Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Saying it's a Cultural Difference is the Beginning of the Conversation, not the End

I was just looking over the series I wrote this spring, about how to make friends across the foreign/Korean cultural divide, in which I highlight a few of the common pitfalls in developing friendships between Koreans and non-Koreans.  The series is extensive, good reading (I think), but while editing and cleaning up hanging links, I added this paragraph:

And remember: "It's a cultural difference" is NOT the end of a conversation.  It's the BEGINNING of a conversation.  After saying "It's a cultural difference," it's important to articulate that difference, and how my expectations are different than your expectations, so that we can be understanding and flexible towards each other in the future.

Using "cultural differences" can be a cop-out to avoid responsibility for unacceptable behavior which I, or someone else, is unwilling or unable to actually justify.  Any time somebody starts saying "cultural difference," watch carefully, to see if that same person is trying to get away with something, or to figure out what topic they're avoiding.

That is, if you want to have a genuine relationship with said person.  Otherwise, "it's a cultural difference" end of conversation, can be the sound of a door closing in someone's mind.

Anyway, to revisit a series I put a lot of work into this spring, go check it out.
Table of contents for the series 
Part one of "How to make friends with a foreigner"
Part one of "How to be friends with a Korean"

Most of the advice is basic, "Don't be an inconsiderate jerk" stuff... but sometimes naming specifics is helpful.

1 comment:

queenmab said...

Amen to that. I have a handful of coworkers who've listened to my woes of life here and have shared their study abroad woes, but only one of them doesn't use that cop-out. Kind of sucks for him because I'm always going to him for 'reasonable discussions.'