Contrasting contrasts

For this blog assignment, we were instructed to contrast Bosnian and American cultures. Differences between work, food, education, politics, relationships, etc. Of course there are many differences present, but for this blog entry I want to write about the concept of contrasts itself.

Most Americans seem to place a priority on finding differences. It is one of the first things to come up. Something to talk about, to describe to others. Something to analyze and dissect. We have X, they have Y. We both have Q but theirs is like A and ours is like B. Yet I do not come across this process as much from non-Americans, either in the US or abroad. The same has occurred here in Bosnia.

Most of the locals I have interacted with rarely point out differences or focus on them. Instead these individuals seem to simply describe the culture. Communication is like X here, or there. A pedagogue does Z here. Bread is like Q there. Etc. Also similarities seem to be pointed out more often than not, especially from co-workers when talking about Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. Whatever culture is discussed, I rarely hear a focus on contrasts from non-Americans. The topic at hand is simply discussed. Yet it is common for me or other Americans to go through this comparison process, pointing out dissimilarities more often than not.

Perhaps I am overstating or over-generalizing. So a question or two: do you find this idea valid? Do Americans and non-Americans look at differences, well differently? If Americans do have a tendency to compare cultures more often or focus on differences, is this a form of Americentrism?

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One thought on “Contrasting contrasts

  1. Always the social worker! In my experience non-Americans are interested in differences and similarities as a way to learn about others and their cultures ( admit I have limited experience). I think that as long as we respect people for who they are, then recognizing differences and discussing them is the best way to learn about others. I think we sometimes take our effort to see everyone the same too far. Differences are good, we wouldn’t want all world cultures to be the same, and I don’t think that the human mind could learn about a different culture without thinking about how it differs from their own.

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