An old Chinese proverb says...
Humor is difficult to export!

"You get sick by what you put in your mouth, but you can be hurt by what comes out of your mouth."


In his extremely interesting, humorous, and "right on target"
book, Do's and Taboos of Humor Around the World, Roger Axtell says...

"Every culture enjoys some form of humor.  But, humor has difficulty crossing cultural boundaries because what is humorous in one country is often not humorous in another."


Using Humor

Humor's cousin - the smile - may be the most universally understood form of non-verbal communication in the world.  However, even with the smile, one cannot assume that the meaning is the same all over the wo

For example, in some Asian cultures, a smile can mean that a person is uncomfortable or sad.  People have observed that Japanese might smile on sad occasions, such as a funeral, and find this confusing.  To the Japanese, it is perfectly acceptable. To a non-Japanese, this might be confusing and interpreted incorrectly. 

Some Basic Rules to Remember...

Each culture has its own style of humor

Humor is very difficult to export

Humor often involves wordplay and very colloquial expressions

Humor requires exceptional knowledge of a language

Understanding humor requires an in-depth understanding of culture

Avoid the following:  ethnic-type humor, stereotyping, sexist, off-color, cultural, or religious humor

Political humor can be effective in certain circumstances

Be aware of the types of humor appreciated by your various audiences

When in doubt, play it safe and avoid humor.

Americans, in particular, begin speeches with a joke.  Be cautions when taking this style to other cultures

Laughing at yourself often diffuses tense situations


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