Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Evaluating Intercultural Behaviour

I have an interesting story to share about an intercultural situation I witnessed during my trip at Country X (which I shall not name for good intention.)

Imagine this, you are running towards the elevator which is closing and you yell out: “HOLD THE DOOR PLEASE” but the person decides to press the 'close' button anyway. This is a behaviour that many of us will find rude and disrespectful. However, after what my local X friend has told me, I realised that it is actually a perfectly normal gesture to do. That is, letting the elevator’s door shut in someone’s face.

Like you, I was surprised yet amused to learn about it as well. However, in their culture, time is precious and the pace of life is very fast as people are always rushing from one place to another. Therefore, it is equally rude to hold the door and keep others in the elevator, waiting. Hence, explaining the reason behind their ‘unique’ behavior.

Indeed, different values affect different norms in behaviour. Behaviours that we find distasteful or rude do not necessarily mean that members of another culture would perceive it likewise. In fact, like in the case for Country X, they consider what we see as disrespectful, as normal or even an act of courtesy. Similarly, foreigners coming from different culture and background might find our culture unacceptable or downright crude.

In such situations, it is prudent to understand the intercultural differences of people in another country before being judgmental towards one’s behavior. This act of consideration will help to minimize misunderstanding and also prevent any unhappiness from escalating into a conflict.


Blogger Phong Chun Fong said...

Hi Emily,

That's an interesting one! I haven't heard of that before! You are right that it is important that we understand how things are done and perceived in different contexts so as to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. This is especially crucial if you are in a foreign country.

One thing similar to share, one of my professors told me that in Argentina, if you are invited to parties you should turn up at least half an hour late. This is because if you are early, people would think that you have nothing to keep yourself busy with. I found this amusing too because we as Asians on the other hand place utmost importance on punctuality.

Cultures are very interesting to study indeed :)

September 23, 2009 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger MdIdris said...

Nice blog post. Its short, sweet and amusing.

It is nice to see that certain cultures place such a high regard to their time. I must admit that I have been guilty of not holding the door for others on a few occasions, especially if I am rushing to a destination. At least now, I can say that in certain cultures, it is a perfectly normal and acceptable practise.

I have to agree understanding the cultural norms of a place, especially a foreign country, as mentioned by Chun Fong is prudent in preventing intercultural conflicts.

Since, I am one who places a high importance in punctuality, Argentina is certainly not in my list of favourtite holiday destinations.

September 25, 2009 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Bei Ning said...

What you described was certainly very interesting! I've never heard of this before!

I agree with you that there are many a times when what we see as rude and disrespectful is normal to people of different culture. Hence it is always better to read up on the culture of the people when one is visiting a foreign country to avoid unnecessary conflict

September 26, 2009 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger sui sui stan said...

This is an amusing blog post. I have never heard of such a practice. However this does not mean that the practice does not exist. It just set me ponering whether es it only the community behaved in that particular rude way? Because unlike punctuality, slamming the door in a person's face is probably interpreted as rude and hostile. Beside I do know of many people who do that out of their nature because they are very selfish and rude.

November 10, 2009 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger spotlessmind said...

Hi Emily (:
That was a pretty good observation. Indeed it is a very peculiar culture country X practises. I am also puzzled at country X's interpretation of rudeness. All this time, i had the impression that, closing the elevator doors on someone is universally interpreted as a rude gesture. But country X has strayed away from this conformity and gone against 'the flow' to think of it otherwise. It shows how an identity is created, unique to the people who share and observe the same culture. It is this commonality that eases communication among people of different personalities. And I think this is why it is possible for two people, who come from two different cultural backgrounds,to settle down and live with one another.

November 11, 2009 at 6:31 AM  

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