(WARNING: It has been a while since I was in education, so I don’t know the current ideas on political correctness, so if the post below is insulting, I’m sorry. You should know by now that I treat everyone the same. If you think I’m racist, then check out my archives. However, it’s not against the law (yet) for me to say that I think religion is a generally silly idea).
Written by the Ambulance Service Association, the Community Handbook (Pocket edition) is an easy reference guide to many of the ethnic groups that we may come across.
Of course, in London there are around 200 different ethnic groups, so any ‘comprehensive’ handbook would weigh a ton.
So we get a two page spread of some of the commoner ethnic groups in the UK.
You can take a look at a sample of the book.
It’s very pretty, and I can imagine it possible being useful for ambulance trusts who do not have a large ‘ethnic’ population. But I work in Newham, where the ‘ethnics’ outnumber the WASPs, and I’ve found that you tend to pick up on other peoples culture pretty quickly, as in a week or two on the job.
One amusing point of the book is that for a lot of cultures, it says that you should remove your shoes on entering the house. Yet one of the main things we were told in ambulance school, was that you never take your boots off, as it’s just too dangerous. I’ve only been asked to remove my boots once before, when I was entering a Mosque. I explained that I couldn’t and the head bloke there told me not to worry, as the sick person was more important (he was as well, he was having a heart attack).
For a number of cultures, the book tells us that we should speak via the head male family member. Again, in practice I’ve never come across this. What I do tend to come across is a seven year old girl doing the translating for the whole family, which is why I think you have a lot of very ‘grown-up’ Asian girls. Language is always a problem, but I’ve found that although people tell me that they can’t speak English, it is more probable that they don’t have the confidence to try. So I always try to talk to the patient, and then the relatives will translate the odd tricky word.
Various cultures also apparently have a taboo about men dealing with women. Again, something I have very little trouble with, as I’m not about to perform gynecological examinations on my patients. The only time I’ve found that it might be an issue is with delivering babies, but if there isn’t a woman around then I’ve found that people are just plain happy that there is someone around who knows what to do.
Although, having seen some of the ethnic grannies, and their attitudes to their granddaughter having a baby (something along the lines of, ‘Stop being a wimp, and push it out’), I suspect they have as much an idea about delivering babies as I do.
And I can’t see any culture being happy about having their women undress alone in front of strange men.
The book also has little sections on ‘Customs around Death’. I’d like to think that we are so successful at treating people that we don’t have to deal with it that often…
To be honest, a lot of the book is trying to teach us to suck eggs. As long as you have some semblance of common sense, and are polite and respectful to everyone (except maybe drunks…), then you shouldn’t have any problems. If in doubt ask is my motto, and I’ve learned quite a bit about other cultures just by asking the patient. I’m guessing that a lot of ethnic people have come across a fair bit of unconscious culture clash, and have developed their own strategies for dealing with it.
Please note how Reynolds has made special effort to make everything positive in the above post. Note how he hasn’t mentioned that some people have a huge chip on their shoulder about their culture, or how one culture seeks to emulate the worst qualities of another culture, or how a lot of non-drunken violence seems to be ‘ethnic’ vs ‘ethnic’ violence. Just remember, I dislike everyone equally, I’m an equal opportunities cynic.