Cross Cultural Communication
Cross Cultural Communication
A country that was annexed by another country is sure to have exchanged or been impacted culturally and in many other aspects. An excellent example of this could be the British India. India was ruled over by Britishers for almost 350 years. Therefore, many traits and systems in India today are derived from the time they were under the British rule. One of the most vivid illustrations of this is the schooling system and English as a medium language for teaching and learning. The number of English speakers in India is more than 125 million people (“Indiaspeaks,” 2010).
Analyzing from the graph of Hofstede’s cross cultural dimensions of India and England, it is clear that both countries rank closely in two dimensions which are Masculinity and Uncertainty Avoidance. In terms of masculinity, both countries especially India, rank very closely to the neutral point. India scored 56 and United Kingdom scored 66. Even though India scored very close to the mid range, it actually is a very masculine country specially in terms of displaying success and power (“India,” n.d.).
However, India is also a country with ancient spiritual history which involves richness of culture and traditions that were shaped by its main religion i.e., Hinduism. This often reigns in people from indulging in Masculine displays to the extent that they might be inclined to (“India,” n.d.). As for Britain, it is considered a masculine culture. Nevertheless, there is confusion among foreigners as to how can English people value modesty and understatement and at the same time be highly success driven (“United Kingdom,” n.d.). India scored 40 on Uncertainty Avoidance which means that the country has a medium low preference for avoiding uncertainty.
It is due to the perception that nothing has to be perfect nor has to go exactly as planned. Indians have very high tolerance for the unexpected and is welcomed as a break from monotony (“India,” n.d.). They believe in the notion of adjustment and adaptation. Each situation or problem they face will be handled and taken care of differently. Their behaviors are usually influenced by circumstances. In this dimension the UK scored 35 which indicates that England has a low preference for avoiding uncertainty. According to Geert Hofstede, they are happy to “make it up as they go along” changing plan as new information comes to light. On the other hand, both countries do have interesting differences in their scores of Power Distance and Individuality.
Power Distance is one main dimension where both countries have largest difference which is 42. Indian scored 77 whereas the UK scored only 35. India is strictly a large power distant society where hierarchy is appreciated and accepted. In this kind of society, inequality and centralization of power prevail. Privileges and status symbols are popular. People with no power or younger are not allowed to have a voice. Parents teach children obedience and children ought to treat parents with respect (“Hofstede,” n.d.) .
Teachers are considered as gurus as well. An illustration of this can be seen from the ancient history of India where Gurus taught everything, right from academic to wisdom, to children and groomed them to be good human beings. In terms of business, subordinates are usually not consulted during decision-making. However, they expect to be told what to do. An ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat or good father (“Hofstede,” n.d.).
The UK is a small power distance society. It is interesting to see Britain among one of the small power distance societies as Britain has a rich culture and heritage as well as the monarchy system where there are princes and princesses in the society. In small power distance like Britain, inequalities are minimized. Parents and children treat one another as equals. Teachers are experts who transfer academic knowledge and not life virtues. An ideal boss is a resourceful democrat who consults his subordinates while making any decision.
Another dimension where both countries differ greatly in terms of their scores is Individuality. It is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people’s self-image is defined as I or We (Hofstede, n.d.). India scored 48, therefore, it is a collectivistic society whereas Britain scored 89 which makes it a clear individualistic society. In collectivistic society, there is a high preference for belonging where individuals are expected to act in accordance with what other members of the group expect one to do. Behaviors and actions of people in this society are highly influenced by opinions of their family, relatives and members of their social network group. In contrast, in individualistic society, people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only (Hofstede, n.d.). British are highly private people, children are taught to think for themselves and make their own goals in life.
The path to happiness is believed to be through personal fulfillment. Another interesting aspect of culture was looked into by Deborah Tannen who wrote a book called “Languages and Linguistics” where he explained a deep connection between culture and languages and how both are interrelated. One aspect that Tannen stated in his book is about Crosscultural Miscommunication which is about rising and falling intonation. For English, rising intonation means questioning and falling intonation reveals inconsiderateness and indifference which are rude and impolite. Problem arises when business deal or agreement is to take place because this is the most crucial time when contracts are to be signed and both parties definitely do not wish for anything to go wrong.
However, just a drop of sound can change almost the whole scenario. It shows that speakers of different cultural backgrounds develop systematically different conventions for using and interpreting linguistic features (Tannen, 2005). Hence, it is very important for everybody, especially those who work in the service field to recognize this difference and work towards improving it. The last important aspect from Tannen’s theory is High involvement and High considerateness. Since Indian society is a highly collectivistic society, it is a high involvement society as well. People in the same area will consider their neighbors as their family members. This stands true at the time of crisis; people would gather and ask with concern about the story and offer suggestions and aid that they could provide.
However, Britain is a private society where people are individualistic. They do not like to impose on other people’s business unless they are related or close to the person. Imposition can be taken as ill-mannered or rude in some circumstances. In conclusion, India and British are two completely different cultures that couldn’t have had anything in common if British hadn’t ruled India. Both countries adopted and shared some of the good values and characteristics with each other contributing to the development of quality of life and relationship between both to prosper. Without Hofstede’s dimensions and Tannen’s theories, cross cultural communication would still be difficult and this would hinder growth of business, tourism and cultural sectors of each and every country.
Hofstede, G. (n.d.). Dimensions. In Geert Hofstede. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from http://geert-hofstede.com/dimensions.html
Hofstede, G. (n.d.). What about India. In Geert Hofstede. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from http://geert-hofstede.com/india.html
Hofstede, G. (n.d.). What about the UK? In Geert Hofstede. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from http://geert-hofstede.com/united-kingdom.html
Indiaspeak: English is our 2nd language [TNN]. (2010, March 14). In The Times of India. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from The Times of India website: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-03-14/india/28117934_1_second-language-speakers-urdu
(n.d.). HOFSTEDE: Cultures And Organizations – Software of the Mind [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://westwood.wikispaces.com/file/view/Hofstede.pdf
Tannen, D. (2005). Interactional Sociolinguistics as a resource for Intercultural Pragmatics. In Intercultural Pragnlatics (Vols. 2-2, pp. 205-208). Walter de Gruyter.
Tannen, D. (2006). Language and culture. An Introduction to Language and Linguistics, 345-347.
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