Considering cultural differences in blogging

Filed as Guides on February 23, 2006 9:52 pm

by Duncan

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Warning: Darren Rowse style tangent ahead :-)
I was listening to 720ABC Perth in the car yesterday and they were interviewing a Canadian journalist who had married a Western Australian girl (they are mighty fine may I add, its how I ended up here myself) and had lived in Western Australia for two years. He’d just returned from a holiday back home to Canada for three weeks, and they were discussing things such as the Winter Olypmics and cultural differences.

There were a few things that stuck in my mind from the interview on cultural differences. The first one was minor. He was saying that everywhere they went in Canada everyone was into the Winter Olympics. They’d stop in a pub for some tucker one night (translated: a drinking establishment for some food :-) ) and everyone was glued to the TV watching Canada in the Curling. His wife had never seen curling before and was fascinated. Of course most Australian’s couldn’t care less about the Winter Olympics (its not even on until between 8:30 and 9:30 at night) and we know nothing about curling. It was described as Lawn Bowls on the Ice.

The more interesting point was this: he said on the radio how happy he was to be back in Western Australia because people in Canada couldn’t believe how upfront he’d become. He basically said that Australian’s are very open and honest people, and you always know where you stand with Australians. He said that Canadians are overly polite and that if you were to accidently stand on the foot of a Canadian, the person whose foot you’d stood on would apologise for having their foot in the way, even if it wasn’t their fault. Of course an Australian would say something along the lines of “whadda ya think ya doing, mate?” (and that’s the censored, language free version).

I’ve written previously about my generalisation that Americans have a serious problem using the word sorry. It is a generalisation because it doesn’t obviously apply to all American’s, just my general experiences. Compare and contrast however to the cultural norms in countries such as Japan and South Korea where business men and politicians who make mistakes or do the wrong thing not only say sorry publicly, they also beg for forgiveness.

You see, different countries = cultural differences.

Although we are one big happy, international blogosphere, it’s interesting to consider that when you are blogging cultural differences can actually change the way you are percieved by people in different countries.

Of course I know all about this because I’m often called out for being blunt. The saying in Australia would be that I would call a spade a bloody shovel. However in Australia, being upfront and open with how you feel is pretty much the norm. We also have a tendancy of using what other countries would consider to be derogatory or offensive language as terms of endearment. It’s not uncommon for example if somebody was to call me here that I would say words to the effect of “how ya going ya bastard”, and variations involving inserting words prior to bastard, such as evil, slimey, sneaky…to name but a few. And that’s the tame version, many people here would consider my language to be pretty tame. The use of the C word is common for example, such as “how you going you c***”. Yep, I’ve had people ask me this before (I don’t use that word myself, well hardly ever) but if somebody I knew asked me that question on the street I wouldn’t take offense to it, indeed I’d respond with something like “bloody good ya bastard”.

Now imagine saying such things in the US? You’d be shot within about 5 seconds, given all American’s have guns (joke about the guns, but that’s how most of the world percieves Americans :-) )

Now I’m not suggesting you use lots of language in your blogs, but even using what would be considered non offensive language can often be interpreted the wrong way by others due to cultural differences.

I’m not even going to pretend though to give you a clear answer as to how to avoid them, because each country is different, but if you are writing a blog post for an international audience it’s something to consider, particularly if you are writing commentary. After you’ve written a post, stand back from it for a second and consider how others may percieve what you’ve written. Can certain things you’ve written cause offense to others, will it be understood by English speakers in other countries? will it even translate well into other languages?

The inverse should also be considered. When reading blogs from people in different countries to yourself, if you take offense at something, think for a second whether this is truly offensive or just a misunderstanding based on cultural differences.

At the end of the day though, always try to be yourself. Restricting/ limiting your writing by trying to become to sensitve to cultural differences may actually result in you losing traffic, because sometimes its those very cultural differences, and even backgrounds as well (even within a country there are many different types of people) that could also be your key to standing out in the blogosphere, may assist you in developing an audience and maybe even becoming an A-List blogger.

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  1. By John Evans (SYNTAGMA) posted on February 24, 2006 at 8:16 am
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    Tangent to the tangent: Britain has been voted the world’s favourite country in a poll covering 35 countries worldwide. Britain came top, or near top, in many of the categories too, including politeness.

    Switzerland was second, and Canada third. France was the rudest country. America was deemed the most arrogant. So we Brits get a lot of these cultural differences right, it seems. :-)

    There a report on this over at Syntagma.

  2. By Aaron Brazell posted on February 24, 2006 at 11:42 am
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    Dunc–

    Haha, great piece. I should say that you’ve given me an angle here that has helped me to break through a thought I’ve been tossing around for the past week. Teaser: The entry I’ve wanted to write is that there are three kinds of bloggers in the world: British, Australian and San Francisco Bay bloggers – and these types have nothing to do with actual location but everything to do with perception, interaction and attitude.

    I’ve been at a standstill on developing the concept but this entry has given me another angle to go form. Thanks! :D

  3. By John Evans (SYNTAGMA) posted on February 24, 2006 at 12:46 pm
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    That’s an interesting concept, Aaron. Let us know when the post is up.

  4. By Aaron Brazell posted on February 25, 2006 at 12:52 am
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    Haha. Will do, John. Maybe I’ll work on it this weekend.

  5. By Aaron Brazell posted on February 27, 2006 at 12:22 am
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