All About Context

A lot of things are just more funny out of context. One of the ways that Varun and I keep our heads is by recognizing that some thoughts and behaviours seem downright silly when transplanted to another place or people group. For example…

Last week I rounded up some old board games and brought them to a neighbor’s house for her middle-school aged kids to play. The family recently came to Canad as refugees from the Middle East and haven’t had tons of exposure to American culture. One of the games I brought was The Game of Life. I played it as a kid and didn’t give it much thought until I was explaining it. I cringed when I noticed that the family featured on the box was quite caucasian and the “Life” moments were confusingly western (“Furnish baby’s room: $5000”-this makes no sense to a refugee).

I struggled to explain the game…”So you go around the board and then the winner…Well, actually, the winner is the person who has the most, um, money”. I know, the point of most games is to get the most land or money or points. It just felt very strange to tell them to have family, choose a career, all with the end goal being money. There were several funny comments, including one about gathering money, even if it means selling your kids. The (liberal) Arts student in me wanted to make an apology for the capitalist agenda, but I laughed it off and dealt the cards. (A good time was had by all. And the winner had over $1.7 million, not bad actually…)

As much as the West can be misunderstood, so can the East. I saw this video last night of Kunal Nayyar (Raj, The Big Bang Theory) on Conan. The beginning and some parts of the video are a bit lewd, but from 3:45 -9:20  it’s hilarious.

Indian Weddings

My absolute favourite part of this video is Conan’s reaction to the eunuchs, or hijra. I love that he tries to accept this as a “different culture”, but can’t actually hide his shock. Like the board game, there is actually something deeper behind this (the treatment of eunuchs is actually quite complicated). However, the lack of context makes for some funny moments. Also, this reminds me that I didn’t write anything about the Indian wedding we went to last summer. *Spoiler alert* the shoe-stealing is real.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patrick J. Rafferty
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 21:56:52

    This hijra thing really bothers me…. they have surgery so they can become wedding dancers??? My EFL is showing, I know! Of course, Europeans had the surgery so they could sing like little boys or girls, more or less. Never has made sense to me.

    According to the dictionary, hijra means “flight” to a Muslim (I’m not making this up). I can see how that might have come about:
    – Punjabi: Hijra.
    – Muslim: Run!!!!


    • Amelia Rana
      Apr 06, 2012 @ 23:22:04

      Haha, love the dialogue.

      I’m not sure if they actually have surgery…I think it’s actually people who are born hermaphrodites…? More research required…


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