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?
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