Teach English in Zhaodun Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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One out of the two or three most intricate things, according to the British writer Raymond Williams, is culture. Despite having many varying definitions, the nub of the matter is: Culture is the way of life of a particular given society. In other words, the social norms and patterns of behavior in a society learnt from and passed on to the next generation is culture. What water is to fish, culture is to man? It affects and determines the way we perceive the world around us. It tells us regarding the socially accepted behavior, norms and values, the social problems and even influences thinkers and the way they perceive the problem. Moreover, culture determines for us what to wear, eat, say, do in a given social situation and also has a direct impact on our moral values. Majority of the people remain ignorant about social conditioning and do not realize that how they view the world is completely subjective and could be different from how others perceive it. An amalgam of a society's traditions, norms and values builds and manifests the character of the society, which creates its distinction from other societies. Communication is directly influenced by these cultural variations, which may lead up to conflict in case of miscommunication or different perception and interpretations. This in turn could be problematic in cross cultural interaction, in which there is reluctance to see the difference. In turn, this could help bridge the gap of misinterpretation and miscommunication and optimize the ability to respond effectively in different cultural settings. a. Senses of self: A tree growing in Pakistan would apparently look similar to a tree growing in some other part of the world, but the growth of both the trees are determined directly by the soil their roots interact with. The soil, is in turn dependent on the environment and its conditions like availability of water, nutrients in soil, sunshine e.t.c. Supposing that the roots represent the values, these roots (values) are needed by the tree to survive in the environment (society). We are unable to see the roots, but the tree and its growth is apparent to us. If we wish to translocate a tree, then we must prepare its roots for the new soil. Similarly, the roots of a culture are different depending on the environmental conditions. The Turkish roots (values) may be more intertwined and closer together depending on the rocky soil, and conditions, requiring roots to be close together. Whereas, American roots are more independent, and spread out depending on the soil the roots interact with. b. Styles of Communication: American people may find Japanese people too secretive, underhand and appallingly unforthcoming with information. Whereas; Japanese people would consider Americans rude and obnoxiously blunt. Similarly, Germans might find the French failing to be detailed and unstructured, whereas French might deem Germans as rude and insulting their intelligence by stating and explaining even the obvious. In certain cultural settings, sufficient commonality of understanding is presumed in the counterpart during correspondence, with certain things or meanings being implied and hence, there is no need to be overly explicit with information; which is sometimes embedded in the context or internalized in populace due to their conditioning in a common culture. In some cultures, there is a considerable dependence on what is actually said and not on what’s implied. Less information is embedded in the context and needs to be made explicit for proper communication and understanding. The former communication style is termed "high-context" whereas the latter is termed as "low-context" society. Usually, collectivistic societies are High context society owing to their social information networks. Since there is more emphasis on what is actually being said than what is in the context, low context cultures tend to be more prone to "communication errors" when assuming more shared information than there actually is. This is quite efficient in overcoming communication gap and develops effective communication if used in a proper way. However, in low context communication where everything ought to be said, the emotional state of the communicators may be word-bitten and may come forth as rude. Contrary to low context cultures, which make use of extensive details, high context culture deem them as nonessential briefs on details, and are reluctant using such a technique of communication, trying their best to minimize verbal communication errors. They are more concerned with the implications of the delivered message. c. Concept of Time: I once came to find that there were two invitations sent for the same event by one of the South American groups in the US. One showed the actual time of the event, while the other was an hour earlier than the actual commencement. The former was for the American friends, while the latter for the fellow South Americans to avoid any time delays. "There are two blessings in which most people are in great loss: Good health and free time." In our study, time is something more than what a clock tells. Despite being a blessing, it happens to be one of those things which separate cultures and societies, with their different and subjective perceptions of time. In the western society, time is a product of industrialization. With each task set to be finished at a specific hour. Time is a present and dynamic entity which moves with a swift speed. All events occurring are explained in terms of time, cause and effect and there being a specific time for certain things done or said. Time, in western culture is viewed as a limited resource which is continuously being used up. It is like a bathtub full of water which is being drain and can never be filled up again. A person can only either utilize it or let it go to waste. A common phrase is "time us money" and terms like "wasting", "saving", "spending", "losing" and "gaining" are used with time, like they are use for material objects. These phrases highlight the importance and notion of time in these societies.