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Friendships Vs Invisible Institutions




In a post I made recently I talked about this interesting phenomenon in relationships that I noticed here in Australia and how people seem to quite happy to limit their relationships with people in the context of the situation that they know them. Whether it be work, school or some kind of recreational activity it was there that the relationship was formed and ultimately stayed. It was quite rare for people to extend this into a full relationship that didn't know limits. For someone like me who values deep relationships this was quite disappointing but a fact of life here, unfortunately. Yet, this isn't an observation unique to me as I found out today.


After watching a the first few in a series of lectures on sociology I came across this lecture discussing "invisible institutions". Now, in a nutshell the lecturer basically states that westerners (specifically Americans) take for granted the well greased system they have going for them. Someone trespasses on their property, they call the police; they're sick, they see a doctor; they worked their scheduled hours, they get paid, and so on. This she tied in with the fact that "Americans are friendly but they're not your friends" and I'll mention why in a moment.


She related the story of a Hungarian man who made a variety of friends in different contexts like school, work and his hobby of folk dancing. All these people he would get together and meet with regularly and if the opportunity arose he would vacation with them and spend a couple days or even weeks together. Anyways, he came to the US and started up his hobby of folk dancing and after he and those who joined him made a name for themselves he suggested they get together and have a vacation. The people were weirded out and confused. They told him flat out that they were only interested in doing the folk dancing together, and nothing else was wanted. He promptly ended his folk dancing get together.


Now, in Hungary and other such nations where these deep level of relationships are formed there is a striking similarity between them in that the institutions in them are not so invisible. It's not as simple as calling the cops, or seeing a doctor or getting your money deposited straight into your account at the end of the work week. Simply put, you need to know people to get the ball rolling. The climate necessitates to varying degrees, strong bonds with people. America, and nations like it that have fairly invisible institutions results in relationships that don't require a deep level of depth and thus people don't seek what they don't need.


Makes me a bit sad knowing that, but I knew people were shitty already.



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