Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My reactions to Peace Corps cultural adjustment tips

From the text: “Being culturally sensitive means being aware of and alert to the norms and behaviors of the local culture and, as far as possible, not transgressing them. It does not mean liking or accepting all these norms, much less embracing them or substituting them for your own.” Right on, Peace Corps. I don’t know about you, but I was worried that they would be cultural relativist to some degree.
Also in the text: “The word accept is being used in a special sense here: it does not mean liking or approving, and especially not adopting, but rather accepting the inevitability and logic of a particular behavior, of trusting that, irritating as it may be, the behavior is nevertheless appropriate in the other culture.” (emphasis mine)
The worldview from within the other culture will be tinted by their assumptions about life. A European, for example, could find it hard to understand American public opinion and policies related to gun control because some of the most fundamental American values lead us to assume that an individual’s liberties should be protected to the greatest extent possible or feasible. Whatever facts might be presented for debate, this fundamental assumption will have an effect on the way the facts are viewed. The result is that someone who is not familiar with American cultural values, like Michael Moore for example, might become frustrated and even more righteously angry when Americans don’t reach what he would consider to be the logical conclusion. Granted this is a horrible example, but I like the idea of looking at American cultural assumptions from the outside. This is, in fact, step one for cultural adjustment. Step 2 is to accept the reality of your own cultural conditioning. Step 3 is to accept the reality that the others you will meet have also been conditioned by their own culture. Perhaps a more accessible example would be if your pet dog met one of Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov’s dog would be shocked to see you feed your dog without ringing a bell first. That’s just the way it is, what are you doing? Are you really going to eat that?

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Hi Greg. I am reacting to your reactions to the peace corps cultural adjustment tips. I miss your style of thinking. Also, i go to that curry place a lot and think of you. Stay well.