Saturday, September 27, 2008

Evaluating Intercultural Behavior

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be racist or discriminatory. These are merely events that I have observed and my views on them.

Imagine this, you are running towards the elevator which is closing. You yell out, “HOLD THE DOOR PLEASE!” However, the person in the lift ignores you and continues to press the “Close Door” button. Many of us will feel that this behavior is rude and disgusting.

What if I told you that this is perfectly normal in some countries (which I shall not name)? In Chigala (fictional country name), it is perfectly normal to shut the elevator door in someone’s face. This is a true story which my girlfriend told me.

Her brother, ZZZ, went to Chigala. He was in a lift and was holding the door for someone that was running for the lift. The natives of Chigala thought that ZZZ did not know which button was the “Close” button and courteously pointed it out to him.


In their culture, time is very precious and everyone is always rushing for point A to point B. This is why it is perfectly normal to not hold the door, since everyone is similarly in a rush.

This brings us to the important point. Understanding cultural norms. Behavior that we find rude or distasteful might be perfectly normal or even courteous to members of another culture. Similarly, members of another culture might find our behaviors downright crude.

So the next time you visit Chigala, if you see somebody running for the lift, be sure to close the door on them.


Brad Blackstone said...
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Brad Blackstone said...

Interesting post, Wei Kin. Yes, different values affect different norms in behavior. Could your friend be sure that the fellows in the lift were aware that someone was running to join them? It's hard to imagine that an act that we and many others would consider rude would be not just tolerated but encouraged.

I'd like to know the country's name, just to be prepared in case I go there.


joyce said...

Hello Wei Kin,

Your post is rather funny! Haha! I think it is just weird that people do that when they know very well someone is running for the lift. It is the same with the bus uncles who drive off although they see someone running for the bus in their rear view mirror. (-.-")

I agree that differences in cultures may be so vast that they lead to misunderstanding, which then escalates into a conflict. I guess it is prudent to understand the culture background of people in such situations before jumping to the conclusion that he or she is being rude.

Yu Ming said...

Dear Wei Kin,

In my opinion, different interpretations of the same cultural cues are slowly disappearing with globalization. I am guessing that Chigala like Shangrila used to be a remote and secluded country and its people are just beginning to expose themselves to the global culture. Hence, that could be the reason why the locals could not understand the different practice of an outsider and took it to themselves to point out the close button.

Another explanation could be because your girlfriend's brother looks just like the locals and thus the other person in the lift expected him to act just like them. If that is the case, I'm guessing Chigala is China?