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Understanding Different Cultural Concepts

By Kim Robson:

Language and how we shape it are brilliant indicators of how a culture views the world. There are many cultures that employ words or concepts that don’t translate easily outside that culture. I love learning about them because they offer a window into a way of life that’s very different from ours. The following are a few of my favorites:

Waldeinsamkeit is a German word for “the feeling of being alone in the woods.”Cultral differences

Culaccino is an Italian word for “the mark left on a table by a cold glass.”

Iktsuarpok is an Inuit word for “the feeling of anticipation that makes you keep looking outside to see if someone is coming.”

Komorebi is a Japanese word for “dappled sunlight filtered through trees.”

Pochemuchka is a Russian term for “someone who asks too many questions.”

Sobremesa is the Spanish term for “the time spent after a meal conversing with the person you shared it with.” I love this one. We all need more sobremesa with our loved ones.

Jayus is an Indonesian word for “a joke told so poorly that it becomes funny.”

Pana Po’o is the Hawaiian term for “scratching your head to help remember something.”

paysement is how the French describe “the feeling of not being in one’s home country.” Only the French would coin a word for the state of not being in France.

Goya is the Urdu word for “the suspension of disbelief and the feeling of being transported by a good story.” Another thing we all could use more of.

Mangata is the Swedish term for “the road-like reflection of the moon on water.”

Kintsugi is the Japanese word for “Repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer.” It celebrates and emphasizes imperfection, rather than tries to hide it.

Wabi-sabi is the wider Japanese concept of embracing imperfection, of celebrating the worn, cracked or patinated, for both decorative and spiritual reasons.

Kaizen is another Japanese concept that could mean the opposite of wabi-sabi. It means “continuous improvement.” Generally relating to business, kaizen involves every employee, from upper management to the cleaning crew.

Friluftsliv is a Norwegian term meaning “free air life,” meaning that being outside is good for human beings’ mind and spirit.

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term, similar to the Norwegian one above, that means “forest bathing.”

Hygge is the idea that helps Denmark endure its long, dark winters. It means “togetherness,” and “coziness.” According to VisitDenmark, “The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family — that’s hygge too. And let’s not forget the eating and drinking — preferably sitting around the table for hours on end discussing the big and small things in life.”

Jugaad is a Hindi word representing “an innovative fix” or a “repair derived from ingenuity.” (Think of anything jury-rigged or repaired with duct tape.) It’s a popular word in India, where frugal repairs are revered. It embodies the spirit of innovation. The authors of Jugaad Innovation write in Forbes: “In Kenya, for instance, entrepreneurs have invented a device that enables bicycle riders to charge their cellphones while pedaling. In the Philippines, Illac Diaz has deployed A Litre of Light — a recycled plastic bottle containing bleach-processed water that refracts sunlight, producing the equivalent of a 55-watt light bulb — in thousands of makeshift houses in off-the-grid shantytowns. And in Lima, Peru (with high humidity and only 1 inch of rain per year), an engineering college has designed advertising billboards that can convert humid air into potable water.”

The concept of Jugaad reminds me of the upcycling movement — taking something useless that might have gone into the trash, and giving it new life and value as something completely different.

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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