Mental Health & Sanity

Fish Discover Water Last

By Chris Smit


The old Arab proverb “Fish will discover water last” is a very useful term to describe, in a cultural context, how people only realize that they have a culture of their own when you take them out of their own culture. Only then they will realize that the other culture they find themselves in is different from their own (and mostly these differences are experienced and expressed as being negative).

In other words, people don’t question their everyday and current situation and surroundings. The other implication of this is that, generally, people find it difficult to describe their own culture but easier to describe the ‘other’ culture.

By the time of this writing (June 2019), the author has been living outside of the Netherlands for 13 years. So, to some extent he is the fish that has discovered water and who is outside of his own bowl. This has given him the opportunity to view and see the Dutch with different eyes.

Chris Smit
2019 Summer

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