Recently, in the course of doing research for a paper I’m working on with my husband, we came across the concept of cultural encapsulation:
Cultural encapsulation is the lack of understanding, or ignorance, of another’s cultural background and the influence this background has on one’s current view of the world. The purpose of this encapsulation, or “cocoon,” is to allow people to protect themselves from the rapid global changes occurring in technology, families, economy, education, and social health. Cultural encapsulation can lead to a counselor applying his or her own experiences to the client’s experiences despite the reality that both developed in different worlds, cultures, and values. To define one’s experience as the truth or reality may result in potentially harming the client, given the possible differences between the counselor and client.
The authors intended to write this information for counselors and psychologists in relationships with clients — but I feel that the idea of cultural encapsulation could easily apply to other relationships.
For example, could cultural encapsulation explain, in part, why some Western women don’t want to date Chinese men? I thought back to the post I did last year, citing four lame reasons why Western women won’t date Chinese men. In particular, the “effeminate” and “not attractive” reasons could be examples of cultural encapsulation. Different cultures may have different standards of what is masculine/feminine behavior and what’s considered attractive — so these women may be viewing Chinese men (and the differences from their men) through their own cultural lens, and judging that difference in a negative light.
What do you think? Do you believe cultural encapsulation gets in the way of cross-cultural relationships? Can you think of examples of it?
P.S.: For further reading on cultural encapsulation, see the original Wrenn paper that introduced the concept.