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Intercultural Communication 101

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BC: Image: Under the creative commons of Kozzi.com

FC: Intercultural Communication 101 by Tsisana Palmer | Image: Under the creative commons of Kozzi.com

1: What is Culture? Our cultures define the way we eat and dress. They also define the way we speak, think, and interact. They define the way we view the world. The define the way we live. There are two types of cultures: culture with a small -c- and Culture with a capital -C-. Examples of culture with a small c: paintings, music, and literature. Examples of Culture with a capital C: religious views, traditions, underlying beliefs and assumptions, values, and world view. | Culture is "a complex frame of reference that consists of patterns of traditions, beliefs, values, norms, symbols, and meanings that are shared to varying degrees by interacting members of a community" (Ting-Toomey, 1999) | Image: Under the creative commons of Kozzi.com

2: Which Culture do we see first as we arrive to a new country? Of course, the one that starts with a small c: we see symbols, such as flags and signs. We also can hear and recognize the language spoken around. We can see the food people eat, and the clothing they wear. We can see the architecture, some infrastructure, and even rituals. In other words - we see just the tip of the iceberg. What we do not see, however, is the iceberg's hidden part: history, traditions, education, values, beliefs, and religion. Just as a real iceberg, the cultural iceberg also has two parts. And just as in case with a real iceberg, it is the hidden part, big and dangerous, that people need to be aware of in order to survive.

3: What's under the water? Individualism vs. Collectivism According to Ting-Toomey (1999), individualism-collectivism is one of the dimensions that has received most attention among interculturalists. In Individualistic cultures (I-cultures), an individual is viewed separately from the group. People mostly value their own, as well as other people's, individual rights, freedom, values, goals and needs. Among countries with Individualistic approach are United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, New Zealand, Australia, and the USA. | On the other hand, in Collectivistic cultures, the group is more important than each and every individual that belongs to that group. Therefore, the group's rights, freedom, values, goals, and needs are more important than those of each individual. Among the countries with Collectivistic approach are Ecuador, Indonesia, Pakistan, Japan, Taiwan, China, and African countries. Tip: There are no better or worse cultures. They are just different! | Image: Under the creative common of Google Images

4: M-Time vs. P-Time Another major difference that exists among cultures is how they view time. There are Monochronic and Polichronic Cultures. In Monochronic cultures (M-time), or "clock-time" cultures, time is money. Things are done one at a time, and schedules are important. Members of M-time cultures value appointments and segmented activities and are typically task and achievement-oriented (example: countries such as UK, USA, France, Germany, etc.) | Images: Under the creative commons of Kozzi.com

5: On the contrary, Polichronic, or "Event-time" cultures view time as a comodity. Time is fluid and flexible, and there is plenty of time. Events and relationship, as opposed to schedules, are valued the most. Members of P-time cultures hold a relationship-oriented perspectives and can do several things at one time. Among P-time cultures are African cultures, South American, and Asian. | Images: Under the creative commons of Kozzi.com

6: Direct Communication People avoid "beating around the bush" and get straight to the point. Example: Say: "Could you give me a ride?" Mean: "Could you give me a ride?" Indirect Communication People often avoid expressing their statements explicitly. The real meaning may very well be encoded into the tone of voice. Example: Say: I am flying to NY tomorrow. Mean: Could you give me a ride? | Cultures also affect the ways people interact, i.e. , they way they send and interpret verbal messages. | Images: under the creative commons of Google Images | Image: Google Images

7: Whose Culture is Better? Living in a new culture can be quite challenging, no matter how exciting. It is very natural for human beings to perceive other cultures through their own cultural lenses. That is, we often perceive other people's behavior from our own cultural standpoints. For example, a person who grew up in a collectivistic culture often views a person from individualistic culture as "selfish" and "uncaring". On the contrary, a person from an individualistic country may view and judge his/her counterpart from a collectivistic culture as too "dependent" and not "self-reliant". Yet, judging another person based on one's own cultural beliefs and values may be quite harmful. We must understand where other people come from! | Image: Under the creative commons of Kozzi.com

8: Culture Shock! Living in a new culture can be quite exciting, yet not easy! There are four stages of a phenomena called Culture Shock: 1. Honeymoon: During this stage, newcomers typically do not see any difference between the new and old cultures. The food is great, the people are nice, and everything is exciting. Yet, just like most honeymoon periods, this stage eventually ends. 2. Disorientation: a feeling of being lost. The food does not taste good anymore, the people and the language are hard to understand, everything feels strange and confusing. 3. Irritability/Hostility: One might start feeling anger and resentment toward the new culture. Oftentimes, a person may want to stay home alone, sleep, or communicate with family and friends back home. One's native language is preferred. 4. Adaptation/Adjustment: Feeling good about one's new country of residence. One starts feeling comfortable about the new life and the daily routine. Things feel "normal" once again.

9: References: | Wikipedia:Culture Shock.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_shock Ting-Toomey, S. (1999). Communicating across cultures. New York: Guilford Press.

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  • By: Tsisana P.
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  • Title: Intercultural Communication 101
  • EDTECH 541 Fall 2012
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  • Published: almost 4 years ago

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