The Frog in the Bottom of a Well

MATHIAS-SAGER-world citizen-frog

I have already argued that psychology should be taught instead of history, and that kind of un-learning and de-culturation would complement the strategy to reduce shared group hatred and separation in favor of more compassionate oneness with all and everything. It was always known that traveling and cross-cultural exchanges are mind-opening and enriching experiences that are often even dramatically changing one’s world view. As Third Culture Kids (TCK) show, it takes in fact a bit more, but only little more than around three years of living between cultures during the formative years to become a world citizen in the sense of not being socially conditioned and limited to a specific culture [2]. With global communication and mobility possibilities today we could use that old wisdom to implement ‘world citizenship’ programs to educate a truly locally AND globally caring generation that helps promoting peace and well-being for anybody from far and wide.

Don’t be a frog, and enjoy the following story:-) [1]:

THE CHINESE HAVE AN EXPRESSION FOR THE LIMITED WAY ALL OF US LEARN TO SEE THE WORLD: jing di zhi wa, meaning “frog in the bottom of a well.” The expression comes from a fable about a frog that has lived its entire life in a small well. The frog assumes that its tiny world is all there is, and it has no idea of the true size of the world. It is only when a passing turtle tells the frog of the great ocean to the east that the frog realizes there is much more to the world than it had known. 

All of us are like that frog. We grow up as members of a culture and learn, through direct and indirect teaching, to see the world from the perspective that becomes most familiar to us. Because the people around us usually share that perspective, we seldom have cause to question it. Like the frog, we rarely suspect how big and diverse our human species is.



[1] Arnett, J. J. (2012). Human development: A cultural approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

[2] Walters, K. A., & Auton-Cuff, F. P. (2009). A story to tell: the identity development of women growing up as third culture kids. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12(7), 755-772. doi:10.1080/13674670903029153

  • This is interesting, “…three years of living between cultures during the formative years to become a world citizen in the sense of not being socially conditioned and limited to a specific culture…”. We can believe it.

    • Thanks! Hope you’re fine! I can imagine as you are long-term traveling:-). It shows in any case that educating for global openness (while understanding different local specifics) is possible. That’s key for education policies!

      • Thank you Mathias. Yes we travel 3 weeks then home for 3 or so then out again. Gotta move while the bones are able. Life is so short and one never knows. Yes education policies on understanding global economics is paramount. It is so great you are having this opportunity to study where you are and be able to compare.

      • Really :-). This three years definition I took from Pollock and Van Reken’s (2001) study criteria for inclusion of cross-cultural Third Culture Kids (TCK), which in more detail was about individuals who have spent a minimum of three years in another culture away from their parent’s home between the ages of 8 and 18. There may be some individual differences for how long it takes to become a TCK, but this seems to be an established benchmark.

  • Wow ?!!!!

    I was just trying to explain this theory to Friend from another country.

    And you put it in words so well..

    Don’t be a frog ? in the bottom of a well..

    We live what we learn ..

    But if we expand our horizons.. and try to understand others and their ways of thinking and their cultures..

    We would learn so much.. and be open to so much more than what we are used to..

    Great article..
    love your explanations and your theories..
    thanks for sharing

    • Thank you very much for your great feedback and comment!
      I think two obstacles need to be overcome to make people look beyond their well: (1) the opportunity in the form of stimulation, (economic) feasibility, education, and (2) fighting one’s fear of new things and change.
      Keep on talking to people from other cultures and all the best!:-)

  • Hm. History could be used as perfect examples, what we should not want (for our world, for all living creatures upon it, hence even for one personally) 😉

    • Hi, Patty. Hope you’re fine. I agree on the usefulness of historical examples, as long as they aren’t misused to legitimate and excuse the perpetuation of injustice.

      • I am 🙂 Arrived last night back from a few days in Spain. Much needed break 😉
        Yes, I agree. And a lot of old stories, are just that; stories and not based on facts.

      • We had a fantastic time and very lucky. The last really good weather days in that area, even able to barbecue in shorts 🙂 Planned to catch up at your website (among other things), but all we did was walk with our dog, sleep, eat and just sit and enjoy the view. Will post photographs later today at my website 😉
        And you? Busy as always?

      • Hi, Patty. That sounds great, I’m happy for you, and looking forward to your photos. It’s for sure right just to refill energy sometimes. We are human ‘beings,’ not human ‘doings’:-).
        I will undoubtedly enjoy such days some time again as well. Currently, I want to get up and stand up as much as possible for Happy Colorful Growth:-), why I am reading, writing, organizing, and meeting people a lot, yes. Thank you!

      • Ah, I can totally resonate with that. I am at a point I had to decide too…Increase my time in my website or be a ‘once-in-a-while’ blogger. But I too have a vision and so I am going to increase my efforts again too 😉
        Haven’t forgot about your vision either, still on my to-do list to look more into depth into it. Till soon! XxX

      • Do that! Thx for your support and please let me know how I can help. Pointing me to your articles, for example, as I am not so good in checking sometimes. Send you ‘sunshine’ from rainy Tokyo:-)