Don’t Trade In Your Culture — 6 Comments

  1. I’m conflicted about this one. I have a hard time relating to my classmates outside of my Asian Studies major, because I honestly don’t know much about my country’s pop culture. It’s not interesting to me. I don’t want to fake an interest in it just to get a conversation started with a Japanese person either. However, I think enough Japanese people are interested in their own culture, from my experience, that it makes it not much of a problem to not know your own culture’s pop media.

    Of course, I’m coming from a different perspective. I started the immersion method four years ago while a junior in high school who since childhood has been interested in Japanese culture. I never understood why people are going towards the Japanese translations of English books to learn Japanese, because the heart of the culture is not within those books. But for people who don’t want to let go of their own culture, it must be a relief to know they don’t have to.

    As for the last word of advice, it’s really useful. I should start reading Japanese newspapers about American news, because whenever I take a trip to Japan or am too focused on Japanese to listen to the news, I end up so out of the loop.

    • Just to add to this, I’m not a complete isolationist from American culture, even though it may seem like it to my peers because I don’t now all their pop references. I’m American, and I could never become fully Japanese. I think it’s good for everyone to realize that it’s okay to like American shows, books, etc. I love watching The Office and Being Human, and was surprised to find out there’s a following of Supernatural in Japan. Though, I don’t know if I’d watch these things in Japanese. Just as much as I don’t like the idea of watching something Japanese in English. But some people are perfectly fine with it.

      I used to be the kind of person that actually puts down her own country because of their love for another back in high school. But I’ve realized that every country has their dark sides.

  2. Great post. I ran into a few gaijin during my study abroad in Japan that bashed anything non-Japanese. Most Japanese I meet are fascinated by America, so I can see it being a conversation killer if one were to say American culture sucks as a conversation starter.

  3. When I was in first year uni, our teacher made us watch Ramen Girl and assess it according to the Bennett Scale of Intercultural Sensitivity. It’s a stupid film but very well suited to the task. Bennett warns against devaluing your own culture and lauding the new culture as superior. He said that both lauding your own as superior, or lauding the other, is a simplistic, dualistic, view of culture. There are 6 levels in the Bennett framework and denigrating one culture at the expense of another is the second level, i.e. very naive.

    • Wow, this is really interesting. I had never heard about this scale before but it makes a lot of sense. I had actually seen that movie, and one surprising thing is that they got a really famous and talented Japanese actor (Toshiyuki Nishida) to be in it. Someone who is way more famous in Japan than the American actress was in America.

      So what was the conclusion of where it ranked on the scale?

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Oh dear! Now you’re asking me to peer back in the cobwebby memories of years ago! .^_^. As I recall she made it to Level 3 Minimization of Difference and maybe showed signs of reaching level 4 but when her boyfriend (played by a Korean BTW) is sent to China for work she falls back on “Denial”, saying something like “Don’t tell me you have to go because you’re Japanese!” just as Bennett predicts.

    As well as Toshiyuki Nishida, they also got Tsutomu Yamazaki to make a cameo, which I suppose was a reference to Tampopo?
    Brittany Murphy died of pneumonia at age 32, BTW!!

    Recently I’ve read “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari and that really altered my view cultural differences. A really worthwhile book to read IMO.

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