1.3 Reflecting on cultural differences
In intercultural encounters we often come across behaviours that would seem odd in our own culture, but there is often a valid reason for such behaviours. It is therefore always worth taking a moment to consider alternative explanations and to remember that, even with an open mind, our own interpretations can be mistaken.
Think of three possible explanations for the frugality of the meal offered to the author by his German hosts.
Here are some possible explanations. You may have thought of others.
- The person preparing the meal had limited culinary skills.
- Dietary restrictions meant that the host couple were unable to eat rich or elaborate food.
- The hosts had heard stereotypes about British cooking and thought that their guests would prefer simple fare.
- The hosts had had a busy day and did not have time to shop or cook.
- The hosts did not think the occasion was particularly special.
- His hosts wanted him to try a traditional German meal.
The best way to avoid unhelpful cultural generalisations is to find ways of checking whether your assumptions are correct. Think of three ways in which the author of ‘Frugality rules at German dinner parties’ might have tried to verify his assumptions about ‘German frugality’ before writing this article, without offending his hosts.
To check his proposed explanations, the author could have:
- tried to attend other dinner parties
- asked his fellow dinner guest for his or her opinion of the meal they had eaten
- made inquiries at his local supermarket, about the reasons for its layout
- undertaken an experiment: e.g. given frugal or sumptuous dinners to German guests and canvassed their reactions
- surveyed a broad range of German acquaintances about their attitudes to food and finances, rather than generalising on such limited evidence.