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Assignment 7

Critical reading task - Intercultural knowledge


As the world is becoming more and more connected, there is an ever growing
demand for one to be culturally aware. As a result, many authors have begun
tackling the subject by means of comparing cultures and outlining the most
common dos and donts. Although many of these books are strikingly accurate
often filled with truths about ones culture that wasnt known beforehand, they
are also littered with misconceptions. One such book is When Cultures Collide by
Richard D. Lewis, which I will be analysing in this report. This report will
particularly target the chapter over the Australian culture, as I am a native
Australian.
Generally speaking, the author was surprisingly spot-on in his dissection of
Australian social customs. If I hadnt done any research, I would have just
assumed Lewis was a native Australian himself. The author is aware of many
small nuances that are often difficult to pick up on with the highly blended
Australian culture. This is coupled with his knowledge of slang words such as
Scabbing and Dobbing. One topic that is very true and is a common ideology for
Australians is of Fair Go, which Lewis describes as central to the Australian
outlook, based on common sense, equality and a healthy disregard for authority
and ideology. This is why Australians always sympathize with the battler and
underdog. In 2006 a study was done to determine the values of the Australian
population and Fair Go was ranked most important by 91% of participants. In my
opinion, along with mateship, it is the back bone of our egalitarian nature.
(Gough, 2006)
Although the author is very aware of the Australian culture, I do believe he
occasionally exaggerates or stereotypes on certain topics. This can be seen in his
description of what conversation topics are considered taboo. Here Lewis states
that they love criticizing themselves, but take very poorly to being criticized.
The first part of the statement is generally considered to be true, though the
latter is a generalisation, with most Australians known for being able to have a
laugh and to not take offense easily. This of course is highly dependent on how
sincere the criticiser is aiming to be. Australian comedian Steve Hughes sums it
up bluntly in his stand up skit offended by saying, Now you have adults going I
was offended, I was offended and I have rights! Well so what, be offended,
nothing happened. Youre an adult, grow up, and deal with it. Lewis does
however acknowledge this through his defensive statement of There is no
manual for correct behaviour in Australia, as the country lacks a clearly defined
social and conversational map. Which I believe to be entirely true and that one
cannot generalise. (Hughes, 2012)
Furthermore, I believe that Lewis leaves out a major aspect of modern day
Australian culture, which is multiculturalism. Multiculturalism builds on the
egalitarian views of Australians, to say that every culture is equal. As Australia is
a nation founded by settlers, the only real Australians, technically speaking, are
the native Aboriginal people. This results in a large pot of cultures all in
intertwining with one another. To put things in perspective as of the 2011
census, there were 1,503,620 people living in Sydney that were born overseas,
accounting for 42.5% of the population of the City of Sydney. Of course this is

Sebastian Kotyla

Assignment 7
normally only found in the large cities. This means that ones perception of an
average Australian might differ slightly from that of Crocodile Dundee.
(Wikipedia, 2016)
In conclusion, I believe the Lewis tips for dealing with Australians to be fairly
accurate. He does not display too much bias in his opinion and what he mentions
in the short chapter are crucial and relevant elements. Like all books however,
they do not entirely give you the full insight into how to portray oneself. Practical
experience is the best method of getting to know a culture. Which is something
Lewis sums it well in the final chapter of the book, When Cultures Collide, named
Achieving Empathy.

Sebastian Kotyla