The courage to ask awkward questions.
Selfishness or a habit?
During intercultural communication we are in constant pursue of the uncertainty about our own cultural grasp of the situation and either we are perceived correctly, and we haven’t offended anybody. To be on the safe side, in order not to offend anyone unintentionally or in the reverse case when you are offended, it is important to get your worries across and further clear up the situation.
Within an American culture women are expected to be independent and if an American doesn’t help to carry your bag or open a door, don’t take offense 😆They are grown in such a way to perceive a woman in a feminist way. Otherwise, in Russia a woman wants to be a woman. So, a Russian woman will be petrified if a man doesn’t help her to carry her heavy bag 😁If such accident happens and somebody is offended, it is necessary not to lose your nerve and confront a person, ask directly for the reasons and motives of actions. Consequently, inform them of your local culture and be understanding, trying to mitigate the situation. Give people a benefit of the doubt at first. As it turns out, mostly within multi-national interaction what may be seen as rudeness might be purely a distinctive feature of contemporary traditions.
Among more traditional-enriched Asian cultures while engaging with new people, it is quite hard to identify emotions and attitudes at first sight. Even if I have a little suspect that I did something wrong and probably offended, I ask about it explicitly, not trying to read the signs, which could be done incorrectly. In Korea, I had a Russian joke “if a Korean keeps a dog, he is a vegetarian”. After telling it for the first audience I didn’t hear laughter at all and I had to ask if it was offensive or not. It wasn’t, but it was good to ask to make sure if we hadn’t hurt someone in any way. In the second attempt the joke had quite a success and other Koreans found it extremely entertaining.
In our own culture we can easily have the clear national inherited scale from the worst to the best behavior to see easily the person’s intentions and character, for example, somebody’s interest, rudeness, stupidity, etc. However, mostly I don’t see 🤣 at the age of 17 I couldn’t figure out the boy looking at me for long, was flirting 😉
So, there are still difficulties with perception within own culture, but in a foreign environment as a newcomer abroad you are like a sightless kid. No other option but to ask straightforward questions and clear up an issue. As insiders’ signs and gestures, body language and so on are unreachable to us 😭
Much easier to ignore and have awkward silences. It is possible to discover hurtful information, but at least make things clear. Yet, a pleasure to find it was just a misunderstanding due to cultural intricacies! It takes big courage to initiate a communication, and great rewards are awaiting. I hope you will unreluctantly discover this opportunity!
Find out more tips on cross-cultural communication.