Cultural communication differences Following are some general communication and language guidelines you may find helpful when interacting with people from different regions of the world. However, keep in mind that individuals are different; never make assumptions based on someone’s ethnic origin.
Areas of Misunderstanding: Broadly speaking, body language can be divided into the following categories: • Facial expressions • Eye contact • Touch • Use of space • Gestures • Sounds and other actions
Touch • Some cultures, particularly in the middle east, may touch once or not at all, while North Americans could touch each other between two and four times an hour, according to some researchers. • People from the United Kingdom, certain parts of Northern Europe and Asia touch far less, while in France and Italy people tend to touch far more frequently.
Personal space exercise • Pick a partner and stand opposite them as if you were about to have a conversation • Stand within 1 and a half feet of each other and talk – are you comfortable? • Move slowly back until you feel comfortable – and check your distance • Now continue back past 10-12 feet – is this comfortable?
Personal Space • An individual's need for personal space varies from culture to culture. In the Middle East, people of the same sex stand much closer to each other than North Americans and Europeans, while people of the opposite sex stand much further apart. • Japanese men stand four or five feet apart when having a discussion. Europeans and North Americans would probably regard having a conversation at this distance rather odd.
Good The thumbs up sign has positive connotations in the UK and US
Good? In Iran and Spain the 'thumbs up' sign is considered obscene
Okay? The 'okay' sign is obscene in Greece, parts of Eastern Europe and Latin America. It could also mean 'worthless' or 'zero' in France. In Japan, this means “money”.
Nodding Moving the head from side to side could indicate agreement in Asia, whereas elsewhere in the world a similar shaking of the head means the opposite.
How to be rude without realising • Sit with the soles of your shoes showing. In many cultures this sends a rude message. In Thailand, Japan and France as well as countries of the Middle and Near East showing the soles of the feet demonstrates disrespect. You are exposing the lowest and dirtiest part of your body so this is insulting.
How to be rude without realising • Pass an item to someone with one hand.In Japan this is very rude. Even a very small item such as a pencil must be passed with two hands. In many Middle and Far Eastern countries it is rude to pass something with your left hand which is considered “unclean.”
How to be rude without realising • Wave hand with the palm facing outward to greet someone. In Europe, waving the hand back and forth can mean “No.” This is also a serious insult in Nigeria if the hand is too close to another person’s face.
True or False • The following expressions are universal • Anger • Disgust, contempt • Fear • Happiness • Interest • Sadness • Surprise
True or False • Eye contact is a universal sign of respect and attention • Staring is always rude • Lowering eyes is a sign of respect in all cultures • Russians have the most control over their facial expressions and Americans the least
Afro-Caribbean people Communication tips • While in Western cultures eye contact is taken to mean honesty, in some Caribbean cultures people avoid eye contact as it is considered disrespectful and rude. • Some African cultures have a longer look time, which people from Western cultures may interpret as a stare.
Asian people Communication tips • While in Western cultures, eye contact is interpreted as a sign of honesty, in some Asian cultures people tend to avoid eye contact as it is considered disrespectful and rude. • Some Asian women may find it difficult to converse with males, particularly when subjects of a personal nature are being discussed.
Chinese people Communication tips • Some Chinese people nod or bow slightly when greeting another person. A handshake is also acceptable. • Some Chinese people do not like to be touched by people they don’t know. A smile is preferred to a pat on the back or similar gesture.
British People • What about British people? • What do international students need to know about us? • Do we know this about ourselves? BRAINSTORM
Personal Space and British people British people like a lot of space around them. They tend not to make physical contact of any kind with strangers and feel very uncomfortable if anyone stands too close to them. They will instinctively draw away if anyone comes too close.
Personal space Whenever I travelled on a bus in UK the British person next to me would draw away from me as if they were afraid of catching a disease or of the colour rubbing off my skin.’ (Kenyan student) ‘When I travelled on a train from Nairobi to Mombasa, a woman sat right next to me, her body touching mine. I was very nervous as I thought she must be making a sexual advance.’ (British woman in Kenya)
The indirect British In making polite requests, British people tend to use very indirect language, using the conditional tense and negatives. For instance, ‘I don’t suppose you could open the window, could you?’ rather than ‘Please open the window.’
British people never get to the point. They go around this way and that way, using twenty words where three would do. It´s really hard to communicate with them.´ (Israeli student) `Some nationalities do not always seem very polite; `I want this´ or `I want that´, no smiles nor a please nor a thank you´. (British University Official)
Smiling • Some students say that British people smile a lot, compared to many national groups – often for no particular reason. • The British smile as a greeting, smile when asking for something, smile on receiving it.
‘The British are so insincere. They smile even when they are not happy or pleased to see you. One woman smiled at me every time we passed each other and I thought she really liked me. So I asked her to come out with me and she refused. She was leading me on and then turned me down’ (A male overseas student)
Naming systemsAfro-Caribbean names The vast majority of Afro-Caribbean names conform to the traditional British pattern. Black Africans may adhere to one of a variety of naming structures. Generally, both men and women have up to four personal names, which may be shortened or lengthened. Here are some examples: • Adeyemisi (female) – Ade, Adeyemi, Yemi, Yemisi • Adeyetunde (male) – Ade, Yetunde, Tunde, Adetunde Black African women tend to keep their own name on marriage.
Chinese names Traditionally, Chinese names are made up of a family name followed by a personal name. Family name Personal name Leung Lan-Ying Despite usually coming first, the family name should be regarded as the equivalent of the traditional British surname. One word of warning, though: some Chinese have changed their names so that the family name comes after their personal name. So how do you know which is which? Well, it’s usually pretty easy because personal names tend to be hyphenated. However, if neither of the names are hyphenated, then it’s always best to ask the person how they wish to be addressed.
Hindu names Hindu names have up to three components: Personal name Middle name Family name Ravi Nath Shah Hindu women generally take on their husband’s family name when they get married. However, some Hindus have dropped their family name in rejection of the caste system. In this case, their middle name should be regarded as their ‘surname’, which may mean that married couples have different last names.
Muslim names (Male) Male Muslim names may have up to three components: A personal name and a religious name, in either order, possibly followed by a hereditary name. Personal (1st/2nd) Religious (1st/2nd) Hereditary Amin Allah Choudhury A Muslim should never be addressed by his religious name alone – it would be the equivalent of calling a Christian Christ or God
Muslim names (female) Female Muslim names usually have just two components: A personal name, followed by either a titular name or second personal name, which is the equivalent of the traditional British surname. Personal Titular Second Fatima Bibi Yasmin Jan This means that married Muslims often have different last names, though some women do take their husband’s hereditary name upon marriage in this country.
Sikh names Sikh names have up to three components: A gender-neutral personal name, followed by a religious designation – Singh for males, Kaur for females - which in some cases is followed by a family name. Personal Religious Family Davinder Singh Grewal Kuldip Kaur Sohal Many married Sikhs may have different last names.
Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day. Anonymous