Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

On (not) smiling in France

I came across this in an article I was reading, written by a Canadian scholar, and wondered if it resonated with any of you. Are you beginning to see aspects of your own behaviour – your ‘Australianness’ – more clearly , do you think?

“One common experience of international travellers is the sense of ‘foreignness’, of being different, and that difference being obvious to others. Yet, it is not obvious what it is about oneself that is recognised a being different. It is easier to see what is different about others, but this is compared to an innate belief about right, wrong, appropriate, inappropriate, in order to register that difference. For example, while travelling in France, I noticed that people didn’t smile very much. At first I registered this behaviour as rude. I had compared the common behaviour I saw around me to my innate norm of smiling whenever eye contact is made. When I talked to people in France about my own cultural heritage, telling them I was Canadian, they would often talk about how friendly Canadians were and that many Canadians they had interacted with always smiled. It was then that I started considering perhaps my behaviour did not represent the global norm, but rather an extreme end of the scale and that in fact, the French norm might represent something closer to the global average. I do not know the answer, not having found a study of global smiling behaviour; however, I did register my comprehension that I had been assessing French behaviour without really understanding my own within a context of global behaviours.”

From Berdrow, Iris (2009) ‘Designing effective global competence development opportunities’, Int. Journal Management in Education, vol 3, nos 3/4, pp 335-345; p. 339

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