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cross-cultural communication

Module by: Thu Dang. E-mail the author

Summary: this is to give brief introductions of cultural identies of some English-speaking countries and Vietnam.

If you're American...

  • You know how baseball, basketball, and American football are played. If you're male, you can argue intricate points about their rules. On the other hand (and unless you're under about 20), you don't care that much for soccer.
  • You count yourself fortunate if you get three weeks of vacation a year.
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If you died tonight...

  • You're fairly likely to believe in God; if not, you've certainly been approached by people asking whether you know that you're going to Heaven.
  • You think of McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. as cheap food.
  • You probably own a telephone and a TV. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom. You do your laundry in a machine. You don't kill your own food. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs.
  • You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys to be food.
  • A bathroom may not have a bathtub in it, but it certainly has a toilet.
  • It seems natural to you that the telephone system, railroads, auto manufacturers, airlines, and power companies are privately run; indeed, you can hardly picture things working differently.
  • You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will work. Getting a new phone is routine.
  • The train system, by contrast, isn't very good. Trains don't go any faster than cars; you're better off taking a plane.
  • You expect the politicians to be responsive to business, strong on defense, and concerned with the middle class.
  • Between "black" and "white" there are no other races. Someone with one black and one white parent looks black to you.
  • You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices and work together.
  • You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court.
  • You'd respect someone who speaks French, German, or Japanese-- but you very likely don't yourself speak them well enough to communicate with a monolingual foreigner.
  • It's not all that necessary to learn foreign languages anyway. You can travel the continent using nothing but English-- and get by pretty well in the rest of the world.
  • College is (normally, and excluding graduate study) four years long.

Everybody knows that

  • Mustard comes in jars. Shaving cream comes in cans. Milk comes in plastic jugs or cardboard boxes, and occasionally in bottles.
  • The date comes second: 11/22/63.
  • The decimal point is a dot. Certainly not a comma.
  • A billion is a thousand times a million.
  • You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Getting married by a judge is an option, but not a requirement; most marriages happen in church. You have a best man and a maid at the wedding-- a friend or a sibling. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time.
  • Once you're introduced to someone (well, besides the President and other lofty figures), you can call them by their first name.
  • If you're a woman, you don't go to the beach topless.
  • You'd rather a film be subtitled than dubbed (if you go to foreign films at all).
  • You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes.
  • If a politican has been cheating on his wife, you would question his ability to govern.
  • Any store will take your credit card.
  • Labor Day is in the fall.

Contributions to world civilization

  • You've probably seen Star Wars, ET, Home Alone, Casablanca, and Snow White. If you're under forty, add Blazing Saddles, Terminator, Jaws, and 2001; otherwise, add Gone with the Wind, A Night at the Opera, Psycho, and Citizen Kane.
  • You know the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Simon & Garfunkel.
  • You count on excellent medical treatment. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies or people in their eighties. You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy.
  • Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation.
  • You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy.
  • You still measure things in feet, pounds, and gallons.
  • You are not a farmer.
  • The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals. Certainly not, say, authors.
  • You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights even if nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them.
  • You think of Canada as a pleasant, peaceful, but rather dull country.
  • You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a small car.
  • The police are armed, but not with submachine guns.
  • If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks.
  • The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.
  • There's parts of the city you definitely want to avoid at night.
  • You feel that your kind of people aren't being listened to enough in Washington.
  • You wouldn't expect both inflation and unemployment to be very high (say, over 15%) at the same time.
  • You don't care very much what family someone comes from.
  • The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally among their children.
  • You think of opera and ballet as rather elite entertainments. It's likely you don't see that many plays, either.
  • Christmas is in the winter. You spend it with your family, give presents, and put up a tree.
  • You may think the church is too powerful, or the state is; but you are used to not having a state church and don't think that it would be a good idea.
  • You'd be hard pressed to name the capitals or the leaders of all the nations of Europe.
  • Taxis are generally operated by foreigners, who are often ignorant about the city.
  • You are distrustful of welfare and unemployment payments-- you think people should earn a living and not take handouts. But you would not be in favor of eliminating Social Security and Medicare.
  • If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a bachelor's first.
  • There sure are a lot of lawyers.

Space and time

  • If you have an appointment, you'll mutter an excuse if you're five minutes late, and apologize profusely if it's ten minutes. An hour late is almost inexcusable.
  • If you're talking to someone, you get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about two feet.
  • About the only things you expect to bargain for are houses, cars, and antiques.
  • Once you're past college, you very rarely simply show up at someone's place. People have to invite each other over-- especially if a meal is involved.
  • When you negotiate, you are polite, of course, but it's only good business to 'play hardball'. Some foreigners pay excessive attention to status, or don't say what they mean, and that's exasperating.
  • If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, and the business shouldn't take more than an hour or so.

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