Cultural differences #1: Where is your mind?

Posted on July 28, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Everybody is a human being. We all need water, air, food, a home and a community of people to belong to.

So how can people from different cultures experience the world so differently?

If you ask an American where his or her mind is they will point to their head. For most western people this question is a “no brainer”. Meaning the answer is so clear you don’t even need a brain to know it. Of course mind is in the head. Where else could it be?

Maybe this is because for modern western people thinking = mind. Some people even say brain is the hardware and mind is the software. Other people say mind and brain are the same thing.

So I was very surprised when many of my Japanese friends pointed at their chest when they said “mind”.

I still am not sure exactly what “mind” means in Japanese.

In western culture people often have the feeling of “being torn between their head and their heart”. It means they have to make a decision between what they think is right and what they feel is right. In English we can also “be of two minds” about something, which means that we have very complicated feelings about it.

We can also tell somebody to “mind their own business” which means to leave us alone and stop trying to understand something private. I think that is the same mind as in the idiom “minding the store” which means to watch, or to take care of the store. But if you ask someone “would you mind talking quieter?” and they say “Yes I would mind!” it means they don’t want to speak more quietly.

And sometimes we “change our mind”, which means we change our plan or opinion about something.

Sometimes Japanese people who speak English as a second language make a mistake and use the idiom “I changed my mind” to mean “I had a change of heart”.

I wonder if you wouldn’t mind sharing your feelings and thoughts about mind. Where is your mind? What does it do?


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