04 October, 2013

Humour Differences Aren't Often Funny

I was out all day the other day, mingling with a bunch of Christian women, many Americans, some Japanese, and some from other nations like Finland, Scotland, Canada, Germany etc.

Humour is often challenging in an international environment like this. It isn't just that not
everyone speaks English as their first language, but that our senses of humour are culturally defined.

For example, several years ago I made a casual comment to an American teacher who was leaving Japan and would therefore miss teaching my child the next year, that she "was lucky to miss him". She was highly offended and proceeded to tell me so: that she was indeed competent to handle challenging children and that she was shocked that I should be of such a low opinion of my son. I suspect an Australian would have just laughed. Her reaction was a big surprise to me!

I do find I'm drawn to some non-Aussies more than others because their humour matches mine better than others. I guess that's personality too, but someone suggested today that American-New England humour is closer to the British-type humour that we Australians enjoy. And that the ribbing they give each other is sometimes misunderstood by other Americans. Interesting.

In any case, I did a little internet research about Australia, British, and American humour (not indepth, mind you, I'm no expert!)

I found this link by the Australian Government, intended, presumably to inform/warn visitors about Australians.

In general, Australian humour is closer to British humour than American humour. If you're interested in the different between British and American humour, here are a couple of Youtube videos.

In the first video (4:19 long), the main point the speaker makes is that British comedians tend to be failures and flawed (self-deprecating humour) and make that a big point, but American comedians tend to be heroes. Australians major on self-deprecating humour too.

(Warning: there is a little bad or crude language in both videos).

The next one is a bit long (7:14) and amateurish and is by a New Yorker (which, I now know because I just looked it up, is not a New England state, but is close to there). He does give some good examples of British humour and explanations of some of the differences and how British humour is perceived in the US.

One of the things we love about hanging out with other Australian and UK expats is the humour that we can indulge in.


Sarah said...

I occasionally find Aussie humour drifts too much into sarcasm/disprespect (nothing seems to be sacred), but I'm with you in that I found the American teacher's reaction surprising.

Wendy said...

Indeed, it goes over the top at times. When writing this post I looked for examples of Aussie humour and found some very bad taste stuff. I stopped looking very quickly!

When I was a uni student my church's young people's group had a culture of "paying out" on a each other. It got a bit out of control at times.