Intercultural Communication

Course Website for Tunghai FLLD Seminar

Archive for September 24th, 2004

Elton John, Taiwanese Reporters, and Intercultural Communication?

Posted by thuicc on September 24, 2004

It wouldn’t be hard to call the conflict between Elton John and Taiwanese news media a failure of intercultural communication. Obviously, the two parties had very differing opinions of what is supposed to happen when a foreign rock star steps off his private plane and goes through immigration. According to the Taipei Times article about the incident, John (and other foreign stars) wouldn’t have expected such a large group of aggressive (or should I say “eager” to be more objective?) reporters to be present at his arrival.

Despite previous grievances of the sort John encountered, local media representatives with a pass are allowed to enter the restricted areas of airports, according to a statute governing the use of airports’ restricted zones.

In many countries, however, it is not the normal practice for the media to be allowed access to such areas.

Interestingly, the cable TV news programs that I saw last night didn’t mention this “cultural” difference regarding the access the media has to restricted areas in airports. They (for the most part) seemed to emphasize only Elton John’s swearing at the reporters.

The English news on FTV (民視) was especially interesting: it provided English subtitles for everything Elton John said, but when a Taiwanese reporter yelled (in English), “Why don’t you get out of Taiwan?” there was no subtitle. We only saw a subtitle for John’s reply: “We’d love to get out of Taiwan if it’s full of people like you. Pig! Pig!” What impression might this give people of Elton John?

What do you think about this episode?

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Posted by thuicc on September 24, 2004

Today’s Intercultural Experience

If you have any other thoughts about today’s experience (with the Tungs and the Hais), add a comment to this message or e-mail me. I have some thoughts related to some of the observations and comments I heard today.

  • One interesting thing had to do with how accurate your observations were, generally speaking. It seemed that you were able to work out quite well what the other culture’s rules were.
  • When you created a rule that didn’t really exist (such as the rule about people without tied hair having higher status), I think it resembles what often happens when we make observations about other cultures and “over-interpret” what we see.
  • I was also interested in some of the evaluative language that was used (for example, Tungs “overprotect” their hair; Hais “show off” their money). This is also a very natural phenomenon. It’s very easy to judge another culture’s behavior from one’s own perspective.
  • Ant had an interesting observation about the Tungs’ behavior–that the bowing reminded her of Japanese culture. This led me to think about how we often have to relate a new experience to something we already know in order to attempt to understand it.

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