DF 5– Cultural Identity and Cultural Biases (Chapter 6)

When you were reading and discussing this chapter with your group, you probably realized that the concepts in Chapter 6 are discussed almost daily in today’s culture. What is the nature of identity? Your texts suggest there are three aspects of identity and they are very interdependent. What is cultural bias? Again, so many examples in today’s news.

For our study of intercultural communication, we need to understand what these two concepts mean and how it can affect our own perception when we work/live internationally.

Read the following situation and analyze it in terms of the content of Chapter 6. (be sure to reference the concepts in the chapter)

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Case: Immigrating from Australia to Switzerland

For a white male who grew up in a Western society, I did not consider a country like Switzerland to be foreign. Sure, it is different to my home country, Australia, geographically and linguistically, and like any country, it does have its peculiarities that make immigration a little difficult, but on the whole, I expected the differences to be rather trivial. They are both western, democratic countries, with similar standards of living and, as I discovered, a surprisingly pleasant dislike for hierarchical structures and formalisms.

It was then somewhat surprising for me to discover that I did suffer an “identity shock” when I first arrived. The shock consisted of two parts which were totally contradictory to each other.

The first part of the shock was learning to accept that I was a foreigner, and this itself can be broken into two parts: Firstly, my perception of the world around me and secondly, the perception of others towards me. This was in itself a somewhat alienating experience as I was not used to being treated as a foreigner or an “other” but rather an average member of society. I would like to add that the reaction to me was not necessarily negative, and could often be described as simply curiosity but nonetheless, it was there and I was conscious of it. The loss of fixed social reference points (e.g.: family and friends) which lead to a sense of isolation accentuated this experience.

The point above was without doubt accentuated by the fact that I am of Swiss origin and even have relatives here. Thus, I felt the paradox of simultaneously feeling foreign yet at the same time being, in one sense or another, Swiss. This fact exacerbated the discomfort I felt by being a foreigner, in that someone who had immigrated and had no specific relation to their adopted country would not expect to be treated as anything but, just that, a foreigner.

Three distinct examples spring to mind. The first is the typical example of language. It was common that I was often responded to in English after addressing someone is German. This aroused feelings of, at times, resentment towards the other party and unfortunately a certain sadness with regards to my upbringing (i.e.: The fact that despite being, at least to a certain extent, Swiss, but not being able to speak Swiss-German). Where my Swiss counterparts thought they were actually being accommodating by using my native language; I actually found it insulting that they were unwilling to use their native, or semi- native, language when addressing me. Thus I would often find myself in the bizarre situation of myself as a native English speaker, speaking German to a Swiss who was responding to me in English.

The next example is also related to language and retrospectively somewhat comical. The simple fact of saying my name or introducing myself became almost impossible. I had always been, David Roth, yet suddenly I was “Darfid Rort” with an unpronounceable, to native English speakers, rolled “R”. Suddenly, I was unable to pronounce my own name in a manner that was understandable. In other social situations, a joke would be made, and everyone would be laughing, while I sat in silence wondering what was going on. Were they laughing at me?

The third was also an experience common to most immigrants to Switzerland, that of finding an apartment. Suddenly, I had moved from an upper echelon of society, that of a well-paid professional who had never experienced any form of negative prejudice, to one with no references or social history in the country, who was unable to rent an apartment.

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Analyse the case according to the concepts discussed in Chapter 6 in your text.

  • Be sure you check the text and use concepts from the text.
  • Cut/paste the following format under the stars, into a new word doc – be sure the numbering stays intact.
  • Prepare a word doc, single spaced, max 1 page..

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Cultural Identity and Cultural Biases (Chapter 6)

Names of group members who contributed to this DF:

Names of absent group members:

The Discussion Questions –

  1. What aspect of identity did David experience – cultural, social or personal? Use examples from the case to explain your decision.

  1. What stage of cultural identity formation did David seem to be in? Use examples from the case to explain your choice.

  1. What types of cultural bias did David experience? Use examples from the case to explain your answer. (Do not choose all of them, you need to decide which types of cultural bias apply in this situation)
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