The world is separated into many countries and that is enough to create a cultural or even a communication gap between people of different locations. My first encounter with such situation was when I started to exchange e-mails and phone calls with my cousin Jenny. Jenny had not the slightest clue of how Malaysia is as she was born and nurtured in Canada for the past 24 years. It was just recently that we started to keep in touch and became very close with one another. I communicated with her in English and shared some information about Malaysia as well as a little about Asia and its ethnics as she too shared about where she resides in.
However, our conversation shortly became rigid and tense as our cultural differences arose. Jenny had a frank and straightforward way of communicating which at some point was hurtful and discriminating. What anger me most was when Jenny assumed that I, as someone raised in an Asian country have poor command of English thus kept conversing with me like a child and believed that Asian countries were bucolic and is inferior compared to where she was from. I felt dejected by her comments and behaviour; eventually, I started replying her messages slower and rejected most of her calls. Before long, we stop conversing entirely and grew apart.
After attending a few sessions of the class, I came to realize that there were just too many noises that exist in our communication process. The most obvious noise which exists was that of context. Jenny being raised in a western society adopts a low-context culture which Kim, Pan and Park (1998, p511) explained them to be less likely to avoid direct and open confrontation of expressing which resulting in her direct and straightforward means of conversing. On the other hand, I am from a high-context culture where statements are more indirectly conveyed and subtly (Larsen, Rosenbloom and Smith, 2002, p8) thus acting as I did, expecting that she would understand my unarticulated displeasure. Next is the cultural variable such as attitudes which contributes to the noise affecting the communication process between us. Jenny made assumptions that Asians are not well versed in the English language thus conversing with me like a child. This stereotypical act not only shows disrespect towards me but also the Asian community as a whole. In addition, Jenny was being ethnocentric as she believes that her community is superior and is the centre of everything (Camana, 1996) thus giving an impression of discrimination towards me.
Subsequently, I do believe that both of us were at fault. I should have been more understanding of the fact that her guileless way of expressing herself is because she comes from a low-context culture. I could have tried to understand the differences in culture and explained to her of how I felt instead of being angry and left her in the dark of why I was mad. Nonetheless, Jenny should try to develop cultural sensitivity towards others and avoid stereotyping as well as bring ethnocentric.
It is normal for such problems to arise as both Jenny and I were oblivious to the fact that there were cultural differences between us but the real problem resides in the fact that we did not bother to rectify it. Sometimes in order to keep a healthy relationship, all we needs is to know how to approach things the right way and unfortunately; I learnt it the hard way. Jenny and I could still be as close and constantly exchanging mails and calls if only we knew the right way...