A very modestly dressed couple in their fifties emerged from the local mortgage facility and approached the bus station where I was waiting for the bus. People who take buses like to share their stories, so the couple told me theirs. They were getting a second mortgage at the local facility.
“Now we need to cash the check they gave us but it turns out they have a fee of $5,” the man explained. “Like hell we were going to lose five bucks! So we are taking the bus to go downtown and cash the check at out bank for free!”
What I find very curious is that these are people of very modest means for whom $5 is a significant enough amount of money. Obviously, N. and I are in a very different financial situation. We, however, do not believe we can afford mortgages or any form of credit lines. The people from the bus stop, in the meanwhile, get mortgages and second mortgages.
N. also experienced cultural differences yesterday. His car’s engine died almost in front of his work. The owner of N.’s company was driving by in his BMW, spotted N.’s struggle with the car, got out, and helped N. push the car into the parking lot. Obviously, we do not come from a culture where owners of companies with branches in several countries do such things. Instead, they drive by, splashing you with mud.
These two episodes might seem very different but they point to a shared cultural trait: these are very open sincere people who trust the world and feel ultimately very comfortable in it.