March 2, 2010

Distance Decay and Ethno-Cultural Differentiation

The farther away a group of people is from you geographically or culturally, the more they fuse into a blurred whole, sometimes even becoming a completely new category.

To illustrate: A Brit can tell different accents of English in his homeland. However, he often cannot tell different American accents. To him they all sound just "American". Same with Americans- they oftentimes cannot distinguish different accents of the UK- they all just sound British, but they can easily tell a New Yorker from a Bostonian.

To a non-traveling Westerner, all East Asians will look the same while he could probably distinguish a Scandinavian fron a Southern Italian or a Greek. In East Asia, people will easily distinguish a Korean from a Chinese or a Japanese, but to them, a Greek and a Scandinavian will look roughly the same. They will all be just "Westerners".

The same with the average Westerner's view of Africans, Arabs or South Asians- people from E. Africa and W. Africa, Jordan and Egypt and Indian, Sri Lanka and Pakistan will look roughly the same.

However, they themselves immediately know who is who but they cannot tell Westerners apart.

Interesting, isn't it?


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