Some Intercultural Ideas

How one views another culture is 90% influenced by one's own culture, based on the fact that all behaviors are relative to one's own standards. The Chinese perceptions of the French, regardless of attempts at objectivity, would be useless to a German wanting to understand and deal with the French.

What one believes about another culture is every bit as important as how the culture IS. It has as much impact in how one deals with that culture as the realities, and can do as much good or harm. It also influences what we choose to notice about other cultures.

Descriptions of other cultures can be very misleading to outsiders, in understanding what factors are positive and which are negative, to the observing culture. A highly reserved culture describing another culture as "very friendly," may consider "very friendly" a negative and frivolous or suspicious characteristic. Frugal and generous cultures often feel negative toward each other, although these may be very positive characteristics within these cultures.

Many intercultural conflicts are caused by differing priorities. All cultures have three basic human priorities in differing ratios; being, doing and having. High BE cultures emphasize the personal, interpersonal and spiritual side of humans. High DO cultures are those that emphasize their activities above all other aspects. High HAVE cultures emphasize wealth and tangible possessions. Within a given culture, these ratios can change in space and time. As these ratios change, so do the cultures. Most third world countries contain high BE cultures. Modern Japan is now a good example of a high DO culture. The U.S.A. is now a mostly HAVE culture, that historically was probably predominantly a BE culture, followed by a mostly DO culture. BE cultures have a hard time relating to HAVE cultures and vice versa. DO cultures tend to admire and be somewhat intimidated by HAVE cultures. Both DO and HAVE cultures are somewhat scornful of BE cultures, that don't do as much as they do. In reality, all three groups need each other.

Theodore A. Klein, Jr.