What is funny in one culture doesn’t always translate well.
My parents were visiting India from the US and I took them to meet my neighbor Uncle and Auntie. My wife and I had spent a long time developing a good relationship with this family through careful attention to respecting their culture and watching a lot of cricket. As soon as I introduced him, my father (not the poster-child for cultural awareness) says “Hey, you guys don’t seem half as bad as my son said you were!”, which in American translates as “It’s nice to meet you”. However, the joke was lost and we spent the rest of the evening trying to reassure our neighbors that we really don’t say bad things about them and my father rarely travels out of the state.
Humor is a tough thing to get a hold of in a new culture. It is often cited as the last phase of enculturating into a new life. If you can make a joke in a new language, and other people laugh, it’s a sure sign you’ve arrived.
Indians love to laugh, but the epitome of hilarity (at least in South India) is the bumbling sidekick who must look and sound as ridiculous as possible which makes the hero of the movie seem even more strong, intelligent, and anti-bumbling. If nothing else, this has provided good job security for those less-attractive actors.
At Global Adjustments, we had the opportunity to work with some Australian businessmen who were coming in to do business in India. On one visit, the Managing Director and another Director of the company had come to meet with some people in India. The Managing Director introduced himself and then turned to his partner and said, “And this here is old big-nose who doesn’t know anything.” To which, the other man replied, “Well, sir, you didn’t have to be so kind!”
Of course the young Indian audience was floored that two men of such standing would say that kind of thing to each other in public! However, in Australia this is called “taking the piss” and is an affectionate way for people to talk with each other.
Whether in Australia, India, or the US, if you can’t figure out why everyone else is laughing, either the joke is on you, or like so many other things – it’s just cultural.
We love to laugh in our trainings! For more information about our cross-cultural training programs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
|This entry was posted by trainingteam on February 3, 2012 at 2:45 AM, and is filed under Training. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
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