Overgeneralised and over here 1

July 23, 2004

Ayako Yoshino's entertaining attack on British ignorance of foreign students (Features, July 16) presents a one-way perspective on cross-cultural issues. All of her amusing anecdotes illustrate generic cross-cultural phenomena that are equally likely to be encountered by Westerners in the East.

Inappropriate greetings are just as common. When I worked in a town in the East, people in the street shouted "Hey, you!" at me, as they believed this to be a friendly greeting to Westerners.

Lumping together Westerners is equally pervasive. When asked if I could help with baseball or cheerleading or whether I was a CIA agent, I patiently explained that these were American, not British, activities.

All Westerners visiting the East have had the identical experience of being cornered by someone practising their knowledge of English numbers, swear words, football teams, film stars and so on.

In understanding cross-cultural issues, it is always enlightening to imagine the reverse situation. In Yoshino's article, the reverse question would be: are Japanese universities geared up to meeting the specific needs of British students in the areas she identifies? If not, why not?

Paul Seedhouse
School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences
Newcastle upon Tyne University

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