The Cultural Follies by Sydney and Reed

Written by Sydney and Reed


Background: An American, named Stephan, has recently moved to Germany to realize his life long dream of making lederhosen. While he loves the “lederhosen” look, he is more or less clueless about actual German culture. One night he goes to out to drink with his new work friends, and while discussing the success of their newest lederhosen design, Stephan’s German friend Fredrick asks him what he plans to do with the bonus they will be receiving. (Keep in mind Stephan is still working on his German and Fredrick on his English)

Fredrick: So Stephan, what do you think you will do with the bonus.

Stephan: Well, I have been eying a new Volkswagen for some time now.

Fredrick: What? Why would you not put the bonus away in the bank?

Stephan: Since we did such a good job, I thought I would treat myself.

Fredrick: Here in Germany we try to put away as money as possible.

Stephan: That is funny, because in America we usually celebrate by gifting ourselves.

Fredrick: I still do not think that is the right decision, maybe you should reconsider your financial planning.

Analysis: In this dialogue, Fredrick and Stephan have a disagreement over how they should deal with their bonuses. This stems from a cultural miscommunication regarding the different financial practices of the two societies. In American society, there is more of a focus on the short term and spending extra money to reward oneself, while the more long term oriented German culture would lead to putting the money away in the bank. This difference in short versus long term orientation, lead to judgement by both sides.



Background: This is a historical example. While there was no real fighting between the Soviet Union and America during the Cold War, one American plane was shot down over Soviet territory. This is the story of the pilot of the plane.

Pilot Rick Ross: I surrender! I surrender!

Comrade Ivan: Put your hands up!

Ross obliges

Ivan: Why did you not protect your country’s secrets by ending your life?

Ross: Because in America we value our lives and our freedoms as individuals!

Ivan: Americans are so selfish, in the Soviet Union we would die for our countries interests.

Ross: Just because I am alive doesn’t mean you will get anything out of me!

Ivan: We will see about that.

Analysis: In this interaction, the American and Soviet soldiers have a quarrel about the difference in their culture. American individualism leads the soldier to value his life above the risk of exposing secrets, and this seems completely unusual to the Soviet who would kill himself in the scenario to protect national interest, due to his sense of collectivism. This disagreement of opinions between individualism and collectivism made for a cultural miscommunication between the two soldiers.



Background: A French Woman, Margaret, goes to visit her British friend Alyson from Bath. They greet and discuss plans.

Margaret: Good Afternoon Alyson, it’s so nice to see you!

Alyson: Margaret, the pleasure is all mine.

Margaret: I’m so glad I could come visit, what do you have planned for the weekend?

Alyson: Well I thought we would just see where things lead, maybe see a friend or go to the pub

Margaret: So you have nothing officially planned? That makes me very anxious!

Alyson: You make it sound so bad, when in Britain its the norm to just play it by ear.

Margaret: Strange, if you were to visit me, I would have planned out the entire weekend.

Analysis: Alyson and Margaret provide a perfect example a clash between high and low uncertainty avoidance cultures. While in Britain Alyson is perfectly alright with the uncertainty of the weekend, this makes Margaret uncomfortable, and she explains that in France they would have planned out the weekend, due to their propensity to avoid uncertainty.

About Reed Widdoes

Reed Widdoes is a first year student at Bucknell University. He is from Pittsburgh P.A. and spent his high school years at a small boarding school in south central P.A. called Mercerburg Academy. His intended majors are International Relations and Linguistics. He speaks English, as well as minimal Spanish and Italian, and even less French and German.
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One Response to The Cultural Follies by Sydney and Reed

  1. Katie Faull says:

    Interesting scenarios, but I think they might veer a little close to stereotype. Lederhosen????

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