April 25, 2007

Cultural differences in self-introductions



In a comment to my previous post, Cleve reported:
One technique I try to do with the "state the class objective" slice is to borrow a page from the marketing book and frame the objective in a way that Ss feel is important - (simplistic) example with my adult BE Ss: instead of saying "today we'll be working on the conditionals" I'll say "After today's session you'll be able to discuss future scenarios for your marketing plans when you have a presentation..." which is more meaningful to them.
Because the situation in this week's class was introducing yourself, Cleve's comments reminded me of a big difference between Japanese and English-speakers when it comes to social introductions. Perhaps it's because Japan is more of a collectivist society, but one of the first things I had to learn when I came here was how to "do a self-introduction", which is always to a group, often a large one, like, the whole school.

Conversely, Japanese are generally poor at small-group social interactions. At a party where I invited both Japanese and non-Japanese, most non-Japanese stood around chatting and eating and drinking in small groups: the Japanese teachers from my school came right in, sat down at the only low table and ensconced themselves there for the duration of the evening, calling loudly for beer and food at irregular intervals. At another similar party, a Japanese guest came in, took his plate and cup, then stood around embarrassed, completely incapable of insinuating himself into a group. He gave up after 10 seconds, handed me his plate, said "Some other time" and left.

A "party" for Japanese is a chance to bond (and bitch) with your co-workers, not an opportunity to mingle and meet new people.

Here: introduce yourself to this lot.

No comments: