Intercultural Communication

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Muninn on “Foreigner Shock Meltdown” in parts of East Asia

Posted by thuicc on November 22, 2007

(Hmmm… long title…) Muninn has a great post discussing what happens in places like Japan and Korea when a stranger (someone clearly not native to that country) comes on the scene: “a paralyzing shock [is] exhibited by natives of the country when faced with a non-Asian, especially ones who show some proficiency in the language.” He describes three kinds of reactions to the foreigner:

1) Faced with a Caucasian (or, I assume, any other not-Asian-looking individual), the Korean or Japanese person in question will have complete a meltdown, and do their utmost to complete the entire transaction (at the post office, store, restaurant, etc.) without making any eye contact or speaking a single word. In extreme cases they can completely crap-out and request help from the manager or other co-worker before even beginning the transaction or confirming that their customers does not, indeed, speak Korean/Japanese.
2) If the NALI (not Asian looking individual) is in the company of anyone who looks even remotely Asian, they will completely ignore the existence of the NALI and speak/recognize only the Asian looking person. This will continue even if a) the NALI continues to respond to questions and speak passably well in the native language of the Japanese/Korean person in question and/or b) if the Asian looking person in question in fact does not at all know how to speak Japanese/Korean.
3) Faced with a NALI, the Korean or Japanese person in question will panic and try to communicate in a non-grammatical mix of their native language, really bad English, and hand signals. This can happen even if you speak passably well in the native language of the person and have not yet shown any inability to understand their regular Korean/Japanese.

It’s an interesting read–check it out!

Posted in Asia, greetings, nonverbal communication, politeness, race, websites, whiteness | Comments Off on Muninn on “Foreigner Shock Meltdown” in parts of East Asia

Lotsa responses

Posted by thuicc on October 6, 2005

Here are the responses I made–and some I didn’t get to–in today’s class discussion.

  • Most people got the idea (which I think is true) that Althen has a somewhat “white” view of what Americans are like. He argues in another part of his book that “The predominant ideas, values, and behaviors of “mainstream” Americans are those of the white middle class. People in that category have long held the large majority of the country’s most influential positions. They have been the political and business leaders, the university presidents, scientists, journalists, and novelists who have successfully exerted influence on the society. American culture as talked about in this book, then, has been strongly influenced by white middle-class males.” (xxiv) So he’d argue that what he’s describing is the mainstream of the U.S.
  • As people said, the “Communication Patterns” article gives us a view that while (if Althen is correct) white middle-class males might represent the mainstream, there are a lot of other kinds of groups with different values and practices. Jen used the term “multiple generalizations” to describe the article. As Erica mentioned, there’s a shift between the contrast of Americans with the “outside” world in Althen to looking at contrasts within the U.S. in the “CP” article.
  • As I mentioned, to be fair to Althen, his book contains more than just the chapter on communication styles. But one thing he doesn’t do in his chapter on race and ethnic relations is try to account for racial/ethnic factors that might affect communication styles. (I’ll put this book in the dept library later)
  • Regarding a comment by Evonne about Asian Americans (I think) use of eye contact: what might account for the differences you mention between the article’s description of Asian Americans avoiding eye contact for too long and what you describe as your view that it’s important to look at speakers of elders while they’re talking? (How/where did you learn that it’s polite to do this? I’m thinking of how we might try to figure out what might account for the difference you see.) Ceilia suggested, for instance, that the “experts” who wrote the article might have been coming from the “outside” of the culture, so would see things differently. She also mentioned that the experts might learn things from other experts. (There are a lot of things we could say about that…)
  • Stephanie suggests that Althen is writing with “a pretty high ego” when he describes Americans. What might give you that sense? Any particular passage you could point to?

OK–I could comment a lot more, but this post is already too long! I’ll have more to say later in the semester. (Jennifer’s comment has me thinking about something related to face, for instance…)

Posted in cultural classifications, cultural patterns, identity, race, stereotyping, United States, whiteness | 9 Comments »

Two “old” posts about ethnicity and communication styles

Posted by thuicc on October 6, 2005

Too old (er… two old) posts about ethnicity and communication styles from a previous ICC class. Take a look:

  • Ethnicity and “American” and “Chinese” Communication Styles–in this post I asked my fellow interculturalists from last year “Why do people often equate European American communication styles and American communication styles?” Or, to put it less politely, why do the Americans described in American Ways sound so “white”? And they gave lots of answers… (There’s even some mention regarding the eye contact issue.)
  • Representing American Culture–in this post, I summarized some ideas about why American culture seems to be represented as the same thing as “white” culture, including the idea of “white privilege”…

Posted in cultural classifications, cultural patterns, whiteness | 3 Comments »