Chapter 13 & 14

Hmong culture regarding the traditions surrounding the dead and those who are rapidly approaching death is particularly nuanced in chapter thirteen. According to the Hmong, it is especially rude to use terms such as “when you die…”, or other phrases that imply the imminence of one’s death. This is because, unless you are intending to murder someone, how would you know this person would surely die? As a result, it is often taken offensively by the Hmong who believe in longevity and health. This is manifested when western doctors were informing the Lee’s of the likelihood of their daughter living; their seemingly insulting choice of words was what was particularly wounding given the type of respect expected by the Hmong. I found this interesting because while both eastern and western culture struggle with accepting death and the possibility of death due to its equalizing quality, it is often how the topic of death is framed that differentiates each culture. It appears that in western cultures, death is approached more directly than in eastern cultures.

What also differentiates eastern and western cultures are the rules and standards of social custom that each are used to. This is a dominant topic discussed in chapter fourteen. In the Language and Orientation Resource Centre in Washington D.C., there was a list of tips about adjusting to the various cultural norms of the United States made specifically for recent immigrants who may not be aware that what they consider normal in their country may not be as well received in their new home. One tip was that one should “always ask before picking your neighbour’s flowers, fruit, or vegetables”. This struck me because my mother, who had grown up in rural China but has immigrated to the United States about 25 or 30 years ago has had problems regarding the trespassing and stealing of other’s flowers and fruits. She often did not bother learning American customs and as a result, she has run into trouble where she has broken certain laws because she was unaware that such behaviours were illegal or if she was aware, she ignored it because it had not been instilled in her that such laws were important. My father has always said told her she can’t do these things because she was no longer in China. I had long taken that as an exaggeration, however, when I read through this chapter, perhaps it was the result of a cultural upbringing that I did not grow up with.

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One thought on “Chapter 13 & 14

  1. I agree with your view on Chapter 13. I found this idea that in the Hmong culture no one should ever be sure that someone is going to die. They consider it rude and inconsiderate to assume that someone will die, yet they are aware that all humans do die at some point. Personally, I do not have a huge fear of death or talking about death, but I think in our culture everyone views death differently. Some fear it, some feel upset towards it, and others do not have a problem discussing it. Death is one of those topics where everyone is very different depending on their view of it, so I found it informative to learn about how the Hmong culture talks about this topic.

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