Beneath the façade of culture and sophistication lies a lot of blaggingPixabay

Going home for the holidays is a thoroughly wonderful experience. From seeing friends and family, to eating delicious home-cooked food – our days are filled with endless merriment. That is, until the inevitable Christmas or New Year’s party where you, a social degenerate, are forced to carry yourself in conversation with pretentious acquaintances who fancy themselves cultural pundits. In celebration of the holiday season, here is a handy guide to the Art of Cultural Masquerading.

Mannerisms and Etiquette

A conversation is significantly defined by body language, and faking your way through one is no different. Break into conversations with a pithy quip and a confident chuckle, then use props to enhance the illusion of pomposity once you’re in. If you’re holding a glass, grip it firmly by the stem and gently swirl, keeping your drink moving constantly like the flow of good conversation you’re about to have.

Topic 1: Art and Literature

“try to use the word ‘derivative’ as much as possible.”

One can achieve success in this realm simply by making copious references to Asian art or the works of old white men. Bring up Kabuki theatre quickly, before someone beats you to it. No need to mention specifics. Just throw the concept of Kabuki theatre out there. Describe everything as ‘Brechtian’ or ‘Kafka-esque’ to demonstrate an awareness of their terse and surrealist artistry. You would also be stupid not to bring up Ai Weiwei, a staple in all cultural dialogue.

As with Kabuki theatre, no specific knowledge is necessary; all you need to say on the matter is that his work is ‘so, so important.’ When discussing art, a good tip is to relate everything back to the idea of originality – “We see that Damien Hirst is heavily influenced by the post-modernists, forcing us to confront the uncomfortable reality that there may be no original ideas in art…” To this end, try to use the word ‘derivative’ as much as possible. It is also impressive to have favourite quotes from literature on hand. Look up some Murakami quotes on GoodReads the night before; you can hone the act by memorising and reciting them in front of the mirror until you no longer sound rehearsed.

Topic 2: Film and Television

The key here is to overstate the nature and importance of everything you watch. Start referring to John Oliver episodes as ‘pieces’ – for example: “Did you catch John Oliver’s piece on elected judges?” However, in doing this, try not to reveal that watching John Oliver is the only way that you (a) get your news, and (b) develop an opinion on anything topical. This rule of inflation can even be applied to YouTube videos – “I watched a fascinating video essay (read: a ten-minute vlog) on how Wes Anderson manipulates colour to navigate morality” or “Have you seen the mini-documentary on VICE about grime culture in South Korea?” In the event that it all goes tits up, drop the word ‘arthouse’ in and among conversation. No one knows quite what it means, but since no one is willing to admit this, no one will question you.

Topic 3: Food

“What do we think of Lena Dunham’s thinkpiece on sushi as appropriative of Japanese heritage?”

Dante met the gluttons in the Third Circle of Hell, and likewise, you will encounter the Foodies at the annual Christmas Party.  The strategy here is to one-up them at their own game of gentrified food spots and niche culinary concepts. See below:

Foodie: “Have you tried the new burger place downtown? They do amazing foie gras patties.”

You: “I actually go to another place – they flip the whole concept of “the burger” on its head, switching beef for bun and bun for beef. So subversive.”

Similarly, start up a conversation about your favourite spices, volleying back and forth until you start running out of names. You can use the following formula to make up a completely fake variety of spice:

(Geographical Origin) + (Adjective) + (Root Vegetable)

For example – “The African Mild-Mannered Radish really packs a punch.” If they ask you where to get it, don’t panic. Simply respond: “Oh I picked it up from a traditional souk whilst backpacking through Morocco; not sure if they sell it here…”

If you’re still failing to impress, start a light discourse on the matter of food as cultural appropriation. “What do we think of Lena Dunham’s thinkpiece on sushi as appropriative of Japanese heritage? Food for thought…” Sit back and let that sink in. Your work is done.

Björk at the Hurricane FestivalZach Klein

Topic 4: Feminist Performance Art

General topics like those above are passable, but you need something to set yourself apart from the rest – feminist performance art is your coup de grâce. Nothing denotes sophistication and superior cultural sensitivity more than sharing how much you enjoyed a spectacle of dancers in flesh-coloured leotards exploring the gender pay gap through movement and physicality. For a more contemporary take on feminism, try the following – “I loved the feature on BuzzFeed where a white woman (I think it was Emma Watson?) covered herself in barbecue sauce and lay on the side of the road to protest the objectification of the female body.” Still in need of a knock-out punch to convince your audience of sceptics? I leave you with three little words – “I Love Björk.” That woman is on another wavelength; she is culture on steroids. Nobody understands her. Nobody, that is, but you. Feel free to walk away as your conversational partners pick their jaws up off the floor. The battle is won.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and above all, good luck! Now get out there and pontificate with reckless abandon! Remember, it’s culture – there are no right or wrong answers

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