Where can we find cultural differences?

Published by MartaCastro on

Where can we find Cultural Differences?

According to Edward T.Hall, culture is like an iceberg, the majority of the culture is hidden below the surface and not easily visible. Actually, this scientist says that 90% of culture are invisible.

When you read expat blogs about traveling in a  country, food, way of dress, how to get a job or housing, health insurances and other important tips abroad, they are just navigating the visible part of the culture iceberg. 

In the same way, Albert Mehrabian says that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal and only 7% words. Surely this makes us reflect how learning the language, despite being important, is still not enough to understand the meaning behind the words,  some expressions or how to interpret many situations. Especially in Japan, a country with one of the most implicit languages in the world. 

According to Erin Meyer´s “The Culture Map”, culture “is not about me or about you, it’s about the relative distance between the two of us”. What this author means is that cultural differences are like a map, you need to understand where you come from and compare it to where you are going to.

*Where can we find cultural differences? Here are some examples: 

  • Communication (low context vs high context)
  • Feedback (Direct negative feedback vs indirect negative feedback)
  • Persuasion (principles first vs application first)
  • Leadership (Egalitarian vs Hierarchical)
  • Decision Process (Consensual vs Top Down)
  • Building Trust (Task Based vs Relationship based)
  • Disagreeing (Confrontational vs Avoid confrontation)
  • Time Perspective (Linear vs Flexible)
  • Identity (Individualism vs collectivism)
  • Hierarchy (large Power Distance vs Small power distance)
  • Gender (Femininity vs Masculinity)
  • Truth (Strong Uncertainty avoidance vs Weak uncertainty avoidance)
  • Virtue (Long term orientation vs Short-Team Orientation)

If you really want to succeed abroad, I sincerely advise you to go beyond learning the language and reading expat blogs. 

Moving and living abroad is both stressful and exciting. To make sure you get the most of it and prepare yourself for culture shock, I highly recommend taking a self-awareness intercultural test. This helps you to understand your cultural background compared to the culture you are going to. It gives you tools and knowledge to deal with culture shock and makes it easier to understand your colleagues, managers and friends abroad. 

If you are curious about it and would like to have an assessment, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

“Exploring Culture” – G. J. Hofstede, P. B. Pedersen and G. Hofstede. 

“The Culture Map” E. Meyer  

Categories: ENG


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