Culturize Me!
April 30, 2008 5:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for great websites that focus on the misconceptions that modern cultures have about one another. A (hopefully) better explanation, as well as a super-deluxe bonus question inside. (Including some begging!)

I have always been interested in the perception vs. reality of different cultures. As an American (yes, the U.S. kind) I'm always fascinated to hear how people from other countries perceive everyday life here, and how much I probably don't know about how others live. Over the years, I have tracked down some information like this by Googling phrases such as "daily life in Japan," for example.

So: Are there any great websites or blogs that specialize in addressing this concept? They can be country-specific or not.

Super Deluxe Bonus Question: What one misperception about your place of residence (country, city, state, etc.) would you like laid to rest? (Here's the begging: please limit your response to the one misperception you want to address. We don't want this to go into chatfilter territory and run afoul of AskMe Law. Thanks!)
posted by Fuzzy Skinner to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Here is an interesting article from New Scientist on this subject.
One misperception about my place of residence. Well, I'm going to bend the rules slightly and talk about India, my country of origin, not my place of residence currently. There are many stereotypes about Indians that I find somewhat irritating, but my pet peeve would probably be that all Indians are vegetarian, or if non-vegetarian don't eat beef. A very small percentage of Indians -- mainly upper caste Indians -- are vegetarian. Most others are non-vegetarian and will gladly eat meat if they can afford it. They often eat less meat than those from Western countries but that's more because it's expensive than anything else. As for not eating beef, while most Hindus don't eat beef there are many Indians who do including most Muslims and Hindus. Only the other day I overheard two men talking about a beef curry they were served at an Indian party and how "unauthentic" it seemed since everyone knows Indians don't eat beef. Well my dad's family, which is Christian, and eats beef on a regular basis would beg to differ!
posted by peacheater at 6:06 PM on April 30, 2008

I could probably add a whole new section to my own f-in' blog about people's misconceptions about Hawaii and the people who live here. But I think we bear a lot of responsibility for that, because we promote tourism and don't try to disavow stereotypes so much as capitalize on them.

One of my biggest peeves has to do with an amalgam of Polynesian cultures being labeled as "Hawaiian," especially in regards to what constitutes a "lu'au." When they feature "hula" and show you lines of women shaking their hips rapidly to a staccato drum beat, wearing feathered headdresses and coconut bras? Yeah, that's not hula and it's not Hawaiian - it's Tahitian dance. If there's no `oli (chant), it's not hula. But that probably bugs me because I used to dance hula for many years, and felt frustrated that so many people would never take the time to seek out and witness a true hula kahiko (traditional hula), which is so important to Hawaiian culture. Instead, people think Tahitian dance is hula, or that ancient Hawaiians did fire-knife dances (Samoan) or the haka (Maori) or that hula `auana (modern hula, which is fun but kinda like what muzak is to jazz) is all there is to it. And that's a total bummer.
posted by krippledkonscious at 6:53 PM on April 30, 2008

including most Muslims and Hindus.
Oops, meant including most Muslims and Christians.
posted by peacheater at 6:58 PM on April 30, 2008

Well, as a Canadian many people in the states have asked me if I smoke marijuana by way of friendly conversation. And a lot of my fellow Canadians think everyone south (and north-west) of the border is a raging conservative Christian full of bullet holes. Actually there's a heck of a lot of stereotyping going both ways in that respect.
posted by Phalene at 7:07 PM on April 30, 2008

It seems that there is some weird belief out there that the city of Detroit is overrun by packs of wild dogs, and it is unsafe to go to parks because of the dogs. This is a very weird misconception about Detroit (and it is one of many) that I have heard from several people from different states. And only very recently. I wonder where this rumor started.

There may be packs of wild dogs here, but I can assure you that they are few and far between.
posted by foxinthesnow at 7:38 PM on April 30, 2008

Everyone in Texas lives on a ranch and rides horse or it's just like Dallas (tv show). RIIIIGHT.
posted by nimsey lou at 7:50 PM on April 30, 2008

Place of origin: Chicago has lots of gangsters (overseas) or is dangerous, and everyone "from Chicago" is from the city itself (US).
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:01 PM on April 30, 2008

This may be along the lines of what you are looking for:

Another Subcontinent is a non-profit entity that seeks to foster an interactive understanding of South Asian society and culture.

Bonus question answer:

People who would like a nuanced introduction to my place of origin (rural North Carolina) could do worse than rent the movie Junebug, itself about perception vs. reality of different cultures.
posted by trip and a half at 8:31 PM on April 30, 2008

I was once asked, in a Muslim country in Africa, whether it was true that unmarried women in my country (England at the time) just slept with any man they wanted to.

What's the right answer to that?

Women are free to sleep with any man they want to, and that's a good thing, seen from the viewpoint of (my version of) Western culture -- but I didn't want to say 'yes' to the guy asking the question, because he wasn't looking at it from our viewpoint.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:07 PM on April 30, 2008

Just because I'm Bangladeshi doesn't mean I like Bollywood or can translate their films for you.

Actually, in Malaysia, there is this misconception that all Muslims are Malays, and non-Malay Muslims (like my family) freak many people out because we don't fit anywhere, particularly if we're from a minority race. Lots of issues, that one.
posted by divabat at 10:43 PM on April 30, 2008

Australia. No, there are not kangaroos everywhere.
posted by ysabet at 11:10 PM on April 30, 2008

New Mexico. Actually part of the United States. Not part of Mexico. International shipping is not required (this is less of a problem now that online ordering is so common).
posted by yohko at 9:51 AM on May 1, 2008

Intra-national misconceptions: People from the East Coast (my ancestral home) think the upper Midwest (my current home) is uniformly dull and flat, like rural Ohio (untrue).
posted by clavicle at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2008

Best answer: This isn't *quite* what you asked for, but it's close: How to Tell if You're American, in which people from different countries answer the same questions about their daily lives.

Super Deluxe Bonus Question: Connecticut. Contrary to what I am told by others, much of this tiny state is mansion, country club, horse, and robot free.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, it looks like this is winding down. I welcome more answers from anyone who cares to contribute.

Thanks everyone for some great insight and a few good links. I marked gnomeloaf as best answer, because the How to Tell if You're American link dang close to what I was looking for. If you haven't checked it out, do so. I think it would make a great FPP if it hasn't been done already.

Since it seems there is a lack of any kind of aggregating blog for this kind of information, that might be a project I can undertake if I get enough ambition.

Once again, thanks tons, everyone!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:58 AM on May 3, 2008

My least favorite stereotype:

I'm from the South (of the US) and people from other parts of the US are sometimes surprised that I can read and that I still have all my own teeth. We are not all uneducated down there.
posted by mosessis at 11:12 PM on May 3, 2008

Super Deluxe Bonus Question: Connecticut. Contrary to what I am told by others, much of this tiny state is mansion, country club, horse, and robot free.

AMEN. I grew up in Willimantic, and everyone assumes some kind of rich kid background for me (my real life name is very WASPY, which also enforces the misperception). But we were probably lower-middle-class, and the only kind of "club" my Dad belonged to was the local Fish & Game club, and only because we then could use the grounds for picnics.

And as for my adopted hometown: Contrary to what the ad for "Brooklyn Style Pizza" from Domino's would have you believe, we do not all say "Fuggeduboudit" all the time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2008

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