Thursday, December 9, 2010

Riding in Cars

I really value the conversations I have with people as they're giving me a ride home. The value is less in the ride and more in the conversation.

So on one of these trips home, a friend was talking about the main difference between middle class and lower class.

Every now and again, especially in my early days at Point England School, the kids would say something to me that would have me pausing and look at them a little confused as to the proper response.

The one I really remember is the word "sup". When someone says "sup" I think of phrases like "Tonight we sup on the marrow of our enemies!".

I looked at the kid for a second and then reply "Dude. I just really don't know how to respond to that."

He answered "You just say 'sup' back".

"So it's like Hi?"

"Yeah, that's it", he said excitedly having gotten the impression that I was understanding.

"So what's wrong with saying 'hi' then?" I asked in earnest.

So what does this conversation have to do with anything? This friend of mine was saying that the difference between lower class and middle class people is culture and/or the ability to adapt to other cultures.

You may remember in a past post I was saying about the Tamaki Transformation Project end of year bash where I was criticizing the use of terms like "Our P.I. Brothers". They hadn't adapted to the audience and this got my back up a little.

Just think about it for a second. Those who manage to escape from those lower classes normally do so by fitting into a culture which probably isn't so native to them (this is related to inequality in the workplace due to sexism which I'll get into in another post one of these days).

And there's a barrier there. For starters, they may be seen as "selling out" if they do this effectively enough. They may have grown up in areas where a difference in culture has never been challenged. Their home life is such where, being from a certain place (such as the Pacific islands), their families have never been challenged on this front. They may find that culture is so different from what they're comfortable with that they are unwilling or unable to adapt.

So, while being here at Point England, I'm doing my best to occasionally their views on behaviour and culture. For example, when one of the kids was trying to show me one of those horribly complicated 3 step hand shakes, I showed him a good firm hand shake. I'm taking my queue from a fairly narrow view of "What would be acceptable in a meeting of professionals?". Let's face it, these meetings are fairly culturally neutral. A firm handshake, a greeting or two which isn't reliant on inside knowledge (like knowing that 'sup' is meant to be short for "What's Up?" though the response doesn't quite make sense in view of this - you both ask each other what's up???). There's probably a fairly good reason for the neutrality - you can observe better what's going on if it's fairly naked.

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