Cultural Perceptions–Response to “Heelotia” Simulation

I thought that today’s simulation made for an interesting comparison to what happens between cultures in real life. I was a Hokie, and when we visited Helotia, Lily and I felt excluded and weren’t able to interact with the Heelots. When the Heelot’s visited us, we felt disrespected and were forced to exile them, which caused conflict. If both groups had tried to be more understanding, then we would have been able to interact and trade tokens much more easily.

This idea can be applied to real life as well. Unless cultures try to learn about and understand other cultures of the world, interaction will become extremely difficult, causing conflict, especially in political matters, such as war. For example, if one country does not want to go to war with another country, but they send a close-minded delegate to the country, negotiations become nearly impossible. In addition, conflicted cultural relationships would certainly affect the economy, resulting in a lack of international trade.

Cultures need to learn and understand each other or else they will become cut off and lack variety. Cultures should understand that a visitor may not completely understand all their customs, and should make exceptions. However, the visitor should make a large effort in trying to immerse him/herself in the other culture. In conclusion, this simulation shows that in order for one to become a more diverse and inter-cultural global citizen, all parties need to make an effort towards trying to understand each other.

Culture Perceptions, Post-“Heelotia” Reflection

During today’s simulation, “Heelotia,” I got to experience what it’s like going into a foreign culture and being discriminated if you are different. This is a issue that not very many people think about. When someone from the Middle East comes to America and has his or her face and whole body covered, we automatically treat them as an outsider because we are used to girls dressing in different types of  clothing. While if I were to go into the Middle East wearing a t-shirt and some leggings, I would be completely discriminated against even though that’s an everyday outfit for an American girl. People all over the world are guilty of doing this. As humans we automatically judge you by your culture. This issue is usually overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. Maybe if we were to all see each other as one, we could work together to solve world-wide problems like global warming. In order to get past this problem of divisiveness, we need to learn more about and work on accepting different cultures for their rules and everyday habits.

Post-Heelotia Perceptions

Every culture comes with its set of customs, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. When simulating two different cultures in class today, I noticed how other cultures can get offended when they are not familiar with the other culture’s traditions and customs. I was a Heelot, and when visiting the Hokie’s they immediately tried to make eye contact with me and shake my hand. Eye contact and touching is forbidden in my culture so I had to look down and run quickly away while hissing. When the Hokies saw this, they became offended and perceived us as awkward, antisocial, and rude. This was not true; the behavior was just against our laws. Because they were not familiar with our customs, they perceived us differently because they lived in a different culture and region. People who live far away from each other develop different perceptions of how they view the world and people around them.

Heelotia

Today, during our simulation, I was a Heelot. I thought the simulation did a surprisingly amazing job of showing what it’s like for different cultures to interact. It showed how when you go over to, say, the Middle East, wearing short denim cut-off’s, and people give you weird looks, I now know why.

In our culture, we have freedom of speech, and the news companies basically say whatever they want; however, in other cultures, this is not necessarily the case. For example, China, a communist government, only allows news shows to say what they have prescribed.

Often, we tend to judge the other culture without thinking about it first. For example, in cultures in which they have different eating habits, we are quick to call them weird or we look disgusted, just as today, the Hoakies were freaked out when we hissed at them. This can be referred to as “Culture Shock.” We aren’t used to things being different, we feel awkward in their culture; we feel excluded; we feel as if they are doing something wrong, so we judge them. On another note, when we see someone in our culture doing something we traditionally do not do, we tend to try to make them feel inferior.

This all just shows why countries have trouble working together. Many times, when two countries work together, you find that they may have the same language, same habits, same religion, related governments, or a mixture of all of these. We need to take steps to prevent discord and conflict from happening because in order to become a world of global citizens, we must break down the barriers standing between us.

Post-Heelotia Perceptions

The Western perception of the Middle East and its people used to be characterized as hot and backwards. Its people were considered inhospitable and so devoted to their culture that they did not want or need to interact with the Western world. This view or perception dates back hundreds of years.

Beginning in the 1990s, a new perception developed about the region and its people. Major cities in the Middle East began to become more westernized and prosper. Particularly, cities in the United Arab Emirates, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, experienced a tremendous building boom, including an investment in their public infrastructure. It seemed that overnight the West was learning that huge buildings–some of the largest buildings in the world today–were being designed by world famous architects. Fabulous indoor shopping malls with high-end stores and indoor amusement parks were being built. The Middle East, as the West once “knew” it, was changing.

As the rest of the world learned about these changes, in a day of instantaneous communications, Western perceptions began to change dramatically. All of a sudden, these areas of the Middle East were seen as cosmopolitan and world-destination spots for investment and tourism. This brought even greater economic prosperity as transportation to and within the area became more sophisticated and easier. Additionally, Western investors and tourists found the culture to be warm and inviting. This was seen in popular culture through movies like “Sex and the City 2” and “Mission Impossible 3”.

The Middle East will always be the Middle East. Its geography will always be desert-like with violent sandstorms. Its climate will remain hot, dry, and sunny. The West’s perception of this area is the only thing that has changed. As a result, major economic benefits have occurred throughout the Middle East from Western tourism and investment. Sometimes, it is solely perception of an area or region that can make or break its economy.

Perceptions of Different Cultures

I found the activity that we did today — Heelotia, a cross-cultural simulation — to be quite interesting and educational. I helped me realize that being immersed in different cultures can create conflict and confusion, even if everyone is doing what they think to be right. For example, I was a Hokie, and when I “traveled” to Heelotia, there was lots of confusion. I wanted to speak to someone, but in my culture a handshake was necessary to begin a conversation. The Heelots were not allowed to touch me, so it created conflict.
The same situation may happen quite easily all over the world. If someone travels to a place that they have never been to before, the could easily break the rules of the society without even knowing it. In our ever-changing world, it is quite important for people to be able to learn about other cultures, so that may remain open minded and well educated. I feel that culture should be taught more in our foreign language classes, so that we can stay up-to-date on global cultures. If we do not know about any cultures but our own, we will become close-minded and disconnected from the rest of the world. If this happens, interaction with other countries and cultures will become quite difficult, which will affect our own culture economically, politically and it will even affect our own culture.

Perceptions

Today, in our world, there are very few things that do not have an international counterpart. Businesses, entertainers, and even families travel across the globe. We, as Americans, are exposed to the ways of other civilizations; we are cultured. From what I know on the topic though, America is looked down upon by other countries. We are perceived as loud, crass, lazy, and aggressive. Even though we have a “less-than” reputation, we still have managed to be successful economically, politically, and culturally.

According to Geoff Dyer, an Englishman, who wrote an article entitled, “Letter from London” for the New York Times, America is so successful internationally simply because the stereotype we’ve been assigned is false. Sure, there is some truth to it, i.e., naturally being loud, but Dyer describes America as hospitable and polite. “When I finally got to America myself, I found that not only were the natives friendly and hospitable, they were also incredibly polite. No one tells you this about Americans, but once you notice it, it becomes one of their defining characteristics, especially when they’re abroad,” he says. Think about it, if no other country had given America a chance, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

This example of America goes to show how perceptions can make or break a culture. Naturally, as humans, we judge everything, not bothering to dig deeper, we just form our opinions based on hearsay and first impressions. If it were not for our perceptions, some cultures would either be in much better places or be far worse than they are right now. Our perceptions determine how societies succeed in the game of life.

“Letter from London”:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/books/review/Dyer-t.html?_r=0