My honorable judges, ladies and gentlemen:
Once upon a time the entire world spoke a single language and used the same words. As men journeyed in the east, they came upon a plain in the land. “Come, let’s build a city and a tower of our own, with its top in the heavens, and make a name for ourselves.” The Lord came down to see the city and saw the tower that the mortal men were building and he was worried that these mortals would make it to heaven. To foil their ambitious project, the Lord confused their speech and dispersed them all over the world. This is the story of Babel tower, this is the reason for a babble of languages, and this is why now, we have different languages and cultures in the world.
What is culture? Professor Davis, writer of the book entitled Doing Culture, once illustrated this abstract word with 2 concrete images: Culture is like an iceberg. Only the tip of it is visible. History and literature are the objective cultures we always refer to, which is above the surface. But don’t forget our feelings and attitudes about how things are and how things they should be. These are the subjective ones that are the cultural iceberg below the surface. Culture is also like the water a fish swims in. We live in it and everyone is swimming in it so much so that we take it for granted and tend to ignore its existence.
30 years ago, the term of global village came into public minds. Now the planet Earth is shrinking, not in size, but in time and space. As the university students of the 21st century, we are provided with more chances to broaden our horizon and more opportunities to enhance our appreciation and understanding of different cultures. Awareness of our own culture is important because it helps preserve our cultural uniqueness. Learning other cultures from observation and interaction is even more essential if we wish to coexist on this planet peacefully.
In Russia, as a gentleman, be careful while you are eating bananas with a lady. Because if you peel a banana for her, that means you have a romantic interest in her. Don’t give four of things to a Japanese or Korean. It is the “bad luck” number, just like thirteen in the United States and England.
Now we are in Macao, a fantastic international city. If you want to give the local people something, two of something or a pair carries better luck than a single one. But don’t send me two clocks when you attend my birthday party: the word for clock in Chinese has a funeral connotation to it.
In China, many foreigners are interested in chopsticks. Even former President of the United States, Richard Nixon, used chopsticks at the welcoming banquet held in his honor as a friendly behavior between China and America. But few foreigners can understand the reason why chopsticks are named “kuai zi” in Chinese, which sounds like “get a son soon”. “Why not a daughter?” they may ask.
Kipling once said “West is west, east is east, and never the twain shall meet.” But now, a century later, with globalization in full swing and cultural exchange in full action, let’s tell Kipling: west is west, east is east, the twain shall meet.