I as well as some others I know who have made the decision to leave their native countries and move to Armenia have had problems coping with the system of Armenian logic. Simply put, Armenian logic almost completely contradicts the logic that has been instilled upon me to understand as being comprised of just and reasonable ways of thinking, the same which could be considered as being widely accepted at least in the Western world, where I am from.
To explain myself better with examples, consider the following scenario. I decide with a friend to go to a café for coffee. Let us say that the friend is a female. After we receive the bill I realize that I do not have enough money to pay. My friend, however, has enough to pay for us both and does so willingly. Although I am slightly embarrassed, I am thankful to her for paying, since there is no alternative anyway. I tell her that next time, the coffee is on me, and she smiles in agreement. Thus, since she paid the bill because I didn’t have enough money, this conclusion would appear to be logical.
In Armenia, this same scenario meets the following train of acceptance. A couple—male and female for purposes of comparison—decides to go to a café for coffee. Then man realizes that he has no money whatsoever, but his girlfriend tells him that it’s no problem as she has enough to cover the expense. He then demands that she give him the money before they enter the café. Later when the bill comes, he reaches into his pocket to pull out the cash and pays for the bill, just in case anyone happens to be looking. You see, for a woman to pay for a bill is unacceptable, mostly because it is considered shameful for a man that he should not pay. This way of thinking is considered logical in Armenia and is perfectly understandable to most if not all men here (perhaps many women as well).
Here’s another example. Snow falls heavily in Yerevan for an entire week, with flurries the following week. The snow builds and builds, pedestrians pack the snow down while walking, and the compacted snow freezes at night producing a sheet of ice. Over the course of two weeks the ice on the sidewalk reaches a height of at least six inches. It is only then that someone bothers to clean the sidewalk by constantly chiseling away at the ice, cigarette in mouth of course, rather than remove the snow after each snowfall. This is the logical thing to do—why clean every day when you can wait until it stops snowing completely with the sun shining to help melt the ice?
And yet another—a person goes into a grocery store to buy some cheese. He approaches the counter to find the clerk having a bite to eat. She drops her sandwich and asks what the person wants while simultaneously chewing. When he inquires as to whether she will bother to wash her hands before serving him, she mentions that her hands are clean. When he insists that she do so as she was just munching a moment before, she states proudly that her hands are free of germs, then holds her palms out for him to inspect. He walks away in disbelief that she could not understand what he was talking about.
And one tidbit—supposedly it is acceptable for men in Armenia to refrain from bathing, the thought being that men should exude an odor as being a masculine trait. Men who use cologne for example can be considered to have feminine tendencies, which is the reason why many men you might encounter most often smell badly.
Okay, perhaps these situations exist everywhere. Perhaps you can encounter this same incident with the clerk and the cheese wherever you go. It may be considered a cultural phenomenon shared by other countries in the region. But I have nevertheless seen this happen on several occasions here. I have seen people prepare food, such as the relished kebab sandwiches served as fast food that can be found at kiosks in most metro stations, with a cigarette dangling from their mouths. It may be a hygiene issue and not one pertaining to logic. Yet I can’t help thinking that smoking and food preparation do not go hand in hand. In turn, given the explanation I still can’t see the logic for refraining from bathing frequently.
This logic carries over to other spheres as well. In politics, an overwhelming number of citizens are dissatisfied with their public servants. Rather than assembling to protest or form political movements with the aim to bring about necessary changes in their societies, they sit at home, complaining to one another that the government should do more and is simply corrupt, impotent from providing the programs and services that taxpaying, law-abiding citizens expect. The logic in this case is that nothing can be done to enact change, because no matter who serves in the government, they will manage to abuse their power, and that the status quo will remain. Therefore, it is pointless to do anything, since nothing beneficial will come out of it. (This can also be interpreted as being part of the “vochinch” mentality, which transcends the common sense elements that compose the widely accepted standard of logic.)
I will continue touching upon this subject, provided with additional examples, as this entry is indeed the first part of an ongoing series.
Labels: Personal Experiences, Social and Cultural, Thoughts and Musings