Monday, 11 May 2009

Understanding cultural differences

Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras) was in the SMH Spectrum supplement over the weekend (No link). The article said:

The Office has been shown in 70 countries worldwide and has been remade eight times, the latest being the Israeli version. India is also planning a version and Gervais and Merchant think they might be hands-on with that one, executive producing it as they did for the US version.


I reckon it would be a good idea for Christians to stop banging on about cultural differences between people groups and nations. We make far too much of them on the basis of almost no biblical warrant at all.

When you can translate The Office into Indian and still expect it to work famously with the same idea and the same producer; not to mention showing the original in 70 different countries, you have a clear demonstration of how unnecessary it is to translate cultural concepts.

Just quietly, I would venture to say that this is why Mark Driscoll can turn up in Sydney, spend a few weeks here, hit us with 18 points on what we are like, and have so many of us falling about going 'ooh, prophetic!'

I distinctly remember at the time finding an English blog that linked to notes of the same talk and saying something like "That's amazing! We're like that too!"

Well, yes. And the humour of The Office works in 70 different countries. And you can pick up Shakespeare or Don Quixote and it can still make sense, centuries later. Says this Australian half-Chinese half-Swede.

2 comments:

John Smuts said...

I agree with the overall point Gordon but the issue is slightly more complex than you make out.

I've only watched bits of episodes of the US Office because it is culturally so different from the UK version. (It's just not funny to a Brit.)

It 'works' because we have offices in India, UK, USA and even Australia. I think we have people in all those places as well. However, the scripts were written for the different cultures.

Indeed, I'm sad to say that the original UK version was much more crude and had a lot more swearing.

Very differently to Islam, Christianity has spread globally because, while the gospel remains the same, it 'translates' into every culture.

(BTW - it should hardly be surprising that UK listeners resembled Driscoll's remarks ... there is a bit of history there shall we say.)

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

"Just quietly, I would venture to say that this is why Mark Driscoll can turn up in Sydney, spend a few weeks here, hit us with 18 points on what we are like, and have so many of us falling about going 'ooh, prophetic!'"

hahaha! That's a very good caricature. I had a decent chuckle when I read that. Thanks! And yes, I agree. Cultural differences do tend to be played up too much.