Monday, March 28, 2011

Cultural Differences

Writing in English means a bigger audience. But does it means a writer needs to be aware of the cultural differences between himself and his readers?

Visiting the United States made me aware of how little do I know about Western Culture. It's in the little details. In the way someone addresses you as you block his way to an elevator, in the way a waitress asks you what you would like for dinner, and even in the way people behave on the road.

It turns out that my story will lose a great deal if I get one of these details wrong, especially if I set it in the states.

Reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods made me realize you can actually write in English without falling into one of the traps I mentioned before. Not that his book does so – on the contrary, this book is all about western culture. But his ability to weave fiction and fact made me realize I can use that technique to avoid those cultural pitfalls. But in order to do that, my book has to be fiction.

Writing fiction, I am not bound by any cultural standards. It's my world, and in my world, anything is possible. I have to be consistent, and give good reasons for things being different than what they ought to be, but I can do it. But then again – I need to be aware of those differences in order to work around them.

Taking mental notes during my stay in the U.S. surely is going to help. Reading Gaiman's works also is going to help. Any other tools for the job? Maybe I should consult my colleagues at

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