Oftentimes, intercultural communication can be a positive or negative experience, especially when interacting with people from other countries or while travelling overseas. In such a case, there are a number of factors that come into play when conversing with different individuals. These factors will be analysed and discussed herein, coupled with theory and personal experience to develop a profile which can examined in order to identify with intercultural experiences in a cross-cultural context.
Being in America, California to be exact, I was prone in facing the results of the implicative notions of diversity in the face of modern society. I simply needed to accept the fact that adjusting to others who do not completely speak English becomes an extensive necessity. One specific point of acquaintance that taught be about this necessity is that of the chance when I met an Indian boy. I had a strong background about the Indian culture because of my interest in the country and their people; besides the fact that I regularly visit country every now and then.
Facilitation of Communication
There were three major factors that helped facilitate the communication between me and the Indian boy; which included gender, background and values. Firstly, we were both male, and as such, were able to converse more freely than if the individual had been of the opposite gender. As we were both in high school at the time, we were only a few years apart, making the conversation easier to follow and similar in nature. Secondly, we were both well aware of each other’s backgrounds, as I had regularly visited India, and he had lived in India since his birth. This mutual understanding allowed the conversation to flow freely from topic to topic, yet remain in a similar line of thought. Furthermore, we both gained a respect for each other as the conversation continued, and this built a foundation for a good friendship into the future.
Thirdly, the cultural values we shared was one of the most significant factors that helped facilitate the communication between us. Intercultural awareness is shown to account for a more fluid and dynamic relationship between people of different countries (Baker, 2012). Therefore, the cultural values were quite similar and made it more of a friendly conversation that built our friendship upwards. In particular, these values included respect and courteousness, which we both displayed when communicating with each other over the period of our conversation.
Inhibitive Factors of Communication
However, there were some inhibiting factors in our communication that led to the repealing of our views on certain subjects. One of these factors was the language barrier. Although we were both conversing in English, his education in English was not as advanced as mine, as he was born and raised in India, where the primary language is not English; whereas I had been brought up in America, where the common language is English. Therefore, during the course of the conversation, certain terms had to be repeated, and this led to changes in our views on subjects such as lifestyle differences and cultural attitudes.
The other factor that may have inhibited our communication was commonly held beliefs. The Indian boy that I was talking with had pre-conceived notions that were based on rumours he had heard about the laid-back lifestyle of Americans, which he had confused with laziness. I had to explain to him the major differences between the two concepts, which he struggled with accepting. Research shows that there is a negative relationship between differences in behaviour and intercultural communication competence (Arasaratnam and Banerjee, 2011; Hinnenkamp, 2009). However, we were able to reach a common understanding, although it took some time.
Theory in Practice
Much of the intercultural experience can be analysed through the lens of theoretical concepts, including motivational aspects, evidence of ethnocentrism or prejudice, as well as non-verbal differences. The primary motivation behind the meeting between the Indian boy and I seemed to be one of intrigue, as we both had not met, as aforementioned, but were deeply interested in identifying differences and perhaps similarities between the two of us. Although this was not a negative motivation, at times it seemed that the conversation was digressing into areas in which we both had limited understanding. This prompted me to steer the conversation to lighter topics, which helped brighten the mood.
However, there may have been a slight influence of prejudice, as the Indian boy firmly believed that the Indian lifestyle was better than the American lifestyle; although over the course of the conversation, I was able to change this view. In addition, the Indian boy’s barriers to communication were broken down once we were able to discuss topics which we were both familiar with, which ended in a good friendship.
Lastly, the non-verbal differences were clearly evident during the intercultural experience. The Indian boy had a fascinating way of blinking twice when surprised by ideas or facts about Australia that he had not come across before. This was a positive experience that I learned to appreciate about him, and once that I remember distinctly about the experience. I was also able to add humour into the experience, which was readily understood and embraced by the Indian boy. Therefore, it is shown that cognitive, affective and behavioural dimensions often encompass intercultural communication competence (Arasaratnam, 2009).
In summary, the intercultural experience was overall a positive experience, which had major facilitators of communication, and also inhibitive factors in conversation. It could also be noted that both illustrated various theoretical concepts in practice. Relatively, this experience is rather enriching and personally developing in the sense that it taught me so much about adjusting to the manner of conversing with a non-English speaking individual therefore breaking the barriers of language limitations.
Arasaratnam, L. and Banerjee, S. (2011). Sensation Seeking and Intercultural Communication Competence: A Model Test. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(2), 226-233.
Arasaratnam, L. (2009). The Development of a New Instrument of Intercultural Communication Competence. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 20(1), 1-12.
Baker, W. (2012). From Cultural Awareness to Intercultural Awareness. Oxford Journal, 6(1), 62-70.
Hinnenkamp, V. (2009). The Notion of Misunderstanding in Intercultural Communication. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 16(1), 24-28.