Overheard at a recent holiday gathering:
Hostess: “It’s time for the Chinese gift exchange!”
Chinese Guest: “Why is it called a Chinese gift exchange?”
Whoops! We may not realize it, but some of the phrases we use are offensive and culturally insensitive implications. Perhaps you’ve heard of a “Chinese fire drill,” or joked that you’d like to make your coffee “Irish.” But have you ever stopped to think of the negative connotations behind these statements? The former implies that Chinese people are confused or stupid; the latter, that Irish people are drunkards. Neither are stereotypes that anyone would want associated with them.
While people have made great strides in the last 40 years to avoid offensive racial, religious, or gender slurs, these “harmless” turns of phrase still linger. And at a time when our environments are becoming more and more global-minded, that’s a big problem. As encounter people from diverse backgrounds, it’s important that we remain sensitive to our cultural differences and not fall back on dated, hurtful references.
It is also worth remembering that you never know a person’s background or situation. For instance, you may see my name, Peggy Parks, and think I’m as American as apple pie. But you’d be surprised to learn that I was raised in France and Venezuela.
Also, one doesn’t have to be of a particular background or religion to find offense with an off-color joke or comment; any person with a sense of good etiquette will be turned off. Instead of looking witty, you’ll be branded as clueless, unenlightened, or even bigoted. Not exactly the image you want to cultivate, huh?
Remember—always think before you speak! Good manners are never lost in translation!