Notes From Hairenik
February 21, 2006
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.

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8 Comments:
Anonymous Tamar Palandjian said...
My favorite "logic" is waiting in lines in Armenia. Or ... err... not waiting in lines? When it comes time to pay a bill, one goes to the post. And everyone is everywhere. So you decide to stand behind people who are semi-formed in a line right? Turns out there are like 5 people in front of you and you didn't even know it. Hahaha that's because they do not have the ability to wait in the line itself and ask the last person who does wait to "save his or her spot".

Then there are times when people just don't wait in line at all. Let's say you walk in and are waiting to purchase something. You wait curteously for the person before you to finish and figure the person behind the counter will ask you next. But then the person who just walked in the door speaks up before you and he or she is served before you are.

go figure!

Blogger nazarian said...
I actually have a photo of my dad preparing cotlets with a cigarette in his mouth and the ash is more than half the length of the cigarette.

One would think that it's impossible for the ash to not fall at that length but I guess it requires some talent. :)

Anonymous Nessuna said...
Ironically, the last example on political life is the one that worries me most, not the least because unfortunately, it does make sense. People are tired and apathetic, they do not believe anything good will come out of their participation in politics. Is it not rational not to waste time and efforts knowing it will not result to any change whatsoever? Makes perfect sense to me.. Not that political apathy ever changed things to better.. but still, there is a logic after all. And one does not hear people complaining that much lately. They just do not care anymore.

Anonymous AKS said...
Well dude you criticise Armenians for not doing anything but bitching about how hard life is and not doing a thing about it. Well you have not lived through the winters of 92,93, and 94. These were more than enough to take away any hope in HUMANITY in a person.
Second, I am sorry to say that but people are kind of right when they say it is pointless for them to try to do anything. We already have WAAAY too many parties and their leaders ARE AS CURRUPT as the government.The only way to do anything WOULD BE TO DO NATIONWIDE MASSIVE protests, but peacefull protests so we dont scare of the little foreign investments that we get, since no one wants to invest in an unstable country.
Our only hope is a political candidate that can empower the people and that will do his job, and Demirjyan/Sarksyan team gave OUR PEOPLE A LOT OF HOPE, but you know how that ended.
So just to sum it up, our people really have little options, because the Government does not play by rules, and forming parties and plitical movements require time and money, who has the money? Right the currupt oligarchs, so nothing good can come out of it either.

"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."

You know that this is right down 50/50. 50% do not use a deodorant and the other 50% use it too much. Using perfumes IS NOT concidered girly, if you live in Armenia for 4 years I lived their for most of my life, I can assure you on that.

NOT CLEANING the streets HAS nothing to do with logic, but with budget. Cleaners clean when they are told/payed to do so, IF you want to complain about something, complain about the curroption in the city administration that needs to allocate the budget for the street cleaning. During Soviet times, streets were regularly cleaned because there was a budget for it. So your so called Armenian logic has nothing to do with it.

If we compare the food preperation places in Japan and US US will comeout to be a dirty pig house. Yes Armenians do that, but it is not exclusevely Armenian, Italian "family run" food places are sometimes like that too. And the lady that was chewing while talking was probably "anshnork", as the first thing an Armenian kid learns is proper table manners.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Thanks for the comment, dude. ;-)

Anonymous Ariga said...
My comment is addressed to aks…
The important thing is that we mix government in everything, to be poor, to be lazy, to be dirty, to be impolite, to be uneducated, and so on, yes "GOVERNMENT is to blame", and we even do not stop for a moment to see, look to be dirty has nothing to do with the government the first Armenian logic is that we are not guilty that we are dirty because the GOEVRNMENT doesn’t beat us anymore to keep the streets clean, like it was done during Soviet Times,
WE ARE SO STUPID THAT WE ARE USED TO PRESSURE, TO DO THINGS, and ok, let us be dirty and live in garbage, because the government is not as it was before, but what would you say if your kids would grow in GARBAGE and breath DUST, no, it is easy to escape from the country and judge from the distance.
You, who is judging that much can come and fight for your country and reestablish your government. People like you can not be the future of Armenia because the GOEVRNMENT is not good.
And it is not pleasant to smell somebody’s dirty smells because he was lazy to have shower, because he likes to smell like an animal. Since the GOVERNMENT doesn’t pay him to be clean.
One more correction people can be POOR but not DIRTY.

Blogger Saoirse said...
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sara

http://pianonotes.info

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I read the logic about cleaning the streets and remembered this: I remember me and my friend would eat sunflower seeds on the front step of our building and leave behind all klepner. Then a girl would sweep the steps with a broom. We still do this actually:)

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