Why is “cultural difference” a dirty phrase?
In the U.S. we don’t like the word “different” or “differences”, it somehow connotes “bad”, “strange” and evokes a feeling of bias or in extreme cases, discrimination. In either situation, it seems to signal exclusion in direct opposition to inclusion, what we strive for especially those of us in the field of cultural diversity. It seems as if the worst thing one could say to another in the U.S. cultural context is, “You are different from me.”
It is absolutely the opposite in Europe, at least that’s my experience. Europeans enjoy being different, talking about differences, and even celebrating them! It is a sign of independence, uniqueness, and preciousness to be different. It is simply more interesting to disagree and debate than to agree and harmonize. The French love to be different from the Belgians, the Spaniards from the Italians, and the Germans from the Dutch. Europe prides itself on all the individual and unique traits that the different countries hold. And it is amazing to experience (if you’re not from there) crossing a European border and entering a completely different world from the one you just left.