mariposa monarca

lunes, 9 de febrero de 2009

Culture Codes
DR gave us a very interesting book to read, written by a Frenchman who analyses American culture by interviewing focus groups and by inviting them to share “first memories” of everyday activities and objects. The book itself is entertaining and contains a few cute comparisons with French and Japanese culture. What I found really interesting, though, is the approach. “The Code” of any given culture is an agreement about cultural elements between people who live in a society. The surface of it may attract tourism and make the stuff of novels and movies. These are the things “everybody knows” about a group of people who live together as a nation. In the worst case, they become stereotypes that haunt individuals when they go abroad. “Germans are punctual” is just one of them, which may or may not be true of the individual. A deeper understanding can be gained by living in this society and learning “the way things are done”. I think, however, that this Code is less relevant in a person-to-person relationship. Language is part of it, paradoxically, since language in part seems to define and transmit the code. “Je me souviens” in Québec means a lot more than “I remember”, and language is part of the message. Yet language is also a tool to create meaning, and to connect with another individual. I enjoy a good conversation with a person when I have the feeling to be learning something new, when ideas that I share resonate in the other. Over time, this conversation can evolve into friendship or partnership. To know the cultural context of the other person is not necessary in order to appreciate the individual. However, meeting two people from the same culture at the same time changes it all, since these two people share a code. The relationship takes place in a context, and not to know the context has an impact on the development of this relationship, at least in my experience.

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