I was surprised today to see someone mention their reluctance to ask an immigrant friend about their home culture, as it might come off as insulting, or “culture-fishing”.
Asking someone about their home culture because you’re genuinely curious is “culture-fishing”? Giving people a chance to share something about the most significant place in their lives, rather than having to pretend that they’re exactly the same as everyone else where they’re living now, apart from having an accent? You can ask me about the Huon Valley all you like, and I’ll open up in a flood of repressed Proustian memories, thrilled that somebody else cares enough to ask. I won’t think you’re culture-fishing.
But perhaps this explains something about my immigrant experience of the past eighteen years, and my experience as an internal migrant in my home country in the decade before that. I could probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve been asked to share detailed observations about the culture of where I’m from, whether it’s Australia or Tasmania or the Huon Valley. Living in the UK I’ve just assumed it’s a British thing of people keeping themselves to themselves, or that people assume that nowhere in Australia has much culture worth hearing about.
Hooray for personal websites, where we can dump all of our memories and anyone who reads them won’t feel they’re fishing.
I can see how it would get annoying if you were a high-profile person online who constantly got bombarded with unsolicited questions that treated you as an expert on everything to do with your culture—that isn’t going to feel comfortable. But asking a real-life friend about their culture isn’t really like that. It’s not being part of some anonymous online pile-on, it’s making connections with someone you personally know.
Added by Rory on 1 March 2019.