The really fascinating twist is that my co-workers statement can be interpreted in two ways. I believe he was saying that the reference should have been recoginized, and that ignorance of the detective's identiy was not explained by a different cultural immersion. OR, my co-worker could have been saying that it was understandable that the reference was not understood for thee very same reason.
Our origins can both accuse and explain ignorance of knowledge not congruent to the same origin. Is either better or worse? Probably not.