If you wish to dispute what has been written, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The cultural comparison pages have been scrutinised by a diversity of people around the world. For example, in 2010, the page comparing Australia to America received 28,604 unique page views. This gave 28,604 people the opportunity to dispute what was written (give or take a few bots).
The majority of these people did not give feedback. A minority engaged in a dialogue, which led to aspects being changed. Another minority complained that the comparisons were "opinions" not facts. They didn't state which "opinions" were not facts.
To say the cultural comparisons are opinions is a fair comment, but perhaps not a fair criticism. All forms of analysis are opinions. Irrespective of whether an analysis is made by a professor of sociology or Joe the Cameraman the conclusions are still only opinions.
"Facts" usually come in the form of statistics that are sold as being above criticism. In truth, statistics are often more misleading and less credible than opinions. For example, an American survey in 2010 found that 34 per cent of Americans strongly favoured “homosexuals” serving in the military, but 51 per cent strongly favoured "gay men and lesbians" in the military. Rather than reveal what Americans thought, perhaps the most valuable aspect of the surveys was that they showed language can affect responses.
Cultures are about 95% the same but use the 5% of difference to define their identity. Some individuals in each culture don't care about a cultural identity and wish to be treated as individuals. Other individuals in the culture believe in the cultural identity and want it respected in their discourses with other cultures. So important is culture to them that they will give up their individual personality traits to adopt the social stereotype.
Being effective in cross-cultural situations requires knowing when to consider the characteristics of the culture, and knowing when to consider the characteristics of the individual. This is not something that can be learnt in a rote fashion. It is a skill that is developed by thinking, analysing and going beyond "facts".
The comparisons made in this site reference the kind of issues that an Australia may consider when encountering someone from the compared country. When travelling, “where are you from?” is usually one of the first questions asked. The answer given will result in the individual being defined by the character of their country before being defined by the character of their personality. At first meeting, the host just knows more about the culture than the stranger's unique personality.
Some people might be bothered by being stereotyped on first meeting. Sometimes the stereotypes are positive and sometimes they are not, but really, there is no reason to be too offended. At a basic level, it can be polite if someone shows an awareness of the world and the diversity in it.
The cultural comparisons in this site are argumentative. They can be disputed and a thousand different dimensions could have been used for each nation comparison. Furthermore, culture is not stagnant and it means different things to different people at different times. Despite the potential for conflict by making cultural comparisons, they are important comparisons to make because they encourage a greater cultural awareness when dealing with people from other cultures. Even if the reader disagrees with what is written, as long as it provokes the reader to think about the topic, then there is value in what has been written.
Hey Hey it's Saturday and the Jackson Jive
Why comparisons are important
An episode of Hey Hey its Saturday (see above) showed some of the problems with an eglitarian ethic in which everyone is treated the same, irrespective of their cultural backgrounds. By showing a 'Black Face' performance, the show failed to consider the cultural background of the American judge, and brought a great deal of criticism upon itself and Australia as a result.
Because the show was filmed in Australia for an Australian audience, a case could be made that the producers were under no obligation to consider the views of a minority of viewers or the American judge on the show. Equally; however, a case could be made that the network suffered commercial damage by not being more culturally aware. In which case, a bit of consideration would have been in its self-interests.
Quite often, considering the cultural background of an individual will be unnecessary because the individual does not have a strong cultural identity and therefore doesn't want any acknowledgement of their background. For example, some Australians are very individualistic and being Australian is irrelevant to them. When dealing with such Australians, it would not be necessary to show any understanding of Australian movies, poetry, painting or perceived national characteristics. However, for other Australians, being Australian is important and the perceived attributes of Australia need to be acknowledged when dealing with them. Not only do the perceived attributes influence their behaviour, they also influence how they want to be treated. Same goes when dealing with Aborigines, Koreans, Italians, Christians or Muslims. It matters for some individuals but not for others.
Of course, there is also a danger of considering culture and applying it to an individual in an inappropriate circumstance. For example, in Australia, there have been cultural awarness classes that have advocated Indigenous learning styles. This gets into quite dangerous territory because it links behaviour with genetics, which can lead to teachers applying a behavioural stereotype onto an individual that it should not apply to. This seemed to have occured in 2010 which a silly curriculum writer proposed using rocks and leaves to teach Indigenous perspectives in a maths lesson. Even worse, a principle instructed a teacher to issue rocks and leaves to an Indigenous student as part of the program. (Other students in the class were given calculators.) The principle did not consider whether the Indigenous student preferred leaves and stones over calculators. Even if the student did, there is merit in learning how to use a calculator. In any cultural group, you have a range of individual personalities and learning styles. No one should ever link behaviour to racial genetics.
Ironically, because the site has been objective when making the comparisons, it is highly unlikely that there will be agreement on the comparisons. One of the near universal traits of humanity is that people want comparative assessments to be made in ways that are favourable to themselves. For example, the Australia versus America page has been criticised by Americans as being biased to Australians and by Australians as being biased to Americans. In other words, both Americans and Australians say it is biased towards the other. (The New Zealand versus Australia page was biased against New Zealand. For an Australian author, old habits die hard.)
Because the majority of readers come from Australia, there would be advantages for the site if it were more biased towards Australia. Specifically, the bias would make the pages more popular, which would also result in more links and more traffic.
Despite recognising these advantages of patriotism, the site is patriotic enough to appreciate that there are benefits in having the humility to learn from other cultures. Although some Australians may not want to admit it, in many fields, Australia performs poorly and could learn from others.
German man talks image problems of Australia, but strengths of Australians. Q&A gives different perspectives.