1. Ethnocentrism is generally defined as viewing one’s own culture as superior to all others. However, quite often, it is not quite that obvious. Whenever we encounter something that seems strange or different, we will feel some degree of discomfort. How we respond to that feeling is a gauge of how ethnocentric we are about it. Let’s suppose that you are entertaining a business client from France. You take him to a very fine restaurant where he looks over the menu very carefully, then asks the waiter if he or she, by chance, has cheval available. The waiter shakes his head and explains that it is not served in American restaurants. Your client becomes somewhat upset and tells you that a truly fine restaurant would serve “proper” cuisine, and that he was very disappointed with American hospitality so far. He eventually settles for the prime rib, but is ill-tempered for the rest of the evening. The next morning, he leaves for France without consummating the expected business deal. Your boss asks you what happened, and you explain that the client was upset because the restaurant didn’t serve something called cheval. Your boss’s eyes pop and he yells, “You mean he actually ordered horsemeat?“
How much ethnocentrism is at work? Discuss what and how a better understanding of cultural differences in food preferences by all parties could have prevented the unfortunate incident. What was your response to learning that the client wanted horsemeat? What was your response to his anger that he couldn’t get it?
2. Your company is in need of someone to fill a new position. The spot calls for some very specific skills, education, and experience, but you happen to have an old friend who exactly fits the bill. In addition, he has mentioned to you that he feels it is time to make a change and has been contemplating looking for a new job. You give him a call and he says that he is very interested, so you call the head of the department in question and tell him about your friend. The department head is very excited and tells you to have him call for an interview. You do and everything seems fine. Several weeks pass and your friend calls you and asks if you have any idea what happened with the job. He interviewed and everything went well, but he never heard back and just learned that the position had been filled with someone who has no experience and a much different background. You call the department head and relay the question. After some hemming and hawing, the department head makes some vague statement about your friend not being a “good fit.” He was afraid that your friend’s “accent” might make it difficult for him to be understood, and he was concerned about his work ethic since he came from a cultural background that has a more “laidback” work ethic. You hang up and think about it. Your friend is from Jamaica and does have an accent and very relaxed personality, but is certainly not lazy. Then you realize that he is also a minority and that this particular department not only has no minority employees, but never has had one. What do you do? Is the department head being ethnocentric or prejudiced? Do you tell your friend what you were told? Do you call someone higher up and express your concerns? Do you do nothing at all?