What is culture?
According to Hofstede (2003), culture refers to the way of life of a society that is considered as the right by the members of the particular society. Culture is mostly attributable to people in a certain geographical area. For instance, the African culture is different from the American culture. Therefore, a culture depicts actions, behaviors and words that certain groups of people, who subscribe to the culture, deem to be right. These normal and beliefs come in to play a role in promoting challenges between
The African culture is a high-context culture as outlined by Hall & Hall, (1989). Communication in the African culture is indirect and the person will end up saying many words to make the point clear. Sometimes the extra information given might not be necessary. Furthermore, handshakes and moments of introduction are not long. In addition, conversations last longer than they ought to last.
Hall & Hall (1989) classify the American culture as individualist and thus during conversations, individuals seek to give out only the necessary information and direct to the point. Greetings and introductions are part of the communication. Most communications start and end with a handshake, hug or a kiss on the cheek.
Example: In Africa, patients are expected to use more words when explaining to physicians how they are feeling. Eye contact is not maintained in these circumstances.
Example: In US, patients will be direct to the point as regards their problems. A constant eye contact is maintained in the conversation.
The American TV series called the Blacklist presents a case of cross-cultural communication challenges in one of its African characters called Dembe. Though the storyline is not on cross-culture communication, it is quite possible to identify the struggles of the character Dembe in communicating.
Inability to communicate clearly
Given the big contrast between communication in the US and African cultures, Dembe is often speechless and sometimes passes the wrong message to his boss. He often uses many words to explain a small issue. For instance, in one occasion he is surprised why people were not removing their shoes will entering a persons house. This is considered as a show of disrespect in African culture.
The character often feels that some actions and behaviors are not well with him given his cultural orientation. There is a feeling of lack of authenticity that could trouble a person from the inside after seeing people practicing what would be considered wrong in their culture.
Being accommodative and open to trying new things is the key principle to overcoming cross-culture communication challenges. The person should find a way of becoming comfortable by appreciating diversity and being open to try out new things.
Although it might be difficult to make an adjustment, the person could try to make necessary adjustments mostly if he/she is likely to live in the conflicting culture for a longer period (Hall & Hall, 1989). There is a great challenge making adjustments though since people will always want to maintain their cultural orientation.
In every culture, there are key phrases, behaviors and actions that if committed or omitted may be disrespectful. It is important for the person to learn these key issues in the new culture and internalize them. To avoid cases of conflicts and the feeling of being left out, the person should seek to belong.
Hall, E. T., & Hall, M. R. (1989). Understanding cultural differences. Intercultural press.
Hofstede, G. (2003). What is culture? A reply to Baskerville. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 28(7), 811-813.
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