I was having an enlightening conversation with a good friend a while back and a very interesting topic suddenly arose. We started talking about the differences, in the way people interact with each other, in the east as opposed to here in the west. It appears that most people in the east are inclined to be more family-oriented, where the notion of connectivity is emphasized through a wholesome familial bond. And, so, most traditional easterners, whether those who live in the east or have immigrated to the west, often live in joint family systems; for it’s not very common to see many, if any, nuclear families. I, personally, am not that big a fan of living in joint families, but I know many Pakhtuns, as well as other South Asians, who have migrated to the West that surely live in one.
However, I believe that the one key factor that perhaps sets easterners aside is that the fact that people living in those countries are *supposed* to be infinitely hospitable and caring. It is part of the norm to be that way, even with strangers. Although, I haven’t gone back to the motherland recently, I know a friend, who recently visited Central Asia on a business trip and he was amazed at how differently people over there interacted. This one man he met offered – well more like insisted – on carrying his luggage, paid for his lunch, and made sure he reached the hotel safely. You don’t ever see that in the west — you don’t ever get an offer from someone to carry your luggage, nor do you expect it. People in the west are way too self-reliant and independent. As a matter of fact, if two men, who don’t know each other and have never met before, pay for the other’s lunch, it is looked at as something very strange and completely out of the ordinary. And then one often wonders why this is the case in the west, whereas in the east, two complete strangers become like family just by simply sharing a cup of tea.
Personally, I believe that this blatant distinction relates perfectly to Emile Durkheim’s classic theory of Mechanical solidarity, which is based on commonalities or likenesses where individuality is undeveloped, and individuals are interchangeable with one another. Similar to Durkheim’s theory, you get the mechanical aspect in South Asian countries like Pakistan, which is that sense of unconditional hospitality that is very much centered upon giving and gaining as much social capital as possible.
In the west, on the other hand, people seem to be connected economically to one another. By that I mean the Western society is more corporately structured, where there are more expectations and more individuality—a place where you have a certain image because you’re in an environment where everyone appears to be doing some kind of “business” with each other. People here expect to interact in ways where they would NEED to benefit/profit themselves in order to function, and perhaps even survive. There may even perhaps be a lack of genuineness. Sure you see people smiling at you, saying “thank you” and “sorry,” every step of the way, but when you think about it; is it really all that genuine? Perhaps it may be for some, but is that necessarily the case for all? I mean it could be very calculated; but then again, sometimes it’s best to believe things that we want to believe, rather than accept the truth.