Free thoughts on language learning

Discussions on learning Spanish, English and other language issues. Occasionally, we may stray from language learning topics if there is something that catches my interest.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cultural Comparisons or What Makes Us "Us"

OK, summer is winding down and it's time to get back to supplying the world with interesting language and cultural tidbits gleaned from the web and the the virtual-web. (what we used to call real life) I bumped into a terrific blog, zompist.com that covers a range of topics including languages and linguistics. Mark Rosenfelder is the creator and maintainer of said blog - and no, I don't know what a "zompist" is or does but he's done a terrific job of compiling descriptions of what makes a person culturally American, French, Mexican etc. (The list is both long and interesting) I'll excerpt a few and add links to the full versions.

If you're American...

* You believe deep down in the First Amendment, guaranteed by the government and perhaps by God.
* You're familiar with David Letterman, Mary Tyler Moore, Saturday Night Live, Bewitched, the Flintstones, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Donald Duck, the Fonz, Archie Bunker, Star Trek, the Honeymooners, the Addams Family, the Three Stooges, and Beetle Bailey.
* You know how baseball, basketball, and American football are played. If you're male, you can argue intricate points about their rules. On the other hand (and unless you're under about 20), you don't care that much for soccer.
* You count yourself fortunate if you get three weeks of vacation a year. Read on or see the full list of countries...

If you're French...

* You are familiar with Jean-Pierre Foucauld, Perdu de vue, Lagaf' (for you, the best successor to Coluche), Christophe Dechavanne, Jean-Luc Delarue, Nagui, Patrick Sebastien, Patrick Sabatier, Michel Drucker, Jacques Martin, Mystères, La Chance aux Chansons....
* You don't think that the news on TV is reliable, much less so than the radio or the newspapers. And of all TV channels, TF1 is the least reliable. On the other hand, you almost never listen to the radio, don't read newspapers, and get most of your news from... TF1.
* You like football (strangely called soccer in some curious countries that call some ugly version of rugby, where players are allowed to attack players who don't have the ball with them, football), tennis (whose players are called tennismen), basketball (no question of the NBA, of course), and Formula One (Indy is only a local championship, no matter what NASCAR thinks). F1 obviously proves that the only type of engines worth talking about are French. You think that the rules of cricket and baseball are incomprehensible.
* You do take your 5 annual legal vacation weeks, and you consider yourself fortunate if you don't spend them at home.
* You may believe in God; if you do you are, in decreasing order of probability, a Catholic, a Muslim, a Protestant or a Jew. In any case, you believe in the separation of state and church... and you think that a country with a motto of "In God we trust" does not follow this principle.
* You think of canned food, McDo and so on as cheap food, and think there is nothing like an open-air market. You find it amusing that American tourists consider a visit to an open-air market as much of a must-see as one to the chateau of Versailles.) You also say that you prefer small shops-- but you mainly go shopping in supermarkets. Read on...

If you're Colombian... (starting at the end of the piece, just to show more of the general form)

Space and time

* If you have an appointment, you'll mutter an excuse if you're ten minutes late, and apologize profusely if it's forty minutes. An hour late is usually tolerable, and there is no delay that is inexcusable. If you're talking to someone, you get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about a foot (30 cm).
* Everything is subject to bargaining, unless its price is printed.
* Showing up at someone's place is not uncommon nor considered rude.
* When you negotiate, you are polite, of course, and you make negotiation a social event. To 'play hardball' is a little rude.
* If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, and the business shouldn't take more than half a day or so. Read this from the beginning...


Maybe I'm just wacky but I love reading this stuff! A lot of thought and a healthy dose of self deprecating humor has gone into writing these pieces. Many thanks to Mark Rosenfelder for getting the ball rolling on these.

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