When considering studying abroad there is often a mention of cultural differences and the difficulties that they may bring, however, it is not until actually interacting that those differences fully become apparent. This past week as I was crafting content and meeting with my supervisor, I was reminded that many people in France are atheist and do not necessarily participate in religious holidays such as Easter, which I was initially crafting content for. On the other hand, my supervisor mentioned that many of her clients are in fact Christian. So, I found myself at a sort of crossroad between feeling the need to make mention of Easter but to do so in a careful matter so as not to disengage those viewers and clients whose religious/ spiritual beliefs do not celebrate the day.
The middle ground I found is focusing on the overall tradition of getting together with family and/ or friends and having a meal, which is typically done by religious and non-religious individuals alike. I proceeded with this idea until France’s President announced another lockdown. With the new COVID restrictions, I realized, many people are likely not feeling very festive. After discussing with my supervisor, we decided to not actually post anything related to Easter and instead focus on future weeks; it did not feel like the appropriate time to discuss a holiday that cannot really be celebrated this year.
I mention this story to highlight the importance of reading the room when developing content or even just being abroad. If you are not already familiar with the culture you are/will be surround by, then you should learn more and ask questions when appropriate. Otherwise, actions—even if well-meaning—can come across as tone deaf. For those content creators out there, I would highly suggest having a good idea as to who your clientele is and ask whether they are representative of where the business is based. In my case, this is a little tricky as the business is based in France but works with foreigners, so I have to take both populations into account.
As we continue to navigate a COVID-affected world, it is also important to keep in mind that not every country is at the same level. For example, my state has opened vaccinations to anyone above 16 years old whereas in France (as my professor mentioned) the vaccine is barely being rolled out to the public. This means that beyond cultural differences, there are health differences to keep in mind as some people may find themselves still quarantining/ isolating whereas life is almost back to “normal” for others. If you are trying to craft culturally aware content you should be mindful of all these factors when deciding what topics to discuss and how to approach them. And even if you are not a content creator, you can always benefit from mindfulness.