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COMMUNICATING ACROSS CULTURES By Elaine Winters Her Email ICEBERGS CONVERGENCE AND DIVERGENCE HIGH- AND LOW-CONTEXT CULTURES WHAT HAPPENED? A VERY EXPENSIVE MISTAKE. THE CHALLENGE BUILDING UNDERSTANDING WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? COMMON DENOMINATORS SUCCESS STORY CONCLUSION ABOUT THE AUTHOR Communication is more than just speaking, writing, and editing; it also involves information gathering and teamwork. In the economy of the new century, this means communicating cross-culturally. There are three main components to any communication: subject matter medium of delivery cultural considerations Of the three, the third is generally ignored. While fashionable phrases get uttered - mostly, celebrating cultural diversity, what results are mostly exercises in politically correct language -- or attempts at controlling personal irritation. (Few people seem to feel the need to truly face the underlying issues that cloud even the simplest of delicate, and frequently confusing, cross-cultural interactions.) ICEBERGS Culture? People have characterized the idea to death. For our purposes let's define culture as the way in which each of us is programmed to behave in the environment. Cultures are like icebergs; some features are apparent to anyone not in a fog, while others are deeply hidden. Above-the-surface features include overt behaviors: how people - dress eat walk talk relate to one another conduct themselves during public ceremonies such as weddings or funerals Also included are such things as social distance.
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Other aspects are so far below the surface that they are hard to recognize. We may see evidence of these aspects, but we usually cannot pinpoint them precisely and usually do not have a clue where they came from. They are hard to define even for our own culture because we take them in with our mother's language. This might include such things as: how we encode and retrieve information What is justice? Music? Proper parenting? Beauty or ugliness? What meaning is attached to "teaching" stories? What does being well-educated mean? What constitutes status? CONVERGENCE AND DIVERGENCE Global communication, transportation, and changes in living styles have begun to blur many of the surface distinctions between different cultures. Many cultures are adopting Western dress, for example. The deeper differences remain. For example, compare the respect due to elders in some Asian, Latin, and African societies--still true today even in modern urban environments--with the way seniors are viewed in many Western countries.
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