I am convinced that one of the most frustrating culture-clash experiences are cross-cultural planning experiences. I bet most people have had the chance to plan something together with someone from another culture and have ascertained how the differing concepts of time and negotiation strategies make it impossible to take joint steps together. The divergent worldviews result in mismatched philosophies of prediction of future, deliberately arranged events. A nightmare.
Planning is a quintessential human behavior. True, animals also take purposeful actions and so maybe plan for things to happen. But planning is mental enmeshing – you expect certain things to happen based on your own actions as well as other people’s presumed cooperation. And that’s where it gets tricky. Continue reading
A friend of mine recommended the 1960 classic Never on Sunday (directed by Jules Dassin, starring Melina Mercouri) as the film that introduced foreign cinema to the larger American audience. In fact, it won several Academy Awards nominations and was a huge success. It also caused uproar in Hollywood with the fact that a foreign film, featuring a prostitute as the protagonist, would be so highly acclaimed. According to one source, it “kicked off the foreign film rage” in the US.
It is ironic though that this film would be such a high icon for foreignness. It is a subtle, but non-ambiguous commentary on the futility and the folly of the American civilizing project. With the United States emerging as not just the most powerful world leader in the West, but also the moral and cultural standard bearer after World War II, this film questions its claim as a new civilizing model. And it is funny that this is achieved through the old Pygmalion narrative, in which a cultured man (an American) tries to educate a lower class woman (in this case, a Greek prostitute) to give her new life with a new social status. Continue reading