How to understand and admire cultural differences

You’re living in a vibrant multicultural country, so it’s great that you want to understand cultures other than your own. There are a few ways to do this, but the most important is to remember that we’re all just people who are trying to do the best we can.

This can help if:

  • you want to embrace cultural differences
  • you want to learn how to understand cultural differences
  • you want to learn how to talk to people from different backgrounds.

How to understand and admire cultural differences

What is ‘cultural awareness’?

Cultural awareness, or cultural sensitivity, is being aware that cultural differences and similarities exist, while not judging people based on that. A non-judgemental mindset lets you observe cultural differences without labelling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or ‘right or wrong’.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert in other cultures. It just means being willing to be open-minded and to ask questions to get more information, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction to anything you don’t agree with.

Why is cultural awareness important?

Australia is super-multicultural, which means that people and traditions from many other countries and cultures are noticeable and celebrated. More likely than not, you’re going to meet many people and experience many situations that are unfamiliar to you.

Developing your understanding of other cultures, or ‘cultural awareness’, lets you have more meaningful interactions with those around you. You’re building your respect and empathy for other people, and celebrating your differences as well as your similarities. This makes you less likely to treat someone differently, just because they are from a different culture or ethnicity than you.

Ways to build cultural understanding and awareness

It can be very easy to stick with what you know, rather than try to meet people who are different from you. However, actively trying to understand and embrace cultural differences can open you up to a whole world of experiences. Here’s what you can do:

Become self-aware

Work out your own beliefs, values and personal biases. This includes biases about your own cultural background.

Yep – it can be confronting, but by doing this you’ll be able to think about how these traits might impact on your approach to and understanding of differences.

You could try: Think about what assumptions you make about your friends, peers, people you work with and strangers you see walking down the street. What assumptions do you make about people from the same background as you?

Do your own research

Learning about different cultures can be a great way to develop an understanding of cultural diversity.

You could try: Check out some foreign films on SBS or Netflix, attend a local food festival, or search for some online resources. For example, check out Common Ground’s resources for learning about Indigenous Australian culture and history.

Talk to someone from a different cultural background

Try and get to know someone from a different cultural background better. You don’t necessarily have to ask them directly about their culture, but by getting to know them as a friend or peer, you’ll automatically find out more about their life and experiences. Just being curious and open-minded can be helpful.

You could try: Have a chat or catch-up with an acquaintance, friend or coworker that you’ve wanted to get to know better. Remember to treat them just like you would anyone else, and don’t think of them only as a way to get to know about other cultural backgrounds.

If you’d rather try your luck online, there are sites that help you look for an international penpal. This is also a great way to practise your language skills if you’re learning a language.

Travel!

One of the best ways to experience and understand other cultures is to actually live among them. It might take a while to save for, but planning a trip overseas to a country you’re interested in can be the best way of opening yourself up to new cultures.

You could try: Check out some virtual travel and history experiences from the comfort of your own home.

Be more accepting

Sometimes, for one reason or another, it’s not all that easy to understand some cultural differences. In these situations, the best approach is just to acknowledge that some people are different and to accept that that’s okay. You don’t have to understand, or even agree with, someone in order to accept them.

You could try: Practise being empathetic towards the people around you and be mindful of your thoughts about others. Try not to compare or judge. Learn more about how you can become more accepting.

Culturally different, with diverse opinions

Even if you hear or read something about a certain culture, it’s important to realise that this doesn’t mean everyone from that particular background acts/thinks/believes the same thing. Just as not everyone you know has identical beliefs, people who come from different cultural backgrounds aren’t all a certain way, either.

Think beyond stereotypes

One of the biggest difficulties to overcome in understanding cultural differences is making judgements based on one opinion. Do your own research and make an effort to actually learn about people, instead of making broad-brush assessments. Stereotyping people from different cultural backgrounds can impact their quality of life and opportunities.

Everyone is unique

The main thing to remember is that everyone, no matter what their cultural background, has their own unique opinions, habits and ways of life. The sooner you accept that everyone is different, the easier it becomes to understand and embrace cultural differences.

What can I do now?

  • Learn how you can stand up to racism and support people from different cultural backgrounds.
  • Check out some of our ways to celebrate Harmony Day.
  • Work on your self-awareness.

Explore other topics

It’s not always easy to find the right place to start. Our ‘What’s on your mind?’ tool can help you explore what’s right for you.

Regardless of where you live on this great, big Earth, chances are you will eventually interact in some way with a culture that is different from your own. When most people think about culture, their first thoughts involve race or ethnicity. Culture goes far beyond that, however. In fact, we are all members of various cultural groups and our cultural identities develop based on the influence of these memberships. Like most things that make you who you are, the development of your cultural identity is an ongoing process. As we are exposed to different sets of beliefs and values, we may adopt other cultural beliefs that were not part of our original makeup. In this way, culture is dynamic and complex.

In addition to race and ethnicity, our cultural orientations are influenced by gender, class, physical and mental abilities, sexual orientation, religious and spiritual beliefs, age, and much more. The individual is a complex mix of many cultural influences woven together. It is, therefore, impossible to define a person by a single cultural label. To further complicate matters, our cultural histories are filtered by individual psychological characteristics and experiences, ensuring that even those sharing cultural similarities are truly unique.

How to understand and admire cultural differences

Regardless of our differences, we are the world and this world is for us all.

The 10 Cultural Universals

There are certain things that are a part of every culture. These things are called cultural universals. Though the elements within each will differ, every culture includes:

1. Geography: Location, land, flora, fauna, and other natural resources.

2. Family and Kin: Roles of males, females, children, elders, etc. These include the division of labor, child training, and rites of passage.

3. Political Organizations: Laws and rules, government, law enforcement, warfare, and peace.

4. Language: Includes spoken, written, sign language, body language, and number systems.

5. Food, Clothing, Transportation, and Shelter: Includes everyday wear and ceremonial wear. Includes types of housing and building materials.

6. Technology: Includes inventions, tools and weapons.

7. Beliefs, Values, and Rituals: Religious beliefs and practices; birth and death rituals; myths and legends. Also includes attitudes toward the “unknown” and scientific understandings.

8. Economics: Includes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, jobs, trade, and money.

9. Creative Expression: Includes dance, music, literature, games, and leisure activities.

10. Education: Can be formal and/or informal. Includes knowledge needed for survival, training, and the passing on of group values.

Elements of Culture

Culture is a system of shared beliefs that are used by a society in order to interact with the world, as well as with each other. Often, we think of the food, music, clothing, and holidays that are shared by a group as their culture, but these are only some of the elements. Other elements include customs, values, behaviors, and artifacts. Culture is, therefore, a combination of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs shared by those of the same racial, ethnic, religious, or other social group. Many of these groups we are born into (such as racial and ethnic groups) and others we choose (such as religious or political groups). Many of us move between groups, adjusting our ideas and beliefs as we grow and learn.Those who go through cultural shifts may adopt new customs, but they will also retain elements of their previous cultural experiences.

How to Be Culturally Responsive

The ability to learn from and relate respectfully to people of your own culture as well as others’ is known as “cultural responsivity.” Being culturally responsive requires openness to the viewpoints, thoughts, and experiences of others. This is not about changing others to be more like you. Instead, it is about exploring and honoring the differences of others. Developing a cultural- responsive attitude is a life-long journey. It includes:

  1. Developing cultural self-awareness. What influenced your own cultural identity? What values and beliefs do you hold and why? Understanding your own cultural makeup is the first step to understanding that others hold different values and beliefs and believe in them as much as you believe in yours.
  2. Learn to appreciate and value diverse views. Do not judge views that differ from yours as wrong. Instead, just accept that they are different and even try to understand other points of view.
  3. Avoid imposing your own values. Once you are aware of cultural differences, you may find that the cultural norms of some groups make you uncomfortable. Again, it is important to resist the urge to judge. Instead, make a conscious effort to understand the other perspective.
  4. Resist stereotyping. Avoid all stereotypes whether “negative” or “positive.” Statements such as “blondes are dumb” or “Asians are good at math” will never be true of all individuals within that population. Furthermore, there will always be individuals outside of that population who will also fit that statement. Stereotypes are therefore unreliable and untrue.
  5. Learn what you can. Reading about or talking to members of another culture or visiting a friend’s cultural celebration is a great way to increase your knowledge and overall acceptance.
  6. Accept your own naïveté. Cultural responsiveness may require you to forgive your own mistakes and ignorance. Don’t dwell on them. Instead, learn from them.

Breaking culturally-accepted norms makes people uncomfortable.

Learn to understand and appreciate people from every walk of life

How to understand and admire cultural differences

As you get older, you’ll meet a wider range of people from diverse cultures– not just from around the world, but sometimes within your own town or country! If you haven’t met many people whose backgrounds are very different from yours, it can be hard to know how to respectfully engage with their culture. This guide offers some tips for learning more about them, and about yourself.

‘Culture’ is a complex idea. We often use the term to refer to things like food, holidays, clothing, music, and religion, but it also goes much deeper than that. Behaviours, customs, beliefs, and values are also part of your culture. So when we meet people from different backgrounds, we can sometimes find that there are huge differences in how we see the world, even if we dress in a similar way or speak the same language.

Know your own culture

One of the best ways to understand other people’s cultures is to first examine your own. Most of us take our background for granted, and don’t even realise that our customs and beliefs might seem strange to someone else. If you think of your own way of life as the default and everyone else’s as a strange variation, it’s hard to approach those differences with respect.

What are your beliefs about the world, and about how people should treat each other? Are any of them informed by your own culture and the way you were brought up? What behaviours define you, and would any of them seem odd or unusual to someone with a different culture?

For example: do you take your shoes off when you go inside? It’s a simple thing, but it’s a huge marker of culture! In Japan, you would never go inside without swapping your outdoor shoes for slippers, whereas in the United States, many people don’t bother taking their shoes off when they come in.

These aren’t always easy questions to answer, but stopping to think about them is so important to understanding your place in the world, which will help you understand other people better, too.

Learn

Maybe you’ve recently met someone from a different culture that you find interesting, or you’re just curious to learn about how different people live. There are so many ways to learn about different

  • Make friends. Get to know your friends’ families and see how their customs and traditions differ from yours. You might be surprised to find how culturally different two people living even in the same town can be!
  • Talk to people. When you meet people from a different culture, ask them about their lives. But be polite about it and remember that they don’t owe you an answer, and might not want to give it – not everyone wants to explain everything about their culture, and if they’re a minority in the area, they might get asked the same questions a lot. Only ask if you have genuine interest in them as a person, not just as an example of their culture.
  • Read. Seek out books by and about people who are different from you. Memoirs, biographies, and other nonfiction books are an obvious way to learn about the facts of a country or someone’s life, but also try to read novels that have been translated from other languages or written by people who might have a very different perspective on life in your own country.
  • Watch movies. Like with books, you can watch documentaries and nonfiction series, but check out other kinds of films, too. You get a more varied and nuanced perspective on a culture by seeing the kinds of fictional stories they tell.
  • Listen to radio shows and podcasts. Radio and podcasts often feature people in more informal conversation, which is another great way to get an insider’s perspective on a different culture.
  • Travel. Immersing yourself in a completely different culture through travel is an amazing way to understand how different other ways of life can be. But even if you don’t have the time or money to visit different countries, you can find pockets of other cultures in your hometown. Wherever you live, there are probably immigrant communities or neighbourhoods with their own cultural heritage.

The more you learn, the more accustomed you get to greeting cultural differences with curiosity rather than suspicion.

Don’t stereotype

Sometimes, learning a lot about a different culture through books, movies, or even travel and friends can lead you into a different trap: stereotyping.

You may think you know a lot about a culture or place, and sometimes that can make it tempting to show off your knowledge when you meet someone from that background… but it’s a problem to assume that everyone from one particular culture has the same perspectives and experiences. These assumptions can be big or small: for example, not every Jewish person was raised observing kosher dietary restrictions, and not every English person loves football. They can also be harmful, if your assumptions about someone’s traditions or beliefs lead you to pre-judge or discriminate against them.

These assumptions make people feel like you don’t see them as a human or an individual, just as a representative of an exotic culture. You’d be annoyed if someone thought they knew everything about you based on where you’re from or who your parents are, so don’t do it to other people – even if you think you understand their culture really well.

Appreciate the differences

Differences between us are what make life so interesting. So embrace the differences between yourself and your friends from different cultures – but remember that what is a fascinating difference to you is just their normal life!

The best way to respect people from other cultures is to strike a balance between curiosity and appreciation: ask questions if your friends are open to it, but also learn how to just silently observe and appreciate the differences that make us unique.

How to understand and admire cultural differences

When teaching a diverse group of students, whether they are English language learners or English speakers but have a different cultural background, it’s important to be mindful of the cultural differences in students’ behaviour. Recognizing and being able to distinguish these cultural differences allows the teacher to form a safe environment for all students. It’s important to recognize and understand these differences to be able to implement culturally responsive teaching and pedagogical practices in the classroom to ensure the success of every student.

Here are some of the cultural differences that you might notice in student behaviour:

Eye contact: Many teachers notice that some of their students, especially English language learners, do not make direct eye contact with the teacher. In Western culture, this may be a sign that the person is not paying attention to the speaker. However, in many cultures, making a direct eye contact with the teacher (or any other person of authority) is a sign of disrespect. Many students are taught by their parents and family to not make such eye contact, as it’s also a sign of someone looking to challenge you.

Asking questions: This can be applied to personality traits, i.e. some shy students do not ask questions. However, in some cultures students learn that asking the teacher questions might imply that the teacher did not teach well, and therefore is impolite. Moreover, in some cultures asking questions can be seen as a way to challenge the teacher, and that is always discouraged and frowned upon.

Student may smile during an intense discussion: Some students may smile during intense discussions or reprimanding. The student may have been taught to react in this way so as not to offend the teacher/person of authority in the discussion.

The student does not display active listening skills or is inattentive: In some cultures students are taught using hands on methods through modelling and observation. Therefore, students might not be familiar with using active listening in the classroom to understand concepts and instructions.

Student refuses to engage in debates/discussions: There may be students who refuse to participate or contribute to a debate and/or lively discussion that occurs in class. In a few cultures, debating or engaging in discussions with different point of views, can be seen to challenge the participants in the discussion. Many cultures teach students that challenging teachers and/or authority figures is disrespectful. In other cultures, students do not recognize discussions/debates to be a different learning strategy, and therefore ignore the activity when it occurs.

Learning how to accommodate these behaviours is probably the teacher’s hardest job. However, providing the safe space for these student behaviours would allow teachers to implement the necessary pedagogical practices to help students excel and succeed in the classroom. When the teacher is able to connect with her student, her student succeeds. Building a relationship with the student is often the first step into being able to know them—to understand their behaviour in the classroom and how it connects to their learning. Being mindful of students’ backgrounds and cultural differences tells students that it’s okay for them to be who they are, while still having the support of their teachers and classmates. What we’re really looking for is creating awareness and support by discussing these cultural behaviour differences. What are some cultural differences in behaviour that you’ve encountered, and most importantly, what are some strategies that you used to accomodate students displaying those behaviours?

New Season

How to understand and admire cultural differences

Respecting one’s elders or those older than oneself, used to be the mark of good upbringing in my country. Sadly now, an increasing number of the younger generation don’t seem to understand the meaning of the word. WHAT happened, WHERE did we go wrong and HOW did we get here?

An incident from my childhood springs to mind of a neighbour’s daughter (approx 5 years older than me), insisting that I call her ‘Sister Blah blah blah‘, (nothing to do with the nunnery, just a mark of respect to someone slightly older or Aunty Blah blah blah for someone much older). I was very upset and couldn’t understand what the big fuss was all about. Sadly, I succumbed (being very young) but vowed I would never enforce the same on younger ones when and if the time came. The time did arrive and some aunties insisted that my younger siblings call me ‘Sister Blah blah blah’! I immediately declined vehemently but little did I know that I would one day demand same.

While living abroad, I came to understand that respect is earned, not enforced. It has nothing to do with age, wealth, position or marital status. I also discovered that even when one is called by their first name, the way and manner in which the name is called can be a sign of respect or disrespect. This reinforced my thinking.

A rude awakening…
Back in my homeland twenty years later, I am astounded to discover that a large number of children no longer consider it fit to greet adults, not even a simple ‘hello’! The so-called ‘young adults’ are worse: they speak to you disrespectfully and call out your name as if talking to their mates. Am I being difficult or showing my age? Maybe, but I believe that the display of good manners is a lifestyle, not a fad. Of course my ‘single‘ marital status and the fact that I look much younger than my years, doesn’t help. It seems to me that in a bid to become westernised and to compensate for not spending time with the kids (24/7 work life), a significant proportion of my generation are bringing up ill-mannered kids!

The result?
I now insist on being called Sister Blah blah blah, Aunty Blah blah blah or Ms Blah blah blah. Though it doesn’t ensure respect, it creates a virtual distance in the relationship, which keeps the interaction at arm’s length. My reasoning: where there is no familiarity, contempt is kept at bay. This is hard work and quite taxing because one has to operate in a certain mode at all times, which can come across as hard-nosed. Interestingly though, if I were married or had kids, the response from this segment of society would be positively different. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the hierarchy of respect in the society is:

  1. married men
  2. single men
  3. married women
  4. single women

Help!
I am open to exploring alternative ways of managing these kids and would like to hear your views or suggestions.

Studying other cultures and cultural differences provides self-insight.

Posted May 16, 2013

Recently, my friends Hazel Markus and Alana Conner published a book on culture. It isn’t a book on exploring cultures or talking about why you should always accept a business card from a Japanese business man with two hands and admire it. Instead, Clash talks about eight cultural conflicts and frames those conflicts as paths to self-knowledge. In other words, it describes the self, and our individual cultures, as relative.

Often, we when we think about culture and cultural differences, we are looking for or are offended by the inevitable generalizations that come up. Too often, culture is seen as a byproduct of race or ethnicity. If you have a certain look, you are from a certain culture. And, if you are from that culture, you hold certain beliefs. But, this is an outwardly-looking view. With this book, you could not only look outward to understand why two other people aren’t getting along, but also look inward to better understand what you expect and assume about the world around you. This self-insight can help you better navigate our increasingly global world.

For example, one distinction discussed by Markus and Conners is the distinction between Americans from different parts of the United States. People from different states have different expectations and assumptions about how things should be done, and even what things should be called. Oftentimes, it is only when a person comes up against another way of doing things that these assumptions become apparent. I attended Carleton College, a liberal arts college in Minnesota. Within my first two days of being there, I realized that possessed an assumption about rain. Coming from California, I expected that it didn’t rain in the summer and that when it did rain, it would rain all day. When I woke up on September 2, to a downpour that lasted 20 minutes, that assumption was revealed to be false. Similarly, freshman orientation week was filled with arguments over whether a carbonated beverage was “Coke”, “pop”, or “soda”, and whether mint ice cream with chocolate chips was properly labeled “mint chip” or “peppermint bon bon”. There was a particularly colorful discussion in my dorm about “duck, duck, goose” vs. “duck, duck, gray duck”. The point is, only be coming into contact and comparing my assumptions to others did I realize that my assumptions were just that – my view of how things should be and not necessarily the truth.

Of course, the differences between the coastal states and the heartland, between the blue states and red, are more than just what to call Cokes. For instance, last January I was in Louisville, Kentucky. I was born in Lexington and have family roots in Appalachia and family still in Kentucky. I was driving with a man who was born and raised in Northern California. He couldn’t see why anyone would want to live in Kentucky. I pointed out the cost of living, the slower pace of life, the closeness of family, the lack of congestion, but all he could see was that there was no ocean to surf in. He had an assumption that everyone shared his values of personal fulfillment over familial ties.

Why is it important to understand your cultural background beyond your race and ethnicity? Because if you understand yourself, you are better prepared to recognize and embrace alternatives. For instance, research by William Maddux has shown that people who have significant multicultural experiences are more creative. Also, if you understand where you are coming from, you may be more understanding of conflicts that are arising, and be able to address those conflicts in collaborative ways.

In culture, as in all things, learn about others, compare yourself to them, and learn about yourself.

Do you have a genuine interest in other cultures? Ever want to build a relationship with someone from another culture but not know where to start? With students representing more than 40 different countries, it’s a skill we practice daily here at the ELC!

So after talking with students, teachers, and staff, we formed this list of tips for building authentic relationships with your newest neighbors. Always remember, however, that each culture and person is unique, and specific guidelines will vary by situation.

      Start with your own bias. Be honest with yourself about the stereotypes you hold of another‘s culture, customs, and life experience. We all have them, but through acknowledging them, we can work to overcome them.

    Identify your intentions. Consider why you want to reach out to with this person. Be upfront about your motivations, so that everyone feels safe. Your reasons might be as simple as encouraging community in your neighborhood or believing that it is important for us to take care of each other.

    Smile and say hello. Never underestimate the power of a smile! As Mother Teresa once said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

    Educate yourself. Do your own research to gain some basic insights into another culture (but don’t think it makes you an expert!). Read a novel by an author from that country. Visit a place of worship. Attend a cultural event. Opportunities are endless in today’s connected world.

    Spend time in unfamiliar spaces. We often spend the majority of our time in places and amongst people who are “like us.” Or we invite someone into relationship only on our own terms and turf. Be willing to step outside your own comfort zone and meet others in theirs.

    Don’t tokenize. Never expect one person, especially someone with whom you do not already have a relationship, to represent his or her entire ethnic group, culture, religion, or race. Ask questions only if you sincerely want to hear the answer. It’s not your role to judge someone else’s truth.

    It’s not all about you. Teaching others about our identity can sometimes take significant mental and emotional energy. If someone does choose to teach you, recognize it as a gift. Be sensitive to how much he or she is willing to share; don’t prioritize your learning at another’s expense.

    Don’t appropriate. You may admire a culture that is not your own, but you can never “own” it. Be careful how you participate, especially in matters of spirituality, ritual, and tradition. Let someone from that culture invite you or tell you how you can best honor what is sacred to him or her.

    Learn names with correct pronunciation. Everyone appreciates being known. Make an intentional effort to remember unfamiliar names. Try addressing someone at least three times throughout a conversation to help it stick. Be humble and ask again, if necessary.

    Mange your expectations. Move slowly and understand that you may not experience an immediate bond. Building trust takes time. Create norms together for developing the relationship, rather than assuming that what is right for you is also right for the other person.

    Let children play. Children have a magical way of breaking through language barriers and cultural differences. You may find a starting point for building a relationship with the parents of your child’s friends.

    Share a meal. Food is a huge part of culture, and sharing a meal together almost universally represents and deepens friendship. Wait until you’ve established a base of trust, and be prepared to encounter new foods, etiquette customs, and cultural or religious dietary restrictions.

    Be willing to share yourself. As in any relationship, you must also be willing to give. Put the other person at ease about where you come from and who you are, and he or she may open up in turn.

    Have humility, apologize, and move forward. Despite your best efforts, miscommunications will likely happen. Be patient with yourself, and hear what others have to tell you. No need to walk on eggshells—admit mistakes, apologize, learn, and move forward.

  1. Be human. Our differences are real and shape how we experience the world. But at our core, we are all human beings with similar needs and desires. Identify the things you share, and remember that we each need the other to reach our full potential.

There you have it! Let us know if you try any of these or have advice of your own. We’d love to hear how things go for you!

Cultural Differences Between Americans & Russians

Cultural differences can help describe the differences between two groups by comparing these groups as a whole. Both of these countries are multi-ethnic, great powers, whom have a variety of diverse groups in their societies. Both groups are known for great hospitality and appreciate casual, direct, and a blunt way of speaking. Moreover, cultural differences are of importance to discuss when doing business in Russia or just communicating between the two groups. One can learn to speak a language, but until you know and understand the culture you will never truly be fluent in that language. Cultural differences should never be underestimated due to their importance.

In Russia, personal space is not an option; your space is their space. Americans prefer more personal space than Russians do. In America when friends or family greet they shake hands or give a short hug and immediately step aside to have some distance for conversation(normally 3-4 feet). In Russia, people are comfortable talking right on top of each other with very little (maybe 1-2 feet) personal space between them(Natalia Kozyakova, 2014). Americans are very uncomfortable with “close talkers” so they start to back away. Russian people do not like to much personal space and would rather speak sitting or walking quite close to each other. As conversation proceeds, they tend to come closer and closer. I have a friend, whom is Italian, and I consider him a close talker and always catch myself stepping back during conversation until he has me cornered and I have nowhere else to go. Moreover, in Russia it is considered rude and unfriendly to keep a large distance during the conversation while in America it is preferred.

How to understand and admire cultural differences

Like most cultures, it is important to have trust and a mutual relationship. It is imperative for the Russian culture to be able to trust one another and keep that trust. Russians have to believe that someone is good and honest before having a concert relationship. Americans become friends first and build trust later if at all. American’s friend and befriend people suddenly and occasionally. In some situations, Americans may seem open up at first, but in reality it can take time to earn their complete trust. Americans make friends and become relatively close in no time at all, but it is easy for them to disappear in an instance from one anothers life. Russians believe in building friendships and staying connected after the trust is built. Lastly, during communication repeating one’s self to a Russian will make you appear untrustworthy. A big mistake in the Russian culture is to repeat the words “I’m sorry” or “thank you”(Deborsi, 2012). Moveover, it is important to apologize once and not repeat.

Dating in America is normally casual and laid back mostly in pubic settings having a common conversation. Typically two individuals go to dinner or a movie or possibly both. Americans typically meet someone in a bar or nowadays online and throw themselves into dating; if it doesn’t work then they just move on. They date many partners in very little time and don’t think anything of it. Casual dating is a lot less common in Russia. Russians date to find a significant other and get married. In Russia, you will see two people on a date wearing a formal dress and suit instead of jeans and t-shirts (No Author, 2014). Russian women and men go to bars, coffee shops and restaurants to find potential dates and hope is to turn a casual encounter into marriage. Furthermore, Russian men are expected to pay for all of a woman’s expenses when they are on a date” (Deborsi, 2012). If the gentlemen, does not pay the female can take this offensively and move on.

Russian business culture retains many of the characteristics instilled during the Soviet era, most noticeably an autocratic management style (Ellie Williams, 2014). The autocratic style is not president in American business culture too often. This form of leadership enables managers to make decisions unilaterally. Russian employees don’t inquire about the consent; they do whatever they feel is necessary in order to achieve goals. America’s are expected to follow management’s direction even though employees often ask questions about their duties and often collaborate with supervisors. Language translation problems can occur; one word will convey an idea or meaning while Russians will have several words to choose from, each having a slightly different meaning. Lastly, many Russians don’t conduct business on the phone due to the phone system being poor. While American business is conducted over the phone, email, letter or fax. Russian prefers to hear and discuss directly from people they trust, face-to-face.

How to understand and admire cultural differences

In Russia, people are a little more formal and reserved, more serious, and casual behavior is considered a sign of disrespect. In the United States, American culture is slightly less formal and open, with society interacting casually and frequently debating and discussing personal and non-personal issues. Russian people, value personal relationships and trust, and tend to be suspicious of strangers. As a result, they usually stick to people who know each other well. Whether or not one is going to have a personal or business relationship with someone from Russian, it is very helpful and respectful to get to know how their cultural expects another to act.

A place to put your experiences !

Let’s say that you’re traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language. You didn’t have time to pick up a dictionary or a book of common phrases, so you’ll have to get around using only hand gestures. At a restaurant, you try to indicate which dishes you’d like by nodding or giving the server a thumbs-up, but all you get is the opposite of what you wanted and an offended look. No one will look you in the eye, and one person seemed downright affronted by your attempts to point out on a map where you’d like to go. What gives?

We may think that nonverbal communication is universal, but it’s not. Every culture interprets body language, gestures, posture and carriage, vocal noises (like shrieks and grunts), and degree of eye contact differently. In the example above, the poor traveler might have expected that nodding his or her head up and down would indicate yes, but in some countries, it means just the opposite. In the Middle East, nodding the head down indicates agreement, while nodding it up is a sign of disagreement; in Japan, a up-and-down nod might just be a signal that someone is listening The thumbs-up signal is vulgar in Iran. The “OK” signal made by forming a circle with the thumb and forefinger refers to money in some countries, while in others it’s an extremely offensive reference to a private body part. Point with the wrong finger, or with anything less than your entire hand, and you risk offending somebody, and while some cultures value eye contact as a sign of respect, averting your eyes may be the sign of respect in others.

Non­verbal communication or body language is an important part of how people communicate and there are differences from culture to culture. Hand and arm gestures, touch, and eye contact (or its lack) are a few of the aspects of non­verbal communication that may vary significantly depending upon cultural background.

Gestures:
There are a number of gestures commonly used in the United States that may have a different meaning and/or be offensive to those from other cultures. One common example is the use of a finger or hand to indicate “come here please”. This is the gesture used to beckon dogs in some cultures and is very offensive. Pointing with one finger is also considered to be rude in some cultures and Asians typically use their entire hand to point to something.

Touch:
While patting a child’s head is considered to be a friendly or affectionate gesture in our culture, it is considered inappropriate by many Asians to touch someone on the head, which is believed to be a sacred part of the body. In the Middle East, the left hand is reserved for bodily hygiene and should not be used to touch another or transfer objects. In Muslim cultures, touch between opposite gendered individuals is generally inappropriate.

Eye contact/gaze:
In mainstream Western culture, eye contact is interpreted as attentiveness and honesty; we are taught that we should “look people in the eye” when talking. In many cultures, however, including Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Native American, eye contact is thought to be disrespectful or rude, and lack of eye contact does not mean that a person is not paying attention. Women may especially avoid eye contact with men because it can be taken as a sign of sexual interest.
Of special note when working with babies:
Although it is common in Western culture for adults to admire babies and young children and comment upon how cute they are, this is avoided in Hmong and Vietnamese cultures for fear that these comments may be overheard by a spirit that will try to steal the baby or otherwise cause some harm to come to him or her.

Facial expressions might be the only form of nonverbal communication that could be considered universal. It was Charles Darwin who first proposed that all cultures express emotions the same way with their faces, a hypothesis that was supported by laboratory studies in the 1960s. Researchers determined that there are six universal facial expressions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise [source: Matsumoto]. In more recent years, other researchers have argued that looks of contempt and embarrassment may also constitute universal expressions. No matter where you are, it seems, you must remember that your body is always saying something, even when you’re not speaking.

We might be living in a global world but nonverbal communication in different cultures shows such drastic differences that you might get the feeling that we are from different planets. If you’re working on a multi-cultural project, it’s important to understand these differences. Nonverbal communication might look nonessential for humans – who needs to communicate nonverbally, when we have words to express our thoughts? We do have words; however, as it turns out, we still convey most of the meaning via nonverbal methods. What is more, many nonverbal expressions we consider to be fine in our culture can get us into trouble in other parts of the world or when working with people from other countries at home.

Ikea, J. & Charles T. Jr., Cultural Differences in Non­verbal Communication. Health Screening Recommendations for Children. 2012.

Ada Stoy, Project Communication Tips: Nonverbal Communication in Different Cultures. 2016.