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Experiences, People

New Year’s Resolutions at the Intersection of Cultures

Surrounded by tons of pieces of content around handling New Year’s resolutions, I was reminded of my first New Year’s eve party after moving to Germany. It was more than 11 years ago and I still vividly remember one particular scene: a fellow student asking me what my New Year’s resolutions were. It seemed something natural to her which would keep the small talk going, but I was baffled. I had never been asked this question before (let alone at a student party). I found it difficult to respond not because I didn’t have any plans or didn’t know what I would like to achieve in the following year, but because I couldn’t figure out how this could be a topic of such a conversation started by someone I hardly knew at all…

via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons

Looking back at this short story, I realize once again what a crucial role culture plays in shaping our behavior. Even when it comes to something as (in)significant as New Year’s resolutions. By the way, the word used in Bulgaria is ‘promises’… and New Year’s promises as I experienced them there were nothing more than illusory statements quickly forgotten and easily re-vamped twelve months later. While the latest seems a rather universal attribute of New Year’s resolutions around the world, I found out that in some countries the process of creating and talking about them is taken more seriously.

What has your experience with New Year’s resolutions been? Did your attitude towards them change after immersing yourself in another culture?

P.S. One of the reasons I dislike talking about New Year’s resolutions is that I consider building habits more important than an exercise of putting together a set of ‘promises’ every twelve months. I couldn’t express that better than Les Hayman, so I highly recommend his post “Build Rituals Rather Than Set Personal Goals”.


About irinapashina

Marketing professional, blogger, group fitness instructor, reader, theater-goer


4 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions at the Intersection of Cultures

  1. My New Year’s resolution is 1600×900. (Excuse a lame joke; I don’t believe in resolution otherwise.)

    Posted by hajovonkracht | January 6, 2014, 9:59 pm
  2. Hajo, thanks for your comment. If you ask me, 1600×900 is a more sensible statement than most of what is called New Year’s resolutions out there.

    Posted by irinapashina | January 6, 2014, 10:09 pm
  3. Nice article, Irina. I don´t remember having seen this tradition in Romania, my home country. But in the past few years I kept on the ambition of writing my own resolutions. Last year was a good, ambitious one where I made some 90% of them but they must have been realistic as well 🙂 This year I am seriously thinking about your and Les´ advice to build habits, and how I could make this happen without stretching myself to some impossible goals. Right now all I want is to sleep through the winter and eat tons of chocolate pudding 🙂

    Posted by Olivia Falkenstein | January 8, 2014, 7:44 pm
    • Hi Olivia,
      thanks for your comment. It’s not so easy to get back on track after the holiday break, so right now I can relate to the point on sleeping through the winter very well [even though the winter seems to have turned into spring this January ;-)]… but fortunately my good habits are there to help me out 🙂 They have been the foundation of many accomplishments I didn’t even dare to consider possible (which thus wouldn’t have made it to my list of resolutions anyway). Do you know Leo Babauta’s blog: http://zenhabits.net/? You might find his writing (on habits, simplicity, and many other topics) interesting.


      Posted by irinapashina | January 8, 2014, 8:36 pm

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