Cross-Culture Communication Experiences

Traveling makes you wiser and you appreciate where you’re coming from. Most people love traveling. What fascinates me are the many places to see, to experience the different cultures and people. When I travelled to the East and the South I realized people were friendlier and family orientated. They were more relaxed and didn’t say much. When I visited North America and Western Europe, people were more focussed, more direct and goal orientated.

As a South African, I feel I’m a bit of both, though one cannot be in the middle stated by Edward T. Hall, American anthropologist in the 70’s and cross-cultural researcher. He was remembered for developing the concept of Proxemics, a report of how people act and react in different types of culturally defined personal space.  He designed a unique continuum to describe our culture differences:

High Context Culture and Low Context Culture

In high context cultures, such as Asia, South America and Africa, people are collectivists, rational and have high levels of information within their context (meaning the information that surround their lives). They need low amounts of context for meaning in what they do. They prefer group harmony and favor group consensus rather than individual achievement. Conversations are more formal and indirect.The listener in the high context culture is aware of situations when addressed, it’s expected of him to know what the speaker is saying, through gestures, emotions. Relationships, trust and families are all considered as important. They run on polychromic time (many things happening at the same time and focus on involvement).

In low context cultures, low levels of programmed information within their context is provided. People are individualists, linear thinkers and action-orientated. Discussions are based on facts rather than intuition. Conversations are clear and direct. They depend highly on trust through written contracts and verbal agreements. They run on monochromic time (schedules, promptness, etc).

Difficulty with other cultures is often the case and the issue lies in the interaction process and the different dialogues. If we gain a better understanding of different communication styles, we can avoid uncomfortable situations when met face to face. We can learn to accept our different cultures and build beautiful relationships without stereotyping or judging. Making this effort can create wonders in the world, not just for ourselves or for friendships or even business but for the most important thing that makes us all human: for unity and love!

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