When you travel a lot, you start noticing certain aspects of the country/region/locality that are unique to a culture or a group of people. Each country and culture I lived in offered me a wide spectrum of vivid customs. If you look closely enough you start noticing ‘shared attitudes’ that creates a level of comfort for those living there. I also noticed that people who shared these attitudes are rarely aware of them. These little customary ways of ‘doing things’ runs like a current underneath the culture undetected. As a foreigner it is easy to notice them because I am not part of that culture.
Yesterday, I bought a highway ticket that I won’t be using because my plans have changed. I called customer services to ask if I could move the ticket to a new date or simply cancel it. I was told that the ‘ticket’s validity has started when I bought the ticket’ so no refund is applicable. Honestly, I was surprised at how a ticket can have validity without being used but apparently in Hungary this is the case.
Yes, I should have checked the regulations before I bought the ticket. My bad! This is not important. This situation made me think about mistakes, punishment and the attitude of treating mistakes in general.
I give you another example so you can see the difference. A few weeks ago, in the UK, my friend dropped me off at Heathrow Airport. As soon as we arrived, we bought a parking ticket on line. A few days later she received a parking violation ‘fine’ for non-payment. We sent the confirmation of the payment via email and a few days later, my friend received a response saying that when she had entered the car’s details she had made a mistake with the letter ‘O’. She had entered a ‘zero’ by mistake. She was reminded to make sure to enter the correct details to avoid any issues in the future. The case was closed without any punitive actions.
Though the two incidents are not the same, they are both great examples the attitude each society shows towards ‘mistakes’.
Hungary is a culture that does not tolerate mistakes and takes every opportunity to punish the party at flaw. Whereas, in the UK the attitude is ‘educational’. One society keeps its members in constant fear of punishment for any mistakes. Whereas the other society educates its inhabitants so they can do better next time.
Where do you prefer to live?