Cultural differences can have humorous consequences. Others may be surprising. Still others depict differences that are endearing, as does the video on same-sex marriage
I encountered one cultural difference I never forgot was while traveling by train somewhere in east Africa. As I sat down to breakfast in the dining car, the morning was hot enough to make my blouse stick to my back. Opposite me sat a young Chinese soldier. He spoke no English and I knew no Chinese but a silent story unfolded between us when my companion withdrew a pair of chop sticks from his jacket, ignoring the cutlery arranged beside his bowel. I recount the story in my memoir so I won’t retell it here, but the sad-sweet memory of what transpired never left me.
Sometimes, exposing a cultural difference can backfire. Take the antics of two Italians, Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, for example. Their eponymous company is famous for its high couture, but they misstepped when they took a poke at the red dragon of China. (“When the Hand That feeds You Bites Back,” by Robert Williams et al, Bloomberg Business, March 11, 2019, pg. 15.) This is not the first time the pair has committed a cultural faux pas but it may be their last, especially as a recent email has emerged where Gabbana mocks China. Gabbana insists the email is fake, however (Ibid pg. 15.)
In any case, the pair floated an ad to promote an upcoming show in that country. No doubt, they meant the clip to be one of light humor: a pretty Chinese girl fails in her attempt to eat pizza with chopsticks. The Chinese were not amused, however. They thought the ad made the girl look stupid. In response, they organized a boycott which was successful. Even “influence clients” decided to shy away, afraid to damage their own following. In the end, the company had to cancel the show and lost millions of dollars as a result. As one fashion commentator remarked, D&G now stands for “Dead and Gone.” (Ibid pg. 15.)
Well, maybe not. Youth and money and fashion are fickle. But the company’s misstep has forced it to make changes at the top. Perhaps the brand can be saved. Many hope so. As for me, I’m indifferent. I never hoped to wiggle into those tiny leather pants.