A boy came up behind me. “Hey, what’s your name?” he asked. I did not move or turn around and answer him. I did not hear him or notice him come up behind me. He turned and walked away, probably thinking I was rude.
I found out later from a nurse what had happened. Stories like this have happened to me countless times over the years, even still to this day. Well, I am Deaf. What can I say? In this blog, I would like to tell you all about the difference between the Deaf and hearing worlds and how I sometimes feel caught in between the two.
The Deaf world is completely unlike the hearing world. First, Deaf people tend to be more collectivist, which means that they take care of the needs of others before their own. They ask personal questions and introduce themselves with a full story on their lives. Typically, they arrive places late and stay for a long time, taking forever to say goodbye. Often, they hug people the first time they meet.
The community is small, so everyone is aware of everyone else’s business. It is not uncommon for Deaf people to share with one another how much money they earn or the details of their medical problems. Also, they prefer recommendations from their friends over research. A Deaf person would trust a friend’s recommendation or advice on what medicine to take over what a doctor suggests. If the Deaf person goes to the doctor, he/she may say “My friend told me about his medicine that works well for him. Can I have that?”
heir language, American Sign Language, is explicit and tends to convey many more details than English. The language is expressive, so Deaf people have a plethora of facial expressions that may look crazy to those who do not know sign language. Don’t be alarmed; it is natural!
Last but not least, Deaf people are extremely blunt. I’ll give you an example. One of my friends went to a Deaf social, and a Deaf man who had not seen her in a while said hello. The first thing he said after that was “Your hair looks bigger than normal.” Even her friend who didn’t understand sign language said, “Did he just say your hair is big?” Yes, he did, and that’s just how Deaf people are. They don’t beat around the bush or sugarcoat anything.
On the other hand, hearing people act according to an individualistic mentality most of the time. A specific person’s needs are more important than the needs of the whole group, as in Deaf culture. Hearing people introduce themselves with a first name and that is typically the end of it. They do not have a big preference for hugging strangers or sharing personal details. Their goodbyes are often shorter. They value politeness over honesty. Phrases like “would you mind if...” or “do you think you can consider...” go before a request. Instead of saying “Your hair looks bigger,” they would say “Your hair looks different.”
These are the most obvious differences between the two cultures. In spite of these, both groups of people have the same feelings and desires to connect with others and communicate according to their norms.
As for me, I am not sure how to categorize myself. Am I Deaf, or do I belong in the hearing world? I use English and a form of sign language equally, but sometimes grow frustrated having to switch back and forth between languages. I have some characteristics of Deaf culture, like being blunt, asking a lot of questions, valuing interaction with others and wanting to get to know people. I do ask less personal questions than as a teenager, though. Yet, I do not like hugging strangers. Sometimes I am late... but that is not always my fault, haha. I use interpreters like Deaf people do. Following some hearing norms of politeness, I make it a habit to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’
Almost all of the people I am surrounded by are hearing, even though they know at least some sign language. Sometimes I do not realize how blunt I am, and I offend my hearing friends and family. We then have to discuss the situation and smooth things over. I am also quite expressive, show all of my emotions on my face unless I try to hide them, which isn’t very often. At different times, I become confused with both English and sign language. Others constantly teach me new words, English idioms and signs.
On the whole, I don’t necessarily stick to one world or the other. I am just Paige, and I have learned that my identity is not in being Deaf, Deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing or hearing. It is not “disabled” either, but it lies in my Savior, Jesus Christ. We have all been fearfully and wonderfully made. Don’t ever forget who and what you are, and don’t feel bound to label yourself by physical, temporal things.
“I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14 ESV
The winner of last week’s giveaway is... *drumroll please* Sally Matheny. Thank you so much to everyone who entered. There will be more giveaways in the future, so stay tuned!