As Gill Johnson and I have written Culture in our Classrooms for the new Delta Teacher Development Series, it is sensible to think back over my life in terms of culture things.
Born 1940……my father locked up in 1940 by the British for being Italian until 1943 when Italy changed sides in the war. My mother was half German and half Liverpool.
My father would dunk his bread in his morning coffee. My mother forbade me to ever do so vulgar a thing.
My father flew off the handle rather easily…..my mother was expert at sulking in response to his very short bursts of anger. Southern expression of anger in face of Northern inability to cope with anger expressed.
I was brought up with a confused sense of relativity about cultural behaviours and beliefs.
At the age of 23 I went to live in Greece and realised how shallow my cultural relativism was. The phrase “pame parea” or “let’s go together” began to stifle me. I could not cope with intense Greek sociability and I began to realise what an extreme Western individualist I was and am.
At the age of 31 I went to live in Southern Chile. I thought I was in a country like Italy where anger bursts forth and is expressed. Not in Germanic + Mapuche Southern Chile. My fifth year University students went on strike to demand lower pass marks and I had not seen this one coming….I had had no inkling of it. I could not read the signs.
The cultures I have come into contact with since my 30’s have contributed to making me aware of the limits of my original Germano-Italian-English presuppositions, prejudices, beliefs and behaviours. To become half aware of how culturally tiny you are is already some way to becoming a culturally open human being.
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