Not everyone is a sociologist (July 2008)

Teddy Roosevelt in a pith helmet

Note: August is looking like a crazy and stressful month for me, with no time to blog here. To make sure no one gets bored and abandons me, I am going to re-run some of my favorite posts from the past.

You can’t just choose any random person to be your cultural guide. It makes me completely crazy when people say “My Luisitanian colleague says our poster and brochures are fine” and then assume their messages are acceptable in Luisitania. One person cannot vouch for everyone in the country.

Most countries are multicultural, including different ethnic and linguistic groups. Not to mention differences between rich and poor, and city and country. It’s not easy to know the tastes and opinions of an entire nation. There’s also a training issue. Your average engineer or doctor from the capital city isn’t in the habit of thinking about the attitudes and mores of everyone around him. An accountant is not an anthropologist.

Most of us can only speak for a limited number of people like ourselves; coming from a developing country doesn’t give you any magic ability to speak for everyone who holds the same passport.

ETA: One great example. The Indian Vogue fashion spread discussed here was designed and shot by Indians.

Photo credit: sakraft1
Chosen because to me, pith helmets reflect everything that is culturally clueless. For all I know, teddy Roosevelt was a very culturally sensitive man…