Culture and Misunderstanding
The sad consequences of the recent hoax call to King Edward’s Hospital in London have featured on world media and inevitably led to widespread discussion. Something that has struck me in the course of my conversations is the extent to which cultural background appears to affect opinions.
As someone raised in a society that finds pranks amusing, I see the actions of the Australian DJs as perhaps misjudged, but certainly not malign. Indeed, if anyone is to be blamed, it is surely the executive managers of the radio station who appear to have approved such behavior. But this type of hoax is by no means unusual in countries such as the UK, US and Australia and had it not been for the subsequent death of the nurse who took the initial call, the event would already have been forgotten.
In my conversations with friends from around the world, I have come to realize that the concept of such hoaxes is simply alien to their culture. They cannot understand why anyone would want to play a trick of this sort and see it as cruel, not funny. As a result, if they were themselves victim of such a call, they would feel a terrible burden of responsibility for having trusted the hoaxer.
As I think about this in the context of global communications and negotiations, it makes me realize just how little many of us understand about the way that the nuances of language and behavior may be perceived by those outside our culture. Indeed, it also leads me to wonder how often I may be misinterpreting the intent of others.