Friday, January 08, 2010

The Culture Gap

Be assured, I am not out to offend anyone, least of all my American blog friends. This is purely observational. But isn't there always a but?

In order.

Last year's Red Faces episode. I don't think too many Australian's took offence. I don't think too many recent black immigrants thought that any of it applied to them. I don't think too many Blackfellas would have thought it applied to them. It possibly could have been very offensive to any black person from the US who was here in Australia. Black people from the US who are Australian residents might number .0005%. Sorry if we offended you, but it is our culture and we meant nothing by it.

We in Australia have heard of schools not celebrating christmas because it might offend minorities. The evidence of this is very thin on the ground. We all celebrate christmas in Australia. Christian, Buddhist, Moslem, Hindu et al. I am the least religious person you might come across, but even I celebrate christmas. It is our culture and probably for most people, not really a religious thing. Think of it as the fourth of July or something. Families gather and eat too much and give gifts. It is an Australian thing and if some people with strong religious feelings refuse to participate, then it will be their children who get on board when they grow up.

I kind of thought it was similar in the US, but no. I am absolutely astonished that people in the US really do say Happy Holidays. People of the US clearly view christmas as a Christian religious celebration. Every one is celebrating the same event but instead of calling it christmas, they call it holidays. Given it is winter in the US, does anyone really have holidays when the snow is falling?

And the there is the latest botheration. That is, an ad for Kentucky Fried Chicken. R told me a good while ago that I must be more modern and call it KFC. I have memories of when it was Kentucky Fried Chicken/Rabbit. KFC it is then. Jayne has written quite eloquently (can writing be eloquent or is it just speech?) about the matter so I shall just rant.

I saw the ad the other night. I laughed. I thought it was amusing. Did I think it was having a go at black Americans? No, furtherest thought from my mind. It was just about cricket and the KFC product and our connection through cricket with England, South Africa, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Nowt to do with black Americans.

I will rather have egg on my face if you tell me that this was an Australian ad that was to be screened in the US also, but I don't think so.

Australia is our country. We are similar to the US in many ways, but we are not the US. Our values and humour do differ. Gawd, at least there was some legal basis to us bowing to British Imperialism. That we bow to American cultural imperialism appalls me.

And fifty bucks to me from KFC, thanks. Your publicity machine did great and I have furthered your work.


  1. "Given it is winter in the US, does anyone really have holidays when the snow is falling?"

    The word holiday, Andrew, stems from the old phrase Holy Day, so snow, rain or sleet etc. don't particularly enter the picture. I could spend hours, of course, waffling on about how the Christian festival of Christmas was only introduced in an attempt to stamp out the olde paynim midwinter holy days...but, you'll be glad to hear, I'm not going to.

  2. The people in the ad were meant to be from the West Indies, which is, if my geographically terrible memory serves me correctly, NOT IN AMERICA. So as far as I'm concerned they can eff right off. I'm so over this political correctness gone mad.

    *stomps off*

  3. That we bow to American cultural imperialism appalls me.
    Hear, hear, Andrew, it is a load of frog shit.

  4. Anonymous11:16 pm

    Show me a black American who doesn't like KFC.....

  5. Anonymous11:52 pm

    Wow, what a great RANT! - I dips me general agreement, but the Yanks wont have a clue what your talking about, poor things. It will be construed as an Attack, and Google Earth will guide a cruise missile through your balcony window. Sorry - will miss your erudite and impassioned posts.


  6. I think you have some valid good points, and I'll address those...nothing really offensive in what you said.

    I do find several of your commenters to be offensive. I can tell they're sweating in excited passion at a chance to trash America. My message to them is we're really not all that bad. But if it makes you feel bigger and better to stereotype and hate us, go ahead.

    Anyway, the word "Holiday" has a different meaning in America. We don't say holiday to mean traveling, nor do we usually say it to mean time off work/school. The word we use is "Vacation".

    Holiday to us is any celebrated day: New Years, Christmas, 4th of July, Chinese New Year, etc.

    In America, Christmas IS probably a religious thing. There was a time in my life where I lived in a heavily Christian population and I got sick of Christianity being shoved down my throat. In those days, I WAS offended by people saying "Merry Christmas". Because I felt what the underlying message was "We all believe in Jesus Christ. Christianity is the only religion out there. I couldn't imagine you would celebrate anything else."

    These days....I don't know. Our world seems more understanding and opening regarding different cultures. Maybe because of the Internet?

    People say Merry Christmas left and right, and in these days I don't feel it's Jesus being shoved down my throat. I don't see people getting offended. I'm not offended, and I say Merry Christmas right back.

    It's kind of like when you got offended when the phone person didn't know you were gay when you said "Partner". Was the mistake really that horrible, or is it more symbolic of just general ignorance and discrimination? I'm betting when people and laws become more tolerant, a mistake like that won't bother you as much.

    Onto the other issues....

    Black face skit. I thought it was dumb and not very funny. Personally, I don't see how it was more offensive than other stuff out there that has been accepted and laughed at.

    Tim and I talked about the KFC commercial yesterday. I personally don't understand what is so offensive about implying that a certain ethnic group likes a certain group of food. ?????!!!!!

    I'm Jewish and I really don't give a crap if people joke about me liking bagels. Or if a friend called me Kugelhead in a funny/nice way, I wouldn't be offended.

    If someone who hated me called me bagelbitch, then I'd be offended and think they're being antisemitic. It's all about CONTEXT.

    So Black Americans like fried chicken. WHO CARES????!!!!!

    And yeah. The commercial didn't even apply to Black Americans, so it's ridiculous.

    If you and R ever want to see America for yourself (rather than assuming we're all a certain way because of something you've read on the news) you both are welcome to come and stay with us in Texas. You'll see some Americans are ten times worse than you imagined, and some are really not that bad.

  7. Ah yeah Brina. I suppose it is Holy Day. Never thought about it.

    Fen, it is as much about our response.

    Succinct Jayne.

    I don't know Anon. While we know it is not healthy food, I can't think of anyone who doesn't like fried chicken if they are meat eaters.

    Many do understand Michael. We can't believe what was see on the screen. Don't worry. I am safe. They won't shoot with a synagogue opposite me.

    Understand about holiday now Dina. Cultural difference.

    So merry christmas in the US is losing its religious overtones too.

    The partner thing was not horrible, but more an example of day to day assumptions that are made. It can be wearing at times.

    Certain ethnic groups do like certain food, but for us, who the ad was made for, don't see it like that. It is about a sporting opponent, not what they eat or don't eat.

    As you know, I don't take what I see on tv as gospel. Via the net more than anything, I have learnt a lot about Americans. Maybe it is the good company I keep.

    My post was more to critisise Australia for the way we react to the US.

    Btw, do you know what the origins are of our supposed or real anti Americanism? It all comes down to war. WWII, Vietnam war and now Iraq.

  8. I'm sweating but it's nothing to do with America or Americans, it's the heat.

  9. The gollywog image presents a black person with no intellect and limited emotions. It's image has been used to justify racism and even lynchings- see they're just rag dolls so why not string em up from trees. If most Aussies weren't aware of it's history, once Harry C. let them know, I think they should of got on the learning curve.

    I'm used to saying happy holidays at Christmas now, though it is a holiday cause it's Christmas, holidays is a broad term for any time off, except Thanksgiving, people generally say happy Thanksgiving, that is the big holiday here where families make every effort to get together, more so than Christmas
    Happy holidays is a term u say to strangers, like in a shop, Americans are a polite lot really, best not offend anyone, Jewish say, keep things generic.

    You could placate some French folk with bagette et fromage, Germans with beer and sauerkraut, it's all a storm in a chicken bucket if you ask me

  10. You should be lovely and cool now Fen.

    Harry C Ian? I don't understand why Australians need to know about and understand how racism works in the US, any more than we should know of the matter around the rest of the world, and of course in our own backyard.

  11. i am sitting here with a blanket on my knees, the aircon at work makes me feel like i'm sitting in a freezer!!!

  12. Irish ancestry here. Its an international pasttime to joke about the irish - they do it about themselves better than anyone.

    As to the Hey hey Saturday skit - how else were they to represent the Jackson 5 - when they were together they did have afro hairstyles and they were black - so how do you play a person with black or brown skin without painting your face if you are white or chinese or something.

    Also Michael Jackson did have pale skin - if he had been alive no one would have said anything. being dead does not make one a saint or god.

    Re the KFC add - I have a West Indian aquaintance who thought it was really funny. Would there be this furoure if it had been a West Indian in the centre and surrounded by white faces or chinese or what...

    I think once we cease to be able to laugh at each other and ourselves then humankind will go to hell in a basket!

    The Irish had about 800 years of "Racism" from the English who considered them to be racially inferior - maybe those with thin skins could consider that one of the reasons irish are one of the most loved people world wide is because of their humour.

  13. Sometimes Fen, it can be a relief to step out into the heat. This feeling only lasts a couple of minutes though.

    MC, there are times to be serious, but never any time to take yourself too seriously. Now, me being part Scottish, I think we are supposed to dislike the English and the Irish. Treatment of the Irish by the English was terrible and lasted far too late into the last century.