Let’s focus on similarities rather than differences 「違う」より「同じ」ところを意識しましょう

2014.06.11 (Wed)



Photo credit: United Nations Creative Commons

Occasionally I’ll get asked by some kids here, “Can you teach us a game from overseas?” But the games I played as a kid were things like tip-chasey (tag), rock-paper-scissors and hide-and-seek. Even the songs we sang, like London Bridge is Falling Down, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, If You’re Happy and You Know It… all these things are commonplace in Japan. The kids seem to think, “People in foreign countries are different”, but the truth is, the difference isn’t all that big.

It’s the same story with TV shows. Each Saturday I’d get up early to watch Mysterious Cities of Gold and Atom Boy, without any idea what country they’d come from. Even today, it’s not exaggerating to say that things like Pokemon, Dragonball and Ghibli movies have become a part of Australia’s culture. And in the same way that curry-rice and mabo-dofu have become everyday in Japan, sushi and ramen have become part of the food culture in Australia. If that’s not international exchange, I don’t know what is!

On that note, kids often ask me about ‘foreign countries’, but I can’t help thinking, what country do they mean by that? It’s natural to think about the world in terms of ‘my country’ and ‘foreign countries’, but by thinking about the world in those binary terms, you lose the rich diversity of those more than 200 countries that make up ‘foreign countries’.

So when I’m talking to the kids, I try not to use the words ‘foreign countries’, and instead use the name of a specific country or region. I don’t know about all those different countries, and I can’t pretend to represent them, so even if I’m asked about ‘foreign countries’, I can only answer about those places I know about.

Also, if we only ever talk about how things in ‘foreign countries’ are different to Japan, it only serves to make international understanding more difficult. Of course, you can’t talk about similarities without knowing about differences, and it’s interesting to identify the differences between cultures. However, if we only focus on the differences, it has the effect of emphasising the distance between two cultures.

It’s a small thing, but I believe that with small things like this we can gradually break down prejudices. Don’t you think that, whether you say we’re all humans, or all global people, if we can focus on the idea of our similarity, all those ‘foreign’ places become much closer to us? Could it be that by searching for how we are similar, we might also find a more peaceful world?



子供たちに「外国」についてよく聞かれますが、そもそも「外国」とはいったいどこでしょうか? 当然「祖国」と「非祖国」と言う考え方はありますが、世界200カ国の国々をみんな同じ「外国」として見なしてしまうと、各国の豊かな多様性まで見失いがちになります。





One comment

  1. Excellent blog. Fully support your ideas on this. Differences are only at the margins.

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