Here’s an interesting question I came across on Reddit yesterday:
Does sarcasm exist in every culture?
Naturally, there were a host of replies. More than one person questioned if the Canadians “get” sarcasm (uh oh, expect to hear a few replies to that statement).
Another replier said they had a “friend” whose family lives in Puerto Rico and they don’t get sarcasm. And according to yet another person, sarcasm in Portugal is practically nonexistent.
Don’t forget about those Japanese:
I lived in Japan for some time, and socialized with many locals, and it does NOT seem to be a part of the culture there.
But, according to a LiveScience article, sarcasm is actually a part of our evolution. If you don’t get sarcasm, then apparently you must have some damage to your “parahippocampal gyrus”, a part of the right brain.
And the reason it is so important to understand sarcasm is due to its impact on our social intelligence, as that’s part of what makes us successful as a species. So if you don’t get that you are the butt of a joke, I guess that means Darwin would’ve sent you to the back of the classroom.
Seems like the consensus over at Reddit is that most cultures use sarcasm to “keep people in check”, to not let achievements go to their head, and to maintain some form of equality.
But I can’t help but question the people who say that foreigners don’t get their sarcasm – maybe because it’s not their native tongue? It’s hard to pick up on the intricacies of sarcasm in a language that’s not your own, but that doesn’t mean those people don’t have plenty of sarcasm happening in their own vernacular.
Do you think sarcasm is prevalent in non-Western cultures? Share your thoughts below.
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Christine Garvin is a certified Nutrition Educator and holds a MA in Holistic Health Education. She is the founder/editor of Living Holistically...with a sense of humor and co-founder of Confronting Love. When she is not out traveling the world, she is busy writing, doing yoga, and performing hip-hop and bhangra. She also likes to pretend living in her hippie town of Fairfax, CA is like being on vacation.