Taxi conversations (caution: low external validity)

I will try not to generalize too much — a la Thomas Friedman — from conversations with taxi drivers to entire cultures or the state of nations, but I thought these three were worth sharing:

  • In Zambia in October, I was asked “In America, who pays the the other family for a wedding, the man’s family or the woman’s family?” He was aghast that the answer was “neither,” although on further discussion of American wedding rituals I conceded that the bride’s family does pay more of the costs. This then led to many interesting conversations throughout my work in Zambia.
  • In Kenya this week, I listed to a 20-minute explication on US foreign policy on the International Criminal Court. This lopsided knowledge, where non-Americans almost always seem to know more about US policy than Americans know of other countries’ policies, is always a bit surprising, but also an indication that US decisions are felt around the world.
  • In Tanzania last week, I was asked where I’m from. I respond “the US,” and often get “which state?” but “Arkansas” yields blank stares. So, I typically say “Arkansas… it’s next to Texas” or “Arkansas… it’s where Bill Clinton was governor before he became president.” This time I went with the latter explanation. The driver paused, and said “Bill Clinton… Yes, I think I know that name. He is Hillary Clinton’s husband, yes?” ┬áProgress, there.
February

14

2014

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  1. Rob #
    1

    Brett, I’m also surprised by your answer to the first question. Certainly in England, it’s traditional for the bride’s father to pay for the wedding.