I have been trying to write this post for about three weeks and I just can’t seem to order my thoughts. I am still a little overwhelmed. Recently my husband and I visited our son and daughter in law in Los Angeles. We had an absolutely wonderful time. However whilst there we exhibited some rather strange behaviour.
Usually when visiting a foreign culture you are aware that everything will be different and unusual. The whole idea of travelling is to embrace the differences and to experience something new. This is part of the wonder and the joy of travelling.
I am not sure what happened to us on this trip but we started playing the comparison game. In Australia our coffee is better, our infrastructure is better, they don’t have pay pass, they don’t have kettles, we can’t get a decent beer and on and on it went. The roads were dirty, the homeless people were ‘more’ homeless, the fire engine sirens were louder and ‘more’ annoying, the beach was polluted etc… I was flummoxed. What in the world was happening?
As I began to research this phenomenon I realised that our ‘ethnocentrism’ was showing. Don’t look now but we had become those unbearable tourists who spent the whole time whingeing.
What is Ethnocentrism?
“Ethnocentrism is the strongly held belief that there is only one correct way of doing things, of thinking, of seeing the world. Ethnocentrism is judging another culture based upon the values and standards set in one’s own culture. It is a form of bias, where we tend to immediately judge another culture as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ based upon their actions, if their values are not aligned with our own beliefs” (Buzzle).
I came across an article in Buzzle and read a paragraph that accurately described us – as in me and my husband. It was like we were some Zoo Exhibit which read:
“Behold Lisa and Phil. An example of ethnocentric behaviour. Tourists who on a holiday judges the destination based upon his comparison with his native place. “Look how dirty this country is! They should just see MY country. No wonder this place is so underdeveloped and backward!” In this instance, the tourist developed a biased judgment of the destination based upon his opinion of his own country”.
Yep that was definitely us. We had partitioned the social world we were encountering into us and them.
Interestingly another example of ethnocentric people was about America.
“The popular belief among American ethnocentric people is that their country, culture, values, development, and everything else is superior to every other nation in the world, and that every other nation is inferior to the United States. The present-day politics are a good example of the same. Here, the country as a whole can be considered as one group, or the in-group” (Source).
I began to ponder a few things:
1: Had the recent tsunami of Trump and U.S. media news formed an unconscious bias in us? – Yes
2: How did we shift so fast into a ‘us and them’ stance? Something which goes against everything I believe.
Obviously we are all born into a culture and grow up ‘absorbing the values and behaviors of that culture which then develops into a worldview that considers our culture to be the ‘norm’ (source).
Australians have a preference to Australians
Greeks have a preference to Greeks
Muslims have a preference to Muslims
“the belief that all people are of equal worth and are entitled to equal respect”. Beth Lord
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross We’ll toil with hearts and hands; To make this Commonwealth of ours Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share; With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.
Yet we as a Nation struggle to acknowledge; our own first nations, the cultural diversity from where we have all come and acceptance for others of differing ethnicity who need our support and embrace.
Gay marriage can not be rolled backThe equality or races cannot be rolled backEquality of men and women cannot be rolled backMichael Grant Ignatieff
When we elevate economic man over citizenship we lose connection to place and to each other.Michael Grant Ignatieff
As Ignatieff notes: ‘the whole point of a liberal society is to create laws and institutions that make virtue ordinary. In a decent society, love should not require anyone to be a hero’ (195).
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