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Intercultural Communication

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Yevgeniya Zhdanova.

Intercultural communication.
Learning diary.

Culture of the mind must be subservient to the heart.
Mahatma Gandhi.

Culture is complex, abstract and pervasive matrix of social elements that functions as an all-encompassing form or pattern for living by laying a predictable world in which an individual is firmly oriented. Culture is individual and universal! This is a very complex concept that includes life, art, science, individual and society. Culture - is a special environment, where the person lives. To understand the culture of a person, reading the literature of a country is not enough. To understand, we must live in this environment and communicate with these people. Culture is very interesting meaning, and in different countries it understandable by different ways. Culture, what you believe, what you value, how you live matters.
When I found out that we will have intercultural communication lections I was very interested by this subject. In my group there are a lot of representatives of different cultures, for instance, Finnish, American, Nepalese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Hungarian, Indian, Kenya’s, Nigeria’s, Russian and Kazakh cultures, and it will be very useful to know about their lives and interests.
Ritva Leppänen, our teacher, said that the main goal of her subject is to teach us how to be able to compare and analyze different cultures and understand communication as part of the culture. This knowledge will be helpful in our future, when we will work together in the business field, communicate, introduce new ideas and thoughts, improve our attainments in practice, and if we want to avoid misunderstanding and unsuccessful negotiations, we should to appreciate cultures, which we work with. As well, Ritva will help us to avoid culture shock and understand complex situations, arising in Finland. Learning and socializing with different cultures is a great opportunity to have good friends around the world.

Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being.
Thomas Carlyle.

Intercultural communication divides into two parts: verbal communication and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication is communication by help of words and non-verbal is more difficult to understand, because in different cultures there are a lot of symbols, mimics, gestures, motions, that mean something. It is important to mention, that there are Hofstede´s dimensions of cultural variability / cultural comparisons, for example:
Power distance,
Individualism – collectivism,
Masculinity –femininity,
Uncertainty avoidance.
It seems to me, to know culture better it is really important to be tolerance, sensitive and flexible. Show your interest, also try to learn language and live some time abroad. If we look at «Iceberg model of culture», we will observe, that bottom formed by values, beliefs, status, justice and nature of friendship, but dress language, food, art and music constructed the top of «Iceberg»! We should to remember, that culture is not innate, culture is learnt, transmissible, dynamic, selective, ethnocentric. It is not difficult, it is different!

We know what we are, but not what we may be.
William Shakespeare.

What is identity? When I think about identity, I also think about culture. Needless to say, that identity is characteristics of person with his or her views on various things, interests and thoughts. When we get into a different environment, a culture, we begin to feel strong identity. There are also collective identities, as Ritva explained, is members ‘shared concept of its central qualities which are permanent by nature and thus distinguished from others’. There are a lot of different cultural identities like gender identity, age identity, sexual identity, racial identity, ethnic identity, religious identity, class identity, regional identity, subcultural identity and personal identity, which makes unique you. But does the European identity exist? I think, that there are a lot of differences, but values the same. European values are common roots, need of freedom, historical sense, scientific progress, science and technology, pluralism, tolerance, caring social, justice and voluntary work. Also European countries have the same Critical Greek thinking and democratic heritage and Roman rule of law. But the Finns differ from the Spanish, and the Spanish people from the Germans and the French. Every country has something special that makes it different from the others. For example in Finland finish people place great value on words and they like to say little and avoid unnecessary small talk, “take a man by his word and a bull by its corn” in contradistinction to Spanish people, who like to spend a lot of time chatting and discussing interesting topics. Some people have stereotypes about a country. And it's not true! To know people we should to talk with them and «try» theirs cultures. It may be possible, that your opinion was wrong. But a sense of culture shock or just surprising of traditions of another country is inevitable. But what exactly is culture shock?

It would be like a culture shock. It's not something we're used to.
Eric Barone

The difference between your country from another, unusual atmosphere and strange traditions. Culture shock leads to helplessness, even hostility towards the new environment. You can feel stress, depression, frustration and unable to act in everyday living IF you don’t aware of culture! Culture shock experienced by all people, of course, but if you come to the country and do not know about it, its people, traditions and features, cultural shock will be delayed for a long time.
I do not have great culture shock when I came to Finland, but a lot of things amazed me. For example, how the Finns love cleanliness and take care of nature. How clean air here and beautiful trees, berries and mushrooms grow everywhere. I was very surprised that the Finnish people do not feel cold when I'm cold. They are very punctual in comparison with the Kazakhs, because if we were invited to the feast, we can be late for two hours and it would not be impolite. Finns are very silent, they live in a northern country with strict environmental conditions, people from ancient times have been forced to adapt to nature and learn how to survive and respect. Finish people do not open to you immediately but they are very friendly and if you will know them better, they can become the best of friends. Almost all finish people know English. English is widely spoken in Finland and is very common in business world. But if you want to live here, you certainly should to learn Finnish language. Reputation, good or bad, is built up over time and it difficult in Finland to make or break a reputation on a single occasion. Finnish people are very reliable and trustful. They can sign a verbal contract without the written papers. In Kazakhstan, all contracts in writing form only. Finnish culture is very beautiful as well as the country. And it's possible to learn it, especially when every day you talk to the Finns, and try to know their life.

How do people communicate information in the culture in various contexts.
There are two types of contexts: High context (HC) communication and Low context (LC) communication. Finnish, German, British people more related to the Low context (LC) communication because information they said is direct, to-the-point words. But Kazakh, Vietnamese, Spanish and French people are examples of High context (HC) communication because most of the information is already in the person and they can talk about everything, bypassing the main theme quietly.
Cultural orientation to time: monochromic and polychromic. My culture is example of polychromic time orientation, we can do a lot of things in one time in comparison to Scandinavians, and for instance, they focus only one task at the time.
Verbal and non-verbal communication.
What you show, but how it is seen…
What you say but how it is heard…
It is very interesting topic for me. Ritva gives us a task to find some pictures of non-verbal communication in different countries. And I choose open and close posture because it’s are important components of non-verbal communication. Open position is determined by muscle relaxation, a direct look into face. Person confident in his abilities and words. And it is very surprising; that in closed posture crossed legs or hands is a classic sign of closure and unavailability. Frequent blinking is a sign of protection.
During lection I learn a lot of things, for example, that in Indian culture, when you want to say I love you, you should to touch a heart, in Hungarian culture 7 is a number of deaths, but in Kazakhstan and Russia 7 is a lucky number, in Finnish culture blue color means freedom as in my culture.
Intercultural communication skills.
A lot of things also depend on how we're talking. To win the public's attention you should to have good articulation and social skills. To be attentive to your facial expressions and body language, speak clear voice. You also can start conversation with small talk, it seems to me, and by small talk you can get used to the accent of the interlocutor and create a friendly atmosphere. Remember, that the main topics are weather and seasons, politics is very dangerous topic to discuss. In Finland, what you say is the basis for next situations when meeting again. Keep harmony, do not question the topics and be polite! Silence is not uncomfortable! Silence is a part of communication. In Kazakhstan people don’t like to create silence, but now I understand that silence is a very important aspect in communication between people.

Richard Donald Lewis.

Richard Donald Lewis (born 1930) is a British linguist, cross-cultural communication consultant, and author. He speaks 10 languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Japanese).

When I found out that is coming to us, Professor Lewis, I was happy. Am I able to listen to his lecture on intercultural communication, probably, it will be very exciting… And I was right! He talked about what culture is, the roots of culture, stereotyping, the Categorization of Cultures, Concepts of Time, Listening habits and a lot of interesting things. Professor compared different cultures and gave examples. I liked his lecture and then I with my classmates had a long discussion about our cultures!
Presentations of different cultures.
Ritva gave us a task to make a power point presentation of our country telling in group. In my group were AP, Halley and Ha. We came together and decided the main topics. I told about features, nature, kitchen, culture and industries of my country to me group and also I learned a lot about the Vietnamese and Finnish cultures. We had a great team and we have got a great team work experience. When he came to the lecture, we have tried to tell so interesting about Kazakhstan as possible. Listening to other presentations of other countries, it was impossible to come off, something was funny, something unusual, and something very similar to my culture. This lecture brought a sea of positive and new knowledge. I really like the subject of intercultural communication, because it is a wonderful opportunity to know other cultures better, and to share own culture. Gain experience and new skills; learn a new language and traditions. With this knowledge, we can avoid the difficulty in dealing and running business with other cultures and to be successful!
“People can only live fully by helping others to live. When you give life to friends you truly live. Cultures can only realize their further richness by honoring other traditions.”

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