“I have nothing to teach,” I can already hear some of you say. You are, however, wrong.
Dan, my husband, is from Texas. My parents decided to move me to California when I was a toddler, despite the fact that I was born in Germany. At some point during graduate school, the paths of two Americans crossed. They fell in love, married, and are now living in Brida, near the French-Spanish border.
Dan’s and my lives are filled with opportunities to learn. Experiences, impressions, and ideas from Texas, California, and Europe. Perhaps we should just redefine the term “learning.” Learning is frequently associated with school, formal education, a classroom, teachers, books, and teaching materials.
Indeed, Elon Musk once stated that the only benefit, if not the sole purpose, of attending college is to have fun. You don’t learn much there, except maybe the discipline to finish some assignments. This did not prevent him from obtaining two PHDs in Canada and the United States.
No. Formal, structured education has its place. All we need to do is broaden our horizons.
Let us return to Dan and me. What do a Texan cowboy and a foreign/Californian girl like me have in common? It’s really about fascination, interest, and curiosity. All of these are natural occurrences. People would be pushed to find our personal common ground because we are so dissimilar.
The truth is that we both enjoy being open to new ideas, thoughts, and impressions. It piques our interest. It’s a journey of discovery. I recall Dan finding the workplace culture in Strasbourg extremely frustrating when we lived further north in the Alsace. He ended up giving in. Why? It was because the Alsatians taught him a few things about life. And he didn’t take an “Alsatian 101” class as part of some structured faculty’s integration program. The Alsatians taught him by example, explanations, and harsh reality. This is the way we do things around here.
We learn by observing, by people answering our questions and by providing us with explanations. Even if we laughed and joked on the way home from an event because we were amused by how things were done, we were actually processing lessons taught to us by the locals.
And I’m sure the locals were perplexed by “les deux Américains” strange antics and processed what they had learned from us in their own unique way.
But, as strange and wonderful as it all was, there were times when we were taken aback. We were taught why people did things the way they did simply by asking locals. It wasn’t just a matter of “tradition.” People frequently explained things that made sense in their particular context. A whole country, a whole region, right down to the last individual, have shared a common experience. This experience has shaped their lives, forcing them to make decisions that they felt were best for them. And it was either consciously or unconsciously passed down through the generations.
This is something we learned from others in all the conversations. And, in their own inquisitive way, others will learn from our background, experiences, thoughts, and behaviors.
How useful is it? That is up to the individual. In our case, some of the things the Alsatians told us didn’t fit our culture or way of life. But it does teach people to tolerate others and respect their decisions. It also gives us something to talk about when we invite friends over for a barbecue. Learning travels and knows no boundaries.
As a result, anyone and everyone can teach each other. However, you must be aware and awake in your life. As we go through life, we tend to forget a lot of things or become engrossed in mundane activities.
My sister once bemoaned the fact that she was a soccer mom. Dan is a staunch Republican, so discussing the Biden Administration with him is not always a good idea. But then we pause and reflect. We don’t always agree on everything, but we’ve learnt to agree to disagree. Learning is continuous, and its effects are sometimes seen much later, after the actual learning experience has passed.
I reminded my sister of how we were carted from point A to point B to point C when we were teenagers. But would we have had the thrill of sharing our accomplishments with our family and friends? An accomplishment that has become a jigsaw puzzle piece of the fabric that makes us who we are as adults. And my sister has ended up doing pretty much the same. Only, she had forgotten the benefits.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “You’re right! It’s the small, priceless moments “. Our mother had learned from us children and had returned the favor with love, dedication, and unending support. She learned from us that we were on the right track in life.
Dan and Joe Biden? Dan accepts the fact that Biden is the current President of the United States. He doesn’t like it, but Biden won the election, and now it is his responsibility to explain whatever he’s going to do, just as much as it is Dan’s responsibility to listen carefully. If they agree to disagree, well, the truth may eventually come out. Perhaps Biden was right, and perhaps Dan was not wrong. Whatever the outcome, things can be fixed, tweaked, or scrapped entirely.
I recall Dan and me driving to Provence and stopping in a charming little town called Vaison. It has an interesting museum that depicts life during the time of the Romans. You can also explore some of the ruins that dot the town. We sat there thinking about how humans seem to always want to progress, to make things better. Learning is in our DNA, and it is unstoppable.
If we were talking to some “fellow learners,” they would learn from us how to get to Vaison, where to stay, where to eat, and what to do. By then, I’d be in full swing… did you know there’s this absolutely gorgeous little shop in downtown Vaison that sells the most delectable….and don’t even get me started on the farmer’s market!
I’m sure Dan would have some thoughts as well! Yes, you can learn from us, and we would be delighted to share our knowledge. Come on, let’s have a Dan-style/Texan BBQ together.
Do you really want to tell me that you’ve never done or experienced anything that I wouldn’t find fascinating, interesting, or at the very least worth knowing, because you never know?
So, dear reader, indeed, we can learn from each other. We just have to want to.
Monica Shroyer teaches Business Communication at the Brida Business School.
You can email her at email@example.com
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