Cultural Anthropology

Construct a model of cross-cultural misunderstanding, using the information presented by Lee in this article. There are many cross-cultural misunderstandings including language barriers, the way people speak and interpret words, as well as actions performed. /ontah experienced these cross-cultural misunderstandings in the remotest corners of the Kalahari Desert, while living by the Bushman. Every year the people would slaughter an ox and feast and dance in celebration during Christmas time. /ontah decided to buy the biggest ox he could find; he was proud of it until the !Kung people started ridiculing his kill by saying that it was too thin to feed all of the people. They continued to say that Christmas would be a disaster, and that they would all go to bed hungry. This troubled /ontah because he was sure that he had a fat ox, but many men assured him it was only big boned. He searched for a replacement but could not find it. On the day of Christmas, they cut into the ox, and /ontah was saying how big and fat the ox is and how the people must be out of their minds. The !Kung started laughing and /ontah could not understand why. He soon found out that the whole time they had been tricking him in believing that his ox was worthless, when they were actually excited to eat it on Christmas.

3. Why do you think the !Kung ridicule and denigrate people who have been successful hunters or who have provided them with a Christmas ox? Why do Americans expect people to be grateful to receive gifts? The !Kung like to fool each other to make sure that their people don’t become arrogant. When one man “brings home the bacon,” then he starts to believe that he is the big man of the group and will boast of his superiority. Eventually, his pride could cause him to kill other people. Therefore, the people treated /ontah the same way they would treat any other Bushman, especially because /ontah provides tobacco to the people. The Bushman had good intentions by hiding the true meaning of their actions and words, even though it did not make sense to /ontah. It was part of their tradition, which is different from American tradition; in America, most people are taught to be grateful for any gift they receive and not to complain. For example, “you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit” is a common saying repeated to children at school. This story shows that the reasoning behind an action may have different meanings in separate cultures.

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