An introvert in an extroverted culture

in·tro·vert

noun

1.

a shy person.
2.

Psychology . a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings.
I just finished reading the book “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” by Susan Cain. Cain strives to redefine introversion from the obviously negative definition seen above to a more broad and positive one.
From the Amazon review: “In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture.”
There is an interesting section in the book about how culture relates with and affects personality. Cain specifically talks about Asian cultures being uniquely introverted, placing value on studious, quiet individuals who think carefully before speaking.
Cain did not touch on Latin American culture, but from my own informal observations the overlying culture is extremely extroverted.  As an introverted person living in this context, I have often found myself “acting” in social situations.
extrovert-and-introvert-boss
Here are some instances where I’ve been forced to do something that goes against my nature:
1) Striking up small talk with taxi drivers. (We have been told that by talking to the taxi drivers we show them that we aren’t tourists, but that we actually live here).
I would much rather spend the ride home processing what happened that day.
2) Friends coming over in the evening so I don’t feel lonely when Adam works late.
A night to myself every once in a while is AWESOME, but instead I’m forced to think of things to talk about.
3) The expectation of going to all church meetings (4 times a week) and how people are genuinely concerned when you’re not there
Adam and I have had to make a conscious decision to step back our church attendance to a level where we feel comfortable – 2 to 3 times a week. Also, we’ve realized the importance of letting people know if we’re going to be out of town.
Examples of the extroverted Latino culture:
1) When we lived with a host family, our host dad would see me laying on the couch reading and ask me if I was sick.
2) People sitting out on their sidewalks in 2s or 3s, but rarely alone. Even if they aren’t talking to each other, they feel less “alone” by sitting with someone.
3) In any kind of group sharing session everyone in the group speaks, often at great lengths, rambling sometimes incoherently in order to be heard.
4) Strangers easily strike up conversation with each other, quickly moving from mere acquaintances to calling each other “cousin” or “uncle”.
5) The frequency with which people are expected to give flowery, off the cuff speeches in front of groups. People seem perfectly comfortable going into these situations without preparing beforehand.
In conclusion: I have learned a lot of things from Latino culture and have appreciated the friendliness and how we are welcomed with open arms. BUT, it can be exhausting. I have to make sure to take care of myself and realize that it is ok to define my own boundaries.
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3 Comments on “An introvert in an extroverted culture”

  1. Darrel Says:

    Thanks so much for these reflections Marisa. Your comment about engaging taxi drivers reminded me of my awkward ride to church during the RJ learning tour. I really did want to speak with the driver, but lack of language skills on my part made it challenging. Nonetheless, with both of us being extroverts, the silence was deafening so we tried to communicate anyway! We did manage to learn a little bit about each other – I think!

    Darrel

    • theclanks Says:

      Haha, I love how you said the “silence was deafening”. I can just picture it…Jorge is so hard to hear and understand even if you know Spanish! Thanks for being a good sport:)

  2. lauren Says:

    That was an interesting post. It is funny because I felt the same way in Palestine. The Arabic culture has so much emphasis on hospitality and part of that is entertaining each other so I had to pretend I was sick so I wouldn’t offend anyone if I wanted to go to bed early or sit in my room and read a book.


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