It becomes a stand-off. Do the aged around the seat not want to admit their age? Or is it that they are waiting to be acknowledged and perhaps offered the seat instead? The younger commuters seem content standing, possibly not wanting to be seen as selfish or rude. So the seat stays empty.
A middle-aged business man jumps on the train at the next stop, looks around, and takes the seat.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to 80 year old Lorna on the next part of my journey: a two hour regional train trip. She explained how she had just waited in line to buy her train ticket. A family of five was in front of her and the father turned to her and told her to go in front of them. He explained that he was from Brazil, and in his country, anyone assumed to be over the age of 50 were offered seats and also earlier positions in any queue.
I was intrigued to hear of this after the experience that had played out on the train I was previously on. Lorna proceeded to give me a very detailed description of her life, although disjointed in her delivery, I learnt much of her hardship growing up in the 40's and 50's.
Professor Geert Hofstede is founder of comparative inter-cultural research. His website www.geert-hofstede.com contains research available on national and organisational culture.
The website states; "Hofstede can be regarded as one of the leading representatives of inter-cultural research and studies. The findings of his research and his theoretical ideas are used worldwide in both psychology and management studies."
I found his research quite intriguing. Available on the website is a basic search for any country and research results on; power distance, individualism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation.
I ponder whether individualism within a culture affects how quickly we respond to those outside our trained psyche.
"Individualism is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of "I" or "We"." ( www.geert-hofstede.com)
"In individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to 'in groups' that take care of them in exchange for loyalty." (www.geert-hofstede.com)
From highest score to lowest score, the results of the Individualism scores on the website are listed below: (www.geert-hofstede.com)
The United States, with a score of 91 on this dimension, is a highly individualistic culture.
Australia, with a score of 90 on this dimension, is a highly individualistic culture. This translates into a loosely-knit society in which the expectation is that people look after themselves and their immediate families.
Brazil has a score of 38 which means that in this country people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive groups (especially represented by the extended family; including uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins) which continues protecting its members in exchange for loyalty.
At a score of 6, Guatemala has the lowest individualistic scores; in other words, it has the most collectivistic culture in the world.
I am not saying, by any means, that Australians and Americans are unable to respect the aged or offer seats, but it seems there are certain cultures where this is in-built and trained within the young in the family. They grow up in a home where their aged family members stay until death. Potentially they have more knowledge of old times and a respect for their elders from the input of those family members.
In Australia, the elderly enter homes which is a natural result of an individualistic society.
God told Moses many things to help the Israelites live their lives in respect of God and of others.
One of these things was: "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God." (Leviticus 19:32)
Perhaps we could take the example of the Brazilians. Instead of an uncomfortable silence, offer Lorna and friends a seat or a queue jump. Lorna certainly showed excitement telling me of her queue jump offer.
Belinda Croft is married to Russell and she has a son BJ, 12 years. Currently Belinda is studying a Bachelor Degree in Journalism. She has a passion for God, writing, creativity, mission and social justice.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html