Culture Clash

by Krishna on September 29, 2011

Fred Wilson had a very funny guest post about products, but one of the images struck something in me.

I understand the concept, but the problem is that I have never eaten bacon in my life. Nor would have any practicing Jewish or Muslim person, or a vegetarian, for whom bacon or meat can be repulsive. Having seen people go crazy over bacon, I can understand that it is very tasty and exciting, but I can never know. In the same way, if you talk about drinking, I get what you say, but having been a teetotaler for my entire life, I don’t know what it means.

This is an illustration of the unknowing blindness in cross-cultural communication. People are so used to doing something that is accepted and encouraged in one environment that they fail to see the effect of that act in other cultures. What is more, in many situations, they cannot know unless they live in those cultures for a long time.

However, I think we can try to do better by thinking more. For example, I recently saw an older friend of mine cracking a few jokes about family relationships. Unfortunately, the year is 2011 and almost all of those jokes come out as very sexist today because the role of women in society, the household and at work has fundamentally changed for the better. Women need to be treated equally and with respect, and part of sustaining that is better speech.

In the past, people talked and communicated with a limited set of like-minded people from the same community in a small setting. Today our words and pictures travel to a much wider audience, many of who do not share our thinking. That is not to say our thinking or their thinking is better (though in some cases, one side is better). Everyone is different and we should take care to respect that.

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