adrenaline rush, a life lesson, and a way to help me “​find myself​,” as if placing oneself Waldo-like amidst a ​chaos ​of the unknown makes it easier to find oneself

​Ironically though, it did. One of my main takeaways from traveling to places that were immensely different from my own microcosm of the world, was actually coming away with an understanding of how similar we all are. As cliche as it may sound, it is something I think we tend to not realize or something we often forget. When you look at a culture from that very human level, you start to discern the similarities of our shared human qualities and emotions, even when you don’t know exactly what words are being exchanged or fully understand the ritual being performed.

​As the anthropologist Clifford Geertz said in his book The Interpretation of Culturesman is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun​[taking] culture to be those webs and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning​.”

​Although Geertz argued against the idea that one could define the essence of humanity by looking at the universal features of cultures, he said rather that “it may be in the cultural particularities of people — in their oddities — that some of the most instructive revelations of what it is to be generically human are to be found.”​ In this way, s​tepping into these vastly different cultures really ​helped me ​make sense of my own.​

Like the phrase I often heard in SE Asia, we’re all “same same, but different.”

same same 2

4 thoughts on “Same Same, But Different

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