Understanding Other Cultures

Surely, in your individual life you have encountered the difficulties of having to understand a different culture. Perhaps you’ve disagreed with another person, perhaps you’ve even gone into a heated argument, and all because there was a failure in understanding the difference in culture. This raises the question: how then do you understand someone from a different culture?

Practical Ways to Understand Difference

First thing you have to consider is the need for effective communication. This is one of the most common problems, when you are both talking but you’re not really achieving a clear and common understanding. The key to this is to begin the conversation without the motivation to start an argument. Instead, begin the discussion with the motivation to understand and to empathize.

Second thing to consider is overcoming language barriers. Do you find yourself having to gesture all the time? Do you both have to repeat what you just said and is it weighing down on the relationship? To address this, try to learn each other’s language. Language reflects not just words, but also perspectives. So, if you can find a way to learn the language, you can also find it easier to learn the perspective, no matter how strange or foreign.

Third, you also have to consider food and dining. Sure, you might say this is a very mundane issue. But actually, food is an important consideration in understanding culture. You see, when you understand and appreciate a culture’s cuisine, you also somehow get a picture of the worldview that’s going on in the cuisine. Is it spicy? Is it predominantly sweet? What do you think that tells you about the culture that you’re trying to learn?

Fourth, it would also be good to understand hand gesures. The consequences of failing to understand hand gestures can range from funny to downright destructive. You don’t want to get into trouble for giving the wrong hand gesture or if you’re interpreting a hand gesture the wrong way. Be sure that you first talk about what these gestures mean. If you misunderstood any of them, be sure to give the other person enough time to explain. (Tip: Maybe, if you’re planning to build a website on multiculturalism, you can include a feature on these hand gestures all over the world. Your website visitors will thank you.)