In Our Big World Every Minute Is a Lesson

Are you wondering why you have different visions to your friends from across the ocean? You don’t always understand some foreign people’s habits or reactions? Has a friend of yours from another country ever been mad at you because of what you find an innocent and funny joke? Let’s search together for an answer to these questions! As it seems, each culture dictates specific behaviors, visions, attitudes and also stereotypes. Some people can adapt more easily to different intercultural interactions than others and can perceive and accept other people’s vision more easily. This is the reason why some of your friends from abroad see things differently and others are more like you.

Differences in the manner of interaction are usually more obvious when people from different cultures are communicating with one another. In the worst case scenario, people can view others through their own cultural perception and this can lead to placing the other people in stereotypes. Such a superficial approach may lead to an unwanted perception due to the fact that the image itself is not perceived by one’s own conscience but by his specific cultural background. This is why your joke might not be funny to a person from the other side of the world.

Prejudices and stereotypes have been observed by specialists and is seems that some of them are widely spread. If you come from Asia you only eat rice, if you come from Germany you drink a lot of beer, if you come from Russia you only drink vodka, and so on…We should try to get over this because it is not constructive. Discovering the person as they are is the key to acceptance. We just have to get rid of the old mentality and stop labeling people from the beginning.

Showing friendship or aversion might be different for people from other countries. Some people tend to be more invasive in order to gain sympathy and this could be perceived the other way round by people from other cultures. The lesson of intercultural relations is one of acceptance, at least until you know for sure. It can sometimes be hard to tell if somebody is very nice to you just because of their education or due to friendship. We must understand the particularities of one’s behavior and accept them as they are as long as there is no bad intention and harm done. Finding a good or bad reason for one’s behavior is a tough challenge that usually takes a lot of energy. The problem of finding an explanation for or showing an understanding of somebody’s behavior or habits before placing them in a stereotype is the big challenge. This takes will and passion for you are placed in a different circle of influences, coming both from your culture and from your friend’s culture too. We must try not to judge people but evaluate them with both our own values and their values too. Maybe you don’t like your friend’s table manners. Judging by your values they are unpleasant but that’s the norm in your friend’s homeland. Ideally, you shouldn’t focus on this but on other features that your friend has. Placing a tag is easy but people do deserve more than what is now a contemporary disease, the superficial approach.

When you meet your friends from abroad you might encounter issues related to proxemics. While in some cultures close personal contact may be perceived as affectionate, in others it can be perceived as threatening. Just as the cross-cultural researcher Edward T. Hall exemplifies, people are different when it comes to this. However, nonverbal elements in human interactions (like proxemics) are not usually analyzed. It is very hard to observe another person from an impersonal point of view and it takes some skills and knowledge. Nonverbal displays (like a smile, a funny face or a kiss) usually receive an emotional reply and we can’t judge that as wrong because it is part of human nature. It is important to try to read the signs carefully. Somebody’s aversion for instance can be very easily understood from his nonverbal display and it must be accepted as it is. Sometimes though, if we don’t have the right key we can’t unlock the code behind somebody’s behavior. In such a case other things might be the right tools to use for getting rid of the confusion: patience, tolerance and acceptance. After all, we live in a colored and diverse world and our differences are what make it so wonderful.


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