You Eat What?! (graded)
Ethnocentrism is generally defined as viewing one’s own culture as superior to all others. However, quite often, it is not quite that obvious. Whenever we encounter something that seems strange or different, we will feel some degree of discomfort. How we respond to that feeling is a gauge of how ethnocentric we are about it. Let’s suppose that you are entertaining a business client from France. You take him to a very fine restaurant where he looks over the menu very carefully, then asks the waiter if he or she, by chance, has chevalavailable. The waiter shakes his head and explains that it is not served in American restaurants. Your client becomes somewhat upset and tells you that a truly fine restaurant would serve “proper” cuisine, and that he was very disappointed with American hospitality so far. He eventually settles for the prime rib, but is ill-tempered for the rest of the evening. The next morning, he leaves for France without consummating the expected business deal. Your boss asks you what happened, and you explain that the client was upset because the restaurant didn’t serve something called cheval. Your boss’s eyes pop and he yells, “You mean he actually ordered horsemeat?“
How much ethnocentrism is at work? Discuss what and how a better understanding of cultural differences in food preferences by all parties could have prevented the unfortunate incident. What was your response to learning that the client wanted horsemeat? What was your response to his anger that he couldn’t get it?
Some of My Best. . . (graded)
Your company is in need of someone to fill a new position. The spot calls for some very specific skills, education, and experience, but you happen to have an old friend who exactly fits the bill. In addition, he has mentioned to you that he feels it is time to make a change and has been contemplating looking for a new job. You give him a call and he says that he is very interested, so you call the head of the department in question and tell him about your friend. The department head is very excited and tells you to have him call for an interview. You do and everything seems fine. Several weeks pass and your friend calls you and asks if you have any idea what happened with the job. He interviewed and everything went well, but he never heard back and just learned that the position had been filled with someone who has no experience and a much different background. You call the department head and relay the question. After some hemming and hawing, the department head makes some vague statement about your friend not being a “good fit.” He was afraid that your friend’s “accent” might make it difficult for him to be understood, and he was concerned about his work ethic since he came from a cultural background that has a more “laidback” work ethic. You hang up and think about it. Your friend is from Jamaica and does have an accent and very relaxed personality, but is certainly not lazy. Then you realize that he is also a minority and that this particular department not only has no minority employees, but never has had one. What do you do? Is the department head being ethnocentric or prejudiced? Do you tell your friend what you were told? Do you call someone higher up and express your concerns? Do you do nothing at all?
Culture is in the Air (graded)
I mentioned in the week’s introduction that culture was a lot like air. It is all around us, but we really don’t pay attention to it unless it is absent or smells odd. The same is true about our culture. We don’t think much about it, and we go through our lives feeling that things are the way they are because that’s the way they ought to be. This week, start sniffing the cultural air around you. What do you learn about our culture? Identify some things that are distinctively “American.” Don’t just use material culture (objects and physical symbols), but include non-material culture such as language, values, ideology, ethics, behaviors, and the like. What is it that makes us distinctive in the world?
Power Relationships (graded)
A cellphone company recently ran a television ad touting its call reliability, in which a young man is talking to his future father-in-law, who is telling him to address him by his first name and consider him a friend. The young man launches into a series of variations of the first name. Unknown to either party, the call is dropped and the young man does not hear any response from the father. He becomes very nervous and disconcertedly reverts to “Mr.” and “Sir.” The ad’s message is clear: Use our service and this sort of thing won’t happen.
Why do you think the ad agency chose this power relationship for its commercial, and is it one to which you can relate??Have you had any kind of similar experience (not necessarily on a cellphone)?
Appreciating Our Differences (graded)
We have been talking about the importance of understanding our own attitudes and prejudices in order to appreciate cultural differences. In light of this topic, why is it important? How have you dealt with situations in which you did or said things that you later learned or realized might have been offensive, or at least misunderstood?
What’s Good for Business. . . (graded)
Japanese business culture is somewhat different from that of the U.S., yet both U.S. and Japanese companies are very successful and dynamic competitors in the global economy. You will find a brief overview of Japanese business practices in Doc Sharing titled “Japanese Business Practices.” If you notice, some of the practices and ideas are pretty foreign to our American way of doing things. How is it that with this system of “rules” that seems to govern the Japanese approach to business, their companies have been able to compete so well with the U.S.? Is it possible that they know more about us than we do about them? How about other countries? Do other countries have business cultures that are quite different from ours but also highly successful? Give examples and descriptions.