Red Means Stop. Green Means "Go Already!"

You know when you’re sitting at a stoplight and it turns green but the person in front of you doesn’t move? Chances are you’re waiting behind us.

When Billy is driving, I often find myself sitting at green lights. Sometimes I mumble, “It’s green.” And sometimes I respond, “For crying out loud, go already!”

What kills me, though, is when I look over at him, he is often staring out the windows. Finally, this weekend I told him, “I have never known someone who comes to a stop and then starts gazing around as much as you do!”

He was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “You know, that’s from growing up in Guatemala. I’m always checking all the mirrors because you never know when someone will run up with a gun. It’s habit.”

Oh dear. How do I respond to that? It’s harder than you might think to switch from annoyed mockery to sincere listening in .5 seconds.

Americans worry so much about safety. We buy alarm systems and dogs, wear helmets and seat belts, recall every baby item ever made and put speed bumps on our slides. Some of these practices are good and some a bit over the top.

Yes, things happen in the States. Yes, it’s good to be wise. But overall, we take our general safety for granted. 

Of course, Billy’s response to me is, “Only Americans would sit at a stoplight, staring at it to turn green.” And he’s probably right.

My culture focuses on independence and efficiency. We’re always late… always hurrying. We can’t take public transit… it might slow us down. We’re impatient at red lights.

Moments like this surprise me. It sometimes amazes me how much our backgrounds influence the big, but also the small, everyday ways we interact in the world… even waiting at a stoplight.

In what everyday scenarios do you see culture peeking through?

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