An Exercise in Cultural Sensitivity
Image from Bernd Helfert
by Darren Ryding (2008)

Three nearbaseline humans are standing at the front entrance of the Galtakapa Hotel on the planet Tylansia. Two are tall, dark-skinned, opulently dressed tourists from the Tiralfia polity; the male JALAKONA and the female KIONIVA. TEREVESA, a female graduate of the Avon College of Cultural Relativism, is shorter, with a slighter figure and paler skin.

KIONIVA: Are those three still refusing to transmit?

JALAKONA: Well, you know what they're like. They prefer the element of surprise.

KIONIVA (to JALAKONA): Did you take your pills?

JALAKONA (chuckling): What do you think? There's no way I'm using their toilets, even in their best hotels. I say we stick to the plan. Have a big feast at the spaceport, then hop on the liner. It's NoCoZo property, so that will make a nice contrast.

TEREVESA: You two could be a bit more culturally insensitive.


TEREVESA: Well, you treat their culture as a joke.

JALAKONA: Hey, I'm not telling them to change anything. I'm just saying that THEY can't change ME. The door swings both ways.

TEREVESA: See? That's exactly what I mean.

JALAKONA frowns.

TEREVESA: You're imposing your elitist rationalist indulgist democratic values on a culture that has none. The door only swings one way here, and that's what we have to respect. Besides, never forget that YOU are the foreigner. We have to think and act as they do. WE are the strange ones here.

As TEREVESA speaks, KIONIVA grins knowingly at JALAKONA.

JALAKONA: I'm fully aware of that.

He turns to see a Tylansian man in his twenties crying loudly as he staggers down the road wearing nothing but an oversized diaper, while an older man in a police uniform walks behind him beating him on the back with a batton and shouting insults and curses.

JALAKONA and KIONIVA stare at each other and grin uneasily.

KIONIVA: Yes, we sure are strange here.

A middle-aged Tylansian MAN with a bushy red moustache walks up to JALAKONA pointing at him with a trembling finger.

MAN: You bad man!


MAN: You bad! You no Tylansia! You alien! You bang bang! You bad!

The couple laugh louder, while TEREVESA stands there scowling.

MAN: You dress bad! No Tylansia!

TEREVESA: He has a point there.

JALAKONA: I'll take it as a complement.

MAN: You ugly woman!

JALAKONA (Raising an eyebrow): What!?

MAN: You woman ugly!

KIONIVA: I think he's talking about me. Thank's for the complement, brushnozzle.

TEREVESA: Kioniva!

KIONIVA: Well the bugbrain insulted me, didn't he?

TEREVESA: Yes, but he's supposed to. He's a man. Men are supposed to keep women in line here. That's their culture. And besides, he wouldn't talk to you directly. Its a serious trangression for a man to talk to any woman to whom he isn't related or planning to marry.

KIONIVA: That's a relief.

MAN (showing no signs of understanding the other three): She too tall!

TEREVESA (to KIONIVA): He's taking offense to your height. On Tylansia, women aren't allowed to be this tall. That's why they have leg and spine operations. Maybe you should slump a bit so you don't look so intimidating.

KIONIVA: You mean like this?

Bends her knees and slumps her shoulders, staggering with a comically dumb look on her face.

JALAKONA keels over and erupts into tears of laughter.

TEREVESA: It's not funny!

The MAN pinches JALAKONA's nose to regain his attention, which only makes him laugh again even as he straightens up to look at him.

MAN: She big fat bum!

JALAKONA and KIONIVA burst into laughter all over again.

MAN (holding out his hands and wiggling them): She fat! She wobble wobble wobble!

TEREVESA: What did I tell you? I told you to wear that sack dress to hide your figure!

The couple continue laughing.

Suddenly, a huge, golden, furry paw lands gently on the MAN's shoulder. The MAN turns and looks up ... and his face turns stark white with terror.

Facing him is SARAFINA, a two-metre tall lioness splice from Narslia.

SARAFINA (Purring softly): Hello little man.

MAZKILLIKI, a female Toh Chi (human-sized dinosaur provolve) - as tall as SARAFINA - appears on the MAN's other side, gently resting her claw on his other shoulder. KAROKOLON, a towering, muscular wolf splice clad in leather, steps in front of the MAN.

KAROKOLON: Is this yokel causing you trouble?

JALAKONA (Still laughing): Oh no ... he's just entertaining us free of charge.

SARAFINA purrs and licks the MAN's neck. MAZKILLIKI sensuously brushes her tail behind the MAN's leg.

The MAN stares goggle-eyed up at KAROKOLON, utterly white. Faint keening, whimpering noises rise from his throat. Urine begins to trickle down his leg.

KAROKOLON: You yum yum! You dinner! (Rubs his belly) Mmmmmmmmm! Yummy human!

The MAN gives a high-pitched scream and turns to run, trips over MAZKILLIKI's tail, lands on his hands, picks himself up and charges away at a lightning pace, still screaming, leaving a trail of urine in his wake.

Of the six TOURISTS, all but TEREVESA are laughing uproarously. TEREVESA looks like she is on the verge of tears.

TEREVESA: You bastards! You culturally insensitive hedonistic imperialist bastards! If a tourist gets murdered here it will be all your fault! I'm never going on holiday with you lot again!

She runs after the MAN.

As the laughter dies down, the five TOURISTS stare in TEREVESA's general direction.

JALAKONA: Shall we go on without her?

KIONIVA: Nah. Hopefully she'll come to her senses when he refuses to talk back to her. Unless he decides to marry her, of course.

SARAFINA: They'd make a good couple. And she'll look good in a sack dress.

All five laugh.

JALAKONA: If most of the locals were half as polite and educated as the hospitality staff, this place would get a lot more tourists.

KIONIVA: With the tourist industry, the government loosens up a bit with tradition. It's better for the economy. The gods only know how long this will last.

JALAKONA: Oh well, it's off to the spaceport. Shouting dinner again, Maz?

MAZKILLIKI: Must that always be my duty?

JALAKONA: Well, you're the wealthiest one here. And the Toh Chi believe in sharing their wealth, so long as its not military.

MAZKILLIKI: Very culturally sensitive.

All five TOURISTS laugh again as they walk down the road. Dozens of TYLANSIANS part fearfully in their wake.

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