Intercultural Communication: Problems and Benefits

Culture is a notion, which has a huge amount of meanings in different spheres of human activity. It is the object of study of such sciences as philosophy, history, linguistics, pedagogics, and others. In general, culture means human activity in all of its aspects, including all means of a persons self-expression and self-knowledge.

As a rule, the word culture is used in several common cases. When it is necessary to distinguish the peculiarities of the particular nationality, as a pattern of human belief and behavior, or for the estimation of such criteria as human morality and values.

It goes without saying, that there is a huge difference between the cultures of different nationalities. The difference is not only in customs and traditions but is also in the persons mentality and its world outlook. While visiting another country, a stranger may feel some kind of discomfort and disorientation when he or she runs into an unfamiliar way of living. Another tradition, which may seem strange, another customs, another religion – all these facts may cause cultural shock.

The most common problems, which foreigner faces in another country, are the language barrier, the technological gap, the information gap, the job dependency, and so on.

It is obvious that the stranger, who knows a foreign language, has a big advantage in comparison with the foreigner who does not. However, the knowledge of a foreign language does not allow to avoid all the problems of the cultural gap. The languages of the different countries are so complicated, and they vary so much, that sometimes only one word has many meanings. The problem occurs when a person, who thinks he knows a foreign language, translates the phrase word to word, without suggesting that this phrase obtains another meaning. Sometimes this situation may cause misunderstanding and even provoke conflict.

In different countries, the same gestures mean different notions and it is rather difficult for a stranger to get used to it. Different cultures imply different traditions. In the cultures of many countries, it is possible to offend a person by refusing food, no matter how grimly this dish may seem for a stranger. At the same time, there exist products that are strongly forbidden for eating in certain cultures.

Sometimes differences between various cultures may cause anxiety. They may give way to the feelings of frustration and anger because the stranger considers events he witnesses as offensive for his world perception. Such factors as the language gap, food accessibility may cause a sense of loneliness. A person feels homesick because he is not used to the new environment, which he considers to be hostile for him.

A lot of existing prejudices also emphasize the cultural gap. There is a tendency for a person to perceive only that information, which corresponds to his vision of the world and his cultural frame. There are many examples of a hostile attitude to a person only because of his or her nationality.

In spite of all the difficulties in intercultural communication, there are exist, of cause, many advantages of it. It is a good opportunity for people for the cultural interchange, for obtaining new knowledge and new experience, for studying foreign languages. The world culture may be compared with a flower, and the cultures of different nationalities are its petals.

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