My best friend and I are 20 years apart in age and often we find there are huge cultural differences between us based on our upbringing. Recently, I discovered that singing the songs “Walk like an Egyptian”, “Turning Japanese” and “The Nips are getting bigger” was offensive to her. Now, this wasn’t because I’m a terrible singer (and yes, I really am) but because she felt these songs were racist. (She didn’t realise the Mental as Anything song, “The Nips are getting bigger” was about alcohol). This led to a deep discussion on what she sees as being racist. I was surprised to learn that she sees anything that portrays another culture to be racist. This includes things like wearing a dot in the middle of your forehead or wearing a sari if you aren’t Indian; wearing a Native American headdress; commenting on anything that is a generalisation or stereotype of a race (e.g. “Asians have such beautiful straight black hair”). Even compliments can be considered racist. She sees this difference in our opinion as the difference in upbringing between Gen X and Gen Y adolescents.
This type of miscommunication highlights how cultural differences, even between people of the same culture, can become problematic, especially when you don’t have enough time to fully explore the intent and meaning behind the discourse. Of course, there was no miscommunication about my singing, however. 🙂
Dwyer, Judith 2013, Communication for business and the professions: Strategies and skills, edn. 5, Pearson Education Australia, Frenchs Forest.