Jokes Without Borders


Laughter is universal–Jokes are not

Whether or not a person finds something funny has a lot to do with where they come from and the language that they speak

Humor is built around the cultural construct of sharing and relating with others

The ‘joke teller’ is connecting to their audience by sharing their words, thoughts and ideas about their experiences and the things that they are familiar with in life. If the audience understands and shares those same words and experiences then they can relate to what the joke teller is saying and find humor in the momentlaugh-translations

But if someone in the audience does not understand these words or has not had these same experiences then they will not necessarily find it funny and they will not be able to share in the moment in the same way

Research shows that physical and slapstick humor tends to play best across cultures, as these acts are non-verbal and do not require the use of language

Of course this doesn’t mean that a person from Germany would never laugh at Spanish or Chinese joke, comedy from one culture can easily make an impact in another land, look at the success of Jerry Lewis in France or Mr. Bean all over the world

But more often than not the language you speak and the culture you come from plays a great role in shaping your funny bone

Here is a very, very small sampling of some examples of the different types of hilarity that can be found in all different corners of the world

Darwin called humor ‘tickling of the mind’, an evolutionary form of social play that builds camaraderie and communication

When people can joke with each other they can understand each other, making them more likely to feel at ease and work harmoniously together for a greater good

Language and understanding is a way to create an ‘in-joke’ amongst a community of people, creating a shared culture amongst one group separating them from others

And while shared humor is essentially shared culture, and differences in language can complicate the delivery and reception of many jokes, human beings everywhere are social creature and people with no common language or background will always find a way to share a laugh and communicate  with one another


The American author and an unknown Vietnamese woman laugh at the unspoken joke shared between us of her photo-bombing my selfie


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