Dealing with Cultural Mismatch
The purpose of this site is to discuss two contrasting cases of cultural
mismatch when people violate each others cultural expectations and how they deal
with the situation.
Case A: "Look at Me!"
Clip1: A White Africaans teacher in a South African Black township school wants to make a point to a new Black Sotho student that next time he comes to school he should wear short pants because of school policy*. The Black student puts his head down and does not look at the teacher while she talks to him. The White teacher repeatedly demands that the Black student look at her while she is talking to him. The more she demands this, the more he puts his head down and remains silent. Although she tries to be helpful and friendly to him, she apparently communicates a threat and even hostility to the boy... (watch Clip 1 and judge for yourself):
* Note: The school policy about short pants is justified by very hot summers in South Africa (in Pretoria area). The children may have heat stroke if they do not wear open cloth, especially during physical exercises. There is no air-conditioning at the school.
Transcript: White Teacher, "Look at me!"
Clip2: Interview with a Black teacher about communal norms for youth's respect
This is an interview with a Black teacher at the same school, who talks about the tradition in many local tribal Black African cultures (like Sotho) for youth to express respect to the elderly by putting their head down and avoiding eye contact. He also talks about confusion for the Black youth to communicate in places where white people are in charge (explicitly mentioning the school).
Transcript: Black Teacher on respect of elderly
Conclusion: This case demonstrates that cultural mismatch leads to hostility
from the White dominated culture. Because of a different power position, people
with less power have to be more culturally sensitive. They simply cannot afford not to
be sensitive - the consequences would be too severe for them. This pattern
is not deterministic but conditional: cultural mismatch does not necessary lead
to hostility and insensitivity.
Case B: Needs to be found...
We need a case where a cultural mismatch leads to a greater understanding between the involved cultures. Please help us to find this example.
Feel free to share what you think about dealing with cultural mismatch below