Cultural Differences; Jöc Experience

Hossein Taheri
Aug 23, 2017 · 9 min read

The relatively free time of this summer, was a good reason for me to leave Paris and explore southern France and take photos, get acquainted with different cultural atmosphere, improve my French and enjoy the fantastic beauty and weather of South of France. And thanks to #AIRBNB and #LEBONCOIN, now these travels are less expensive than before. First I went to Côte d’Azur and after couple of weeks and unforgettable stories, I decided to explore Roussillon province and by chance I have found a nice room in #Jöc village, which is 30Km far away from Perpignan.

Joch (French) or Jöc (Catalan) village

As an Iranian tradition, which wherever we go, we give a gift to our host, I bought a pretty wild orchid pot for my hostess which was a retired English woman and traveled through beautiful roads of southern France toward my new rented home and prepared myself for one month of hiking, cycling, photography, writing and enjoying village life, beside my work which was supporting some old customers online.

Everything was fine except internet, she said we have a bad internet in the village and it was totally cut on that moment, and my hostess was bored because she couldn’t watch her favorite films so I gave her my laptop and collection of films I had so she can enjoy.

Sometimes I was going to the terrace to edit my book and sometimes cooking Iranian cuisine and was sharing with my hostess and we were getting along easily with conversation of different stuff. Sometimes I took her dogs out and sometimes which I was hearing she is hoovering the house as our tradition I couldn’t sit so I was getting out of my room to help her in cleaning the house. Also few times we went out to Collioure and I tried to help her to get a starfish for her tank which once my foot injured by Urchin and couldn’t walk properly for few days. Or things like fixing stuff in the house or changing her car’s tire when it was punctuated. Once her mobile had broken I went to Perpignan and paid for her older phone to be fixed on me as what Iranians normally do to with their friends, even without mentioning to them. She was also helping and flexible, and said I wish you could stay here forever. Be in contact with me if you leave.

From that home, what I loved about most was its terrace

She had four rooms to rent and by entering the high season in France, her rooms getting more and more occupied and things slowly get changed between us. She put some limitations for me to use the kitchen and I accepted as I saw that reasonable because she was preparing breakfast for her guests normally between 7:30–9:30.

But this was not the problem, the main problem was internet. She was a sport fan and she needed to watch simultaneous TV streams which needed 2 or sometimes 3x1.5Mbps and our speed as she told me was 4Mbps which was shared between five families. And as we all know, usually free TV streams sucks. Especially English channels which may have millions of viewers worldwide. And she wasn’t happy at all when one streams had a glitch. She spoke to her IT friend and he told her false information that laptops take priority in WIFI network and she got Laptop-o-phobia from that moment on. So she tried to limit me not to use my laptop during the evening and nights. It was a joke to me as a computer specialist. If that was true, no one could work with his mobile or tablet if there was one laptop in their house. If this problem existed for more than a decade, so what the hell network engineers were doing in the last decade!?

I tried to proof that is not true, by showing that exact network speed never changes when laptop boots up and when I do normal work (check email, make remote access, search stuff, etc) but she couldn’t understand. So I agreed to her new rule as well. But that wasn’t a problem, my problem was that she was never believed me that I wont use my laptop at nights. When her TV streams had a glitch, she was coming and shouting to me “Hossein you are using all the bandwidth!” and when I was asking her to come in my room and see how off and cold my laptop is! she was saying never mind. If 4G network would work in my room, I had no interest to use her internet; but I couldn’t switch to 4G because I just had one bar signal in my room.

Getting out was the only way to get relax in such villages, I guess!

I came there to relax and enjoy the moments, but things were getting more teasing each day. In the other hand I knew if I leave there it would be difficult to find somewhere else at that moment; until new thing came up. Don’t want to prolong this post, but one day, she came to me asking do you have Spanish SIM card, (someone have sent her, apparently porn pics by Spanish number), other day asking me weird questions as apparently someone hacked her Airbnb account to suspend her house to be viewed for one day! Or other day someone used her oil, she was suspicious of me, while she knew it is not in my morality to use other’s stuff without their permission. During another discussion about the internet, while I was sure all my devices were off, and she was not convinced again, I said so the only explanation to me is that you can rent your room much more than what you rent to me. She felt upset, so I apologized for what I have just said.

Finally she came to my stuff on the fridge and saw a sliced meat pack with a “halal” label, and her attitude toward me changed totally. She said if I knew you are a Muslim, I would never let you in, “halal is disgusting”, “I hate your culture” and insulting whatever related to the religion and stuff like that; and “how do I know you are not ISIS”, I said we don’t consider ISIS as Muslims, if they killed hundreds of yours, they killed hundreds of thousands of us, they are funded terrorist group; if some British men commit rape, are we saying British people are rapist? And she said if you say ISIS are not Muslims, I have to ask you to leave which I replied with pleasure.

It was 2 August and my agreement with her was until 15th. I also had to wait for something else on that area and couldn’t leave the area all of sudden, so I asked for two days to find somewhere else while actually it was very difficult and expensive to rent something for peak of high season in Perpignan area. Hopefully I found something near Perpignan through AIRBNB, but I had to leave there in few days.

She said I won’t return your money if you don’t clean your room; By kind of humiliating attitude. [Usually cleaning fee is not higher than 20EUR in AIRBNB]. Iranians are very sensitive to cleaning and even they have ceremony for cleaning called “Khane Tekani” (meaning shaking the house) and put the shoes beside before going to the house and I’ve been raised in super sensitive family to cleaning! Anyway, I didn’t like to be rude so accepted her requests and made her room shine far better than before which impressed her when I handed it over.

Always opt for top villages, you’ll have the better view of all area! and that’s amazing…

Last day, when she was nagging about internet, I suggested that she change the password, because I am not gonna use your internet anymore. If I need internet I can go Parades (a village 10Km away) and use McDonald internet, like last few weeks. While I was packing my staff; she accused me to sabotage her internet. She was shouting “someone cut the wire of internet”; “Oh my GOD!” such a bizarre thing in last day! I came down and see that only plastic skin of the wire had been cut, (like any normal cable that it’s skin should be stripped) and it was from the first day. She didn’t get convinced; Pooh! And she called the ISP and they said “it was from outside her house”. Seemed she had played with the box and had reset it, and had lost connection to the provider.

That day became a total hell after I realized that my car key is also lost, which I was almost sure I left it in the kitchen, and for hours I had a headache and searched everywhere! After I told her I have no way to go from that village on that weekend, finally she helped me to find the key between fridge and washing machine behind a blocking glass! Blaming me and other guests that probably shoot the key from kitchen to there! An impossible theory! So it was me that apologized her again so she can calm down!

Well, actually going out from that house was a relief for me; so I thank her for all the good things and left. But still couldn’t find any place, and I mean anything in most of the sites, so I came to Perpignan mosque and asked if they know someone that has a room to rent for few days, they pointed me to an old man, which they said he is a decedent of Prophet Mohammad and he gave his guest room, fully equipped, kitchen, bath, everything dedicated for the days I wanted for Free, even while I insisted to give him the rent, he refused and said I did nothing. Even when he realized I work at home, he asked his friends and brought me a table to feel more comfortable.

In August 15th, I called the English woman to send my rent money back, as we agreed; but she said “I only had one guest and only can give you 31EUR. Come there, I will give them”. [In peak of high season, just one guest!]. I said there’s no relation between your guests and your debt to me, you asked me out, I gave you time to have guests and earn your money back. She replied “that is all I am paying” and I said you can give that 31EUR to the charity.

Money comes and go, but memories will last forever…

I am not categorizing her attitude as racist or supremacist; I don’t blame her, maybe she was scared of my origin. I rather blame media as responsible for giving a very negative impression of people who come from Middle east and by emboldening what’s wrong with some of them and never showing positive aspects of their mature culture, and by using wrong terms such as Islamist beside any terror incident (which clearly means Islam is religion of terror, that if someone if faithful to it, he is a potential terrorist) by those funded terrorist groups. The media is accountable for what Europeans feels and reacts to people of my race and religion. They are the reason that we are judged so easily before committing anything wrong. And the image they make of our society and misrepresenting our morality standards, gives them fear and distraction.

If you read this, and have a negative impression of what Islam made out of our culture, let me tell you the basics that we learn from our childhood: A quote from Prophet Mohammad that described ten characters of a Muslim, which none of them are hijab, prayer, fasting, hajj, jihad etc. But he described a Muslim as whom 1. Only thing that is expected from him is beneficence, 2. The misbehavior is never expected from him, 3. Considers small beneficence of others as big, 4. But big beneficence of himself as small, 5. Never give up learning in his entire life, 6. Helping others never makes him tired, 7. Favors modesty over lordship 8. and poor over the rich, 9. His portion of life is what gives him capability, 10. Never meets people unless he says they are better than me.

Joch experience is not a bad memory for me! But I can now understand better films like “Pianist” or “12 years of slavery”

Anyhow that experience recalls me a verse from Quran which said, “you like them, but they don’t”. And I still like her and wish her the bests in her life. And this blurb was just an example that how media built up prejudice about people of my origin in Europe.

Hossein Taheri

August 2017