How culture affects human behaviour

Since I am living abroad for a period it is easy for me to spot some differences in different cultures I’m being in contact with. And it’s not only the German one, but many others from my working environment and friends.

Nevertheless, even before going abroad I’ve always been interested in how people from other countries get in contact with each other and with foreigners. It is incredible how the sun/good weather/warmness has such a big influence on human behaviour among them and attitude towards life in general. Just an example: the suicide rate (I know it’s sad but it’s true) is much higher in northern countries (some say for the lack of sunlight) and in countries with a strict and stern culture, as some eastern ones, than in southern ones.

By the way, apart from the weather, the culture you belong to has a prominent role in how you interact with people. You can easily notice the difference when people meet for the first time. Even though you can say your character plays the biggest part in the interaction, also the place where you’ve been growing up is actually influencing your approach to others. Think of a Norwegian during a party for example: he/she hardly will approach you spontaneously just to say “hello, how do you do” –unless he/she’s drunk! 🙂 On the other hand a Spanish person would invite you to take part in the group.

However this is not a rule, but it’s generally speaking true, especially when comparing a northern European to a Mediterranean one. The first one will be broadly speaking shier and will take a longer time to behave spontaneously than the southern one. Or think about the difference with Africans and Japanese people. It’s quite impressive!

Another aspect that has to be taken into consideration is the non verbal communication. According to the culture you belong to, gestures, space distance from you to other people, and physical contact may vary a lot.

For example in India having physical contact (as when you walk in the street close to a person) with people you don’t even know is normal. As a European, think how annoying it would be -or at least weird- if a person you don’t know walks by your side and almost touching you in the street. And the same can be said about the free space surrounding you, which you need between you and a person you don’t know. For a Chinese born in former times, it was forbidden to get closer to the emperor than a couple of meters, and also to stare at him.

And last, gestures: how many gestures does an Italian use and how many a Finn?! 😀

So which is the culture fascinating you the most and which aspect of its non verbal communication is the strangest to you? How do you behave at a party where you don’t know anybody?


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