Are People More Alike Than We Are Different?
Travel finally gave me the answer.
Are we humans more alike than we are different? It's a question most long-term travelers can't help but ask themselves.
And honestly, after more than four years of continuous travel, I see evidence for both “more alike” and “more different.”
I've definitely seen a lot of ways in which we're very different.
In Italy, I was surprised to see that even straight men walk around arm-in-arm and holding hands with each other, and in pre-COVID times, everyone, male and female, kissed everyone else on both cheeks when they met and left. And not just a quick peck! Until I got used to it, it was very strange knowing whether or not my male Italian friends had shaved that morning.
Thailand is a country where they famously eat insects, grubs, and spiders, and also something called a "century egg," which doesn't really take a century to age and turn black but tastes terrible anyway — at least to my Western taste buds.
In some countries, people love cats. Ancient Egyptians never really "worshipped" them, but they did consider them divine beings, and modern Egyptians still treat felines very well. Michael and I were fascinated by the relationship between Istanbul and its many cats.
But in other countries, well, they eat them. Cat meat is called "little tiger" in Vietnam, and while it's technically illegal, you can still sometimes find it in grocery stores.
Once, a French friend explained to me how, in France, Easter eggs and chocolates aren't delivered by the Easter Bunny, but by Les Cloches de Pâques, or the Flying Bells. All the church bells in the country fall silent on the Thursday before Easter, because they've sprouted wings to fly to Rome. There they're consecrated by the Pope and filled with goodies for children, then they fly home to deliver the treats.
At first, I was confused. "How do the eggs and chocolates stay inside the bells on the way back to France?" I asked. "Do the bells fly upside-down?"
My friend had to think about this. "I don't think so." Then he laughed. "I've never thought about that before!"
Which was an answer I loved, because it made me wonder about the aspects of my own culture I'd never questioned. How does a bunny carry Easter eggs anyway?
All across this planet, we humans sometimes act in such very different ways!
At the same time, I've also been struck by the many ways in which people are the same.