Blog 7: Culture in Agriculture

As you may suspect, the importance of intercultural communication is growing in the agricultural community.  We are in a global economy, which isn’t necessarily new, but our awareness of the importance of other cultures has increased in recent years. I like this chapter in your book, as I feel it seeks to explain how we can communicate better with people from culture’s different than our own instead of just explaining how different cultures communicate.

As we continue to discuss on this blog, agriculture has a culture all of its own with strong roots in community and family. I would argue that  agriculture’s culture is closer to collectivist than the rest of the United States (you may need to refer back to figure 10.3 to remember where the Untied States appeared on Hofstede’s dimensions of culture). My argument for agriculture being collectivistic also aligns with face negotiation theory of conflict. I see agriculturalists typically being high context rather than low context. This communication style creates a culture that caters to in-groups, which we have certainly seen in agriculture. As these in-groups have similar experiences and expectations, they often feel certain messages or ideas are implied and not said leading to high context messages. This creation of in-groups is what can lead to poor communication with those outside of the in-group as we discussed with the “feed the world” message. In many cases, I see theories of intercultural communication applying to the communication of agriculturalists with members of the general public. Of course, as your book concedes, there are both ends of the spectrum in all cultures with certain individuals putting more value on the needs of the group than individual needs and vice versa. Sometimes these differences may lead to conflicts like family disputes when passing down the family farm to the next generation.

Think of a time when you interacted with someone from a culture different from your own. What elements of communication accommodation theory (CAT) and/or communicative theory of identity (CTEI) did you utilize to improve communication?  What role did your personal identity play? What do you know now that may have improved your communication?

One subject discussed in your text that can sometimes be uncomfortable is the topic of “whiteness”. One blogger described what he called the “unbearable whiteness of urban farming“. Many of his points apply to other agricultural groups urban or not. I encourage you to read his entire post, but I have pulled his six recommendations for addressing this issues. These are:

1. Go to where people are at, not where you want them to be.
2. Don’t accommodate people to the extent of ignoring your own needs.
3. Don’t operate from assumptions.
4. Always be focused on leadership development.
5. Be aware of how privileges may be effecting group dynamics.
6. CELEBRATE non-white contributions to Food Justice.

How do these points align with theories in this week’s reading?

24 thoughts on “Blog 7: Culture in Agriculture

  1. While participating in a “Domestic Study Away,” as we called it, a study abroad trip that stayed domestic to explore school-based agriculture education in other states. I was a rising sophomore at Penn State University, still very “green” to a lot of the “tricks of the trade” of teaching. We were traveling to Arizona where we would be working with a Native American population enrolled in secondary agriculture education programs and observing multiculturalism in agriculture education. ( A big change of scenery for this Pennsylvania native! Not only did this trip expose me to this big beautiful world; one that is so much more than my sweet little Lancaster County, it allowed me my first authentic experience interacting with and teaching with diverse populations.

    At first, I think the elements of culture shock kept me in a “maintaining” state of communication patterns. But through reflection and coaching with the rest of my team and some of our host teachers, I begin to, both consciously and subconsciously to converge communication patterns so as to better interact with the students we were meeting, the teachers we were observing and program stakeholders we were interacting with.

    This experience, and the several other study abroad experiences I participated in taught me such incredibly valuable skills to be able to take the context of my audience and adapt my content, facilitation techniques and more to communicate more clearly with them. This has been such a valuable skill as a teacher; communicating effectively is what makes me successful at my job. CTEI plays a role here maybe even more than CAT, as I seek to have a full understanding of all that my students bring to the table. Understanding their true identities, how their intensities differ from other students in the room, how their families hold to certain core values, allows me to serve them better.

    1. Janae,

      I agree with you about communicating effectively being what makes educators good at their jobs. I think that sometime we forget as educators that we are their to communicate our knowledge to our students. I have a professor right now who gives us a 100% on our weekly assignments as long as we turn them in and then she provides feedback to us about how to make our assignments better. I think that it helps her communicate with us more effectively because we are not as caught up with worrying about making a good grade, we are more concerned with understanding the material to the best of our ability.

      1. I agree with both of you about communicating effectively make good educators. I also have a teacher for my social media strategies class at Oklahoma State she give’s mostly A’s on our assignments, but provides feedback on how we can further our assignment. She wants to make sure we are learning the material rather than trying focus on getting that perfect assignment.

  2. The main instance that I interact with people of different cultures, is when I interact with many of my high school students. One theory that I use a lot when communicating with these students is the conversational constraints theory. Many of these students focus on a need for clarity because I want to make sure that they fully understand that assignment that I am giving them so that they can learn the material and they want to make sure that they understand their instructions so that they can receive a good grade. When speaking with these students I definitely converge and diverge my instructions from the CAT model. I converge my instructions by using examples that are more pertinent to these students and I diverge my instructions by being very clear and pointed with my directions. I have found myself using interpretability strategies and interpersonal control strategies. A problem that I have is hyperexplanation, sometimes I am so concerned that my students do not understand what I am explaining that I end up over accommodating them. I am a people pleaser and I always want to help my students to the best of my ability so my personal identity causes me to hyperexplain and over accommodate students. I think if I had used more assimilation then my communications would have been more successful and productive.
    The blog post relates back to almost everything talked about in chapter 10 of our book. One of the major things that I noticed in the blog was the use of standpoint theory. The blog focuses a lot on the ides of oppression and backgrounds and how they affect the way we view certain topics similarly to how the standpoint theory talks about how are backgrounds and life experiences shape the way we view topics.

    1. Tabitha,

      After reading chapter 10 of our book, I also believe I am an guilty of hyperexplanation. I am a Teaching Assistant for several classes, and I agree that hyperexplanation is easy to do in the classroom. I like your thought of assimilation toward the majority culture’s views to more successfully communicate with students.

    2. Tabitha–

      I’ve had a similar experience working with 4-H’ers of different cultures. When I was a 4-H agent, we had one hispanic club. They ran their meetings in Spanish, all of their materials were Spanish, and the organization of the club looked much different than the traditional 4-H clubs. I don’t speak Spanish, so it was a challenge! Sometimes I wonder if we did them a disservice by letting them change so much of the traditional 4-H elements because they didn’t get all of the benefits of being in 4-H, but that’s what worked for their culture. I wish I would have had the tools to bring their culture and the 4-H culture together better.

    3. Tabitha,

      I relate to your point about hyperexplanation. As a teaching assistant I find my self hyperexplaining in the classroom, but also in interactions with my academic adviser and professors. I think within our own culture, hyperexplanation can stem from our personal desire to be understood. While this is a reasonable desire, I sometimes find myself overcompensating through hyperexplanation.

    4. Tabitha,

      I am also one that is guilt of hyperexplanation. As an agriculture educator I believe that multiple of us would agree to that being true.

  3. As Dr. Baker mentioned above, agriculture has a culture all of its own. Agriculture’s unique culture becomes evident when I think about my interactions with students at the Missouri School of Journalism. As a science and agricultural journalism student, I was able to take classes both in our College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Missouri School of Journalism throughout my undergraduate degree program. When “ag kids” interact with students in journalism, the cultural difference is interesting.

    In the agricultural industry, I think we have a unique language comprised of acronyms and ag jargon. When I think back to my interactions with journalism students, I would classify my actions as diverging, as mentioned in the communication accommodation theory. I made my speech patterns distinct because I wanted to stand out and to have people ask me questions about the language I was using. After reading chapter 10 in our book, I realize that simply maintaining my usual speech patterns or even starting to converge the language I was using may have been a better route to take to improve my communication with journalism students.

    Looking at the communicative theory of ethnic identity, it was apparent that some journalism students had preconceived ideas about people in agriculture, making it important for me to be aware of the different levels of my identity. The way I thought about my identity as someone in the agricultural industry, the way I formed relationships with other journalism students and the way I conformed to the rituals of the Missouri School of Journalism greatly shaped my communication with journalism students. Looking back, I could have focused more on the levels of my identity to improve the communication.

    The main idea from chapter 10 that I think is represented by the six recommendations for dealing with “whiteness” in urban agriculture is the idea of intergroup communications. The book describes intergroup communications as perceiving someone as different because of region or race when there actually aren’t enough cultural differences to influence the interaction. I believe this idea applies to both the idea of whiteness in ag and urban agriculture. If agriculturalists started asking questions about knowledge and understanding instead of background and location, we might have a different conversation with others about agriculture.

    1. I hadn’t even considered intergroup communication when it comes to the blog post, what a great thought! Instead of focusing on middle ground or convergence regarding cultural or background differences, parties could focus on what commonality already does exist in agriculture. This would eliminate so much time when attempting to coordinate and communicate between parties that already have similar goals and vision.

    2. Brandelyn, I appreciate your desire to be self-aware of the way you have and can continue to communicate your experiences in the agriculture industry. This is such an important piece to the puzzle when effectively communicating with those with differing experiences. I hope I cultivate the same awareness of levels of identity in my high school agriculture students.

  4. I attended a very small high school, and for our school size, we had a very high number of foreign exchange students. During my time in high school we had at least one, sometimes two exchange students per year, so I got to interact with students from Russia, Germany, Japan, Norway, and Spain. I was lucky enough to have at least one class with all of these students, and it was so enjoyable to get to know them and their cultures. While each student came in with varying levels of English speaking ability, all of them experience cultural differences outside of language.
    For example, Anya, from Russia, came from a very high-context and collectivist culture. She was often surprised at the freedoms Americans exercised, not only on a broader cultural level but on an individual level with our speech and interpersonal actions. Often, my friends and I said and did things that we perceived as normal, Anya had questions about why we did and said those things. When explaining why, we often had to use aspects of communication accommodation theory, especially interpretability strategies, not only because of the language barrier, but also because Russian culture has different ideas and ways of explaining personal freedoms. This culture discussion was very beneficial to Anya and to us, and helped us learn about each other’s backgrounds. As Anya spent more time in the United States, she often commented on how she enjoyed that aspect of our culture.
    However, my classmates and I were often guilty of hyperexplanation, in retrospect, but because of Anya’s high-context and polite culture, she was too nice to tell us that we were hyperexplaining things to her.

    The six points on addressing communication issues clearly relate to the theories in this weeks reading. Number one exemplifies that communication accommodation theory is often beneficial to meeting people where they are in terms of language. Number two relates to the fact that your own identity plays an important role in how you communicate, and acknowledging that can lead to better communication. The third point clearly works to prevent ascribing identities to other people, which can limit communication with them. The fourth point speaks to the importance of seeing diversity as a strength by focusing on goal achievement instead of seeing diversity as a weakness and something to be overcome. Keeping point number five in mind can help prevent hyperexplanation and other issues that come from over-analyzing another person’s differences, while the sixth point reminds people to use all the suggested communication strategies effectively and to appreciate the strength that comes from diversity.

  5. I agree with Dr. Baker that the culture in among agriculturalist is very collective. Very rarely does someone in agriculture do something soley for themselves. I think as an industry we’re very conscious of how our individual actions can effect the whole agriculture community. Sometimes it seems like it’s a “us versus them” approach when talking about how to best communicate with the general public. I think part of this is due to the specific language we use in agriculture and it can be challenging to frame what we do in a way so that the general public understands it. I don’t think this is unique to the agriculture industry though. Most cultures have this mindset when dealing with people from another culture. People prefer to stay with what is most comfortable to them and with those who agree with them. However, we need to improve our communication with those outside the industry so we can better educate them on why we do certain things.

    I had a hispanic 4-H club when I was working as a 4-H agent and I found their culture was much different than our traditional 4-H clubs. It was hard to get them to assimilate to the “4-H culture” because the Spanish culture is much more relaxed. They didn’t want to have club officers and they didn’t want to run a business meeting. These families were much more interested in the social aspect of 4-H. I relied heavily on the CAT model when I was working with this club because I tried to relate as much of the 4-H system back to them in ways they would understand. However, I think some of the fundamental elements of 4-H were lost by doing this. I wish I would have had the tools to communicate what they needed to do to get the full experience while still incorporating their culture.

    I think the blog post relates to much of chapter 10. In agriculture, it seems like there are so many different niches (organic, non-GMO, traditional, commercial cattle vs. registered, etc.) and sometimes these groups struggle with similar issues that this blog touched on. These different segments of agriculture focus on their differences even though they’re all part of the same big picture.

    1. Lexi,

      I had a lot of the same challenges that you did with our Hispanic 4-H club in Finney County. They were very difficult to work with and acclimate them to the culture of 4-H. There were a lot of terms that were used in 4-H that they struggled with understanding, so I always felt like I was rewording things into concepts that were easier to understand. I found that they struggled with the structure of 4-H and all of the meetings, deadlines, and lingo. Because their culture is a lot more relaxed, we constantly had to work with them to make sure that they were abiding by the same deadlines as the other clubs. I also agree with your comment about the clubs losing some of those fundamental elements and I always thought that they should have been more inclusive with the other clubs and that may have helped them have a better experience. I also think that it was more difficult when we lost our Hispanic program coordinator. She was able to help those clubs and guide them using their own language and knew how best to work with them. It would have been interesting to see how those clubs acclimated if she would have remained in that position.

  6. There are two instances in which I interacted with people of different cultures, first being when I studied abroad to Germany and Austria the summer before my junior year at Kansas State University and also with the middle school and high school students that I teach every day. When visiting abroad the tour was equine based so it focused around a general theme that I am very passionate about however I felt that I learned the most from communicating and spending time in those cultures. I would state that in this example of studying abroad I was using the CAT role more because I wanted to gain a fuller understanding throughout the entire experience. I would mention that through this experience I know that I used interpretability strategies in hope that this would make communication much easier to gain even more knowledge from the other parties involved.

    The second experience comes from the experiences I have with my students daily. Through this process I use conversational constraints theory. In the setting in which students have the goal of clarity of the assignment to receive a good grade at the end of the assignment. I notice that I use the CAT model as I tend to make my speaking patterns maintain a similar pattern. Through my experiences I have noticed that tends to help the students understand the concepts and directions in a more consistent manner. I tend to notice that especially with my younger students I will use hyperexplanation to make sure that the lesson or assignment is completely understood. For some students I feel that this can be helpful however in some cases it can be to the extreme of over explaining or accommodating those students.

    The six points with addressing communications issues relate to the theories through this weeks readings in Chapter 10. A few that I thought were very close was point one in which go to where people are at, not where you want them to be, this can be very true in having those successful conversations in which starting at the level they are at. I think of if I was to teach a lesson to my middle school students who are not traditional ag students and we started with the conversation about production agriculture. They would instantly check out because they don’t one understand it yet nor have the interest to learn about it. Getting to the level they are on and building them to the level you want them to be on. The second one is don’t operate from assumptions. I have a perfect example of this, today in my middle school classes we were talking about animal identification and the purpose of why we use it. Each day I ask a question on their classroom site to begin the conversation for the day, today’s question was when do we use animal identification. This is the part that I assumed that they might be able to think of a microchip in a dog or the tags on their pet’s collar. This is where the key word assumed came into this equation, I was shocked that they didn’t realize that was a form of identification or some students didn’t realize those things were used. If I would have just assumed the entire lesson rather than start with realizing that my lesson wouldn’t have been useful to the students.

    1. Michelle,

      I agree with you and had similar experiences with study abroad. To get the most out of the experience, you have to assimilate yourself to the culture you are in. I also really like what you said about going to where students are, instead of starting where you want them to be. I’m not a teacher, so I never would have thought about that but it makes perfect sense. It’s funny the different backgrounds we come from and how different that makes us as students! My first thought when I read “animal identification” was ear tags for cattle! I never would have thought about microchipped dogs as animal id. Super interesting.

      -Rachel Waggie

  7. Collectivism is very prominent in agriculture, typically on a personal level we refer to this as community which is something most humans long to be a part of. However, referencing earlier topics in the semester, agriculturalists can sometimes develop an almost elitist view point. As Dr. Baker pointed out there can be assumptions made such as those removed from agriculture might not be as knowledgeable, or have a very hard work ethic. This sense of community that agriculturalists feel can unintentionally lead to the exclusion of outsiders. It is not uncommon for a similar pattern to emerge regarding patriotism in America, which can be detrimental to foreign communication. Much like foreign languages are a communicative barrier, jargon can also be a barrier when agriculturalists interact with the general public. These instances can also lead to hyper-explanation, which can be misunderstood if the receiving party feels as though they are being talked to as if they are unintelligent.

    During my TA orientation at the University I was partnered with another grad student who was from China. His English name is David, and like me, he had received his bachelors in animal science. While we had the common ground of our degree, our college experiences were vastly different. I regrettably made the mistake of over compensating and in-turn did exactly what I just touched upon. While trying to tell him about my time at College of the Ozarks, he clearly became frustrated by the way I tried to over simplify my explanations to compensate for the language barrier. Thankfully, I was also able to overcome my first mistake through convergence when the topic of our working farms on campus were brought up.

    When considering the blog post I again think of convergence, our ability to celebrate agriculture no matter our cultural background makes bridging that gap in communication even easier, which I feel is part of the author’s goal. I also think of the standpoint theory, because of the fact that much of the opinions in the blog are influenced by a certain frame or lens that is personal perspective/experience.

  8. I interacted with several individuals from a different culture in my previous position as a 4-H agent. The county I was an agent for had a Hispanic 4-H Club and conducted all of their meetings in Spanish. After attending several of their meetings and attending activities with them, there were times that I caught myself using a different accent or adapting to the way in which they greet each other with hugs instead of handshakes. I can recall one 4-H trip that I went on with the Hispanic 4-H program coordinator and by the end of the trip, I was speaking with a Spanish accent and talking in more simple terms so that I was easier for her to understand. This was the most obvious example of CAT from my own personal experience. After reading through and understanding the concepts of CAT, I feel as though I could have improved my communication in this situation by focusing more on the content/message that I was trying to communicate and adjust the message so it is clearer to the other person. It seems as though the first instinct when speaking with someone from a different culture is to start by speaking in their accent, but I often wonder if that helps or hinders communication.

    The six points do align with the theories in this week’s readings. I agree with many of the points. In my opinion, I see a lot of push and shove between agricultural and non-agricultural activists. A large amount of these ads do portray a message of “what is best for people.” I’ve referred to this example before, but Cheerios being non-GMO portrays the message that it is what’s best for the consumer and their family. In this instance, this would be an example of dominating/competing style. I would agree with many of my classmates of being guilty of hyper explanation. There is a fine line between explaining agriculture to others in a way that they understand, but also not explaining it to them like the consumers are stupid or too young to comprehend the information. There are many instances where agricultural messages are a bit too complex and would seem like a different language. This became clear when I spoke to prospective 4-H families and many of them had a hard time grasping the lingo involved within 4-H. If there is confusion within an organization such as 4-H, I can imagine the challenge consumers face when trying to understand agriculture. Agricultural educators would benefit by learning these theories and learning to adapt their communication styles with the hope of improving communication to consumers.

    1. Tayla,

      I understand adapting accents after interacting with people from a different culture for awhile. Anytime I spend more than a week my cousins from Florida I tend to pick up a southern accent. Since I am from Indiana it is pretty apparent for awhile, but I have learned to notice it quickly and adapt back to my normal accent.

  9. I have had two amazing opportunities to explore agricultural cultures outside of my own. In May of 2017, I traveled to South Africa as part of a study abroad program through the College of Agriculture at K-State. The differences in practices between the U.S. and S.A. are outstanding. Additionally, farming is divided by race there. There are programs called Black Emerging Farmers (BEF) and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) that helped black farmers get into the industry. Furthermore, white farmers are targeted and brutally murdered and their land overtaken by the government to give to black farmers. It’s a terrifying situation there, but I digress.

    My second experience with foreign agriculture was in Japan this previous May. Because Japan is a small island country, their culture is extremely different and makes their agriculture industry far different from our own. For example, they farm on very small plots, relying more on manual labor than machinery to plant and harvest. Another interesting thing about Japanese agriculture is their beef production practices. We’ve all heard of Wagyu beef, and how supposedly the cows are massaged daily and drink beer and are waited on hoof and foot, etc., but through this experience I learned that Wagyu actually translates to “Japanese cattle” and isn’t really a true breed at all. There are three main types of Wagyu cattle based on coat color (similar to Red versus Black Angus), but beyond that the breeds vary by region. Kobe beef is from the Kobe region of Japan, about two-thirds of the way down the main island. It’s really all very fascinating, but that is a discussion for another time.

    Communicating in South Africa was much easier than in Japan. South Africa has 13 main languages, but English is usually very well understood. The opposite was true in Japan. It was very difficult to manage if we were out without the interpreter. Even communicating with the translator was a challenge – her English was so-so, but only one of us understood any Japanese. Part of the Japanese culture is that people talk softly, and this was a challenge for our translator with a group as big as ours. I somehow ended up being her “voice” when we were in loud or crowded places because she simply was not accustomed to talking loud enough for us all to hear. She would tell me what she wanted to say, and then I would tell the rest of the group. Then, members of my group would ask a question and I would rephrase it in a way that was easier for her to understand and interpret. We used all aspects of the communication accommodation theory in this way.

    It’s intriguing to me how communication varies not only across our own country, but across other countries throughout the world as well. It’s also cool that, although our industries differ greatly, agriculture is agriculture, no matter where in the world you are.

    -Rachel Waggie

  10. Just over a year ago I traveled to Laos on a study abroad trip. While we were there we worked on a silkworm farm and spent time at the local vocational schools. Only one person that worked on the farm spoke any English, but a few of the teachers spoke English at the vocational schools. While speaking with the people who spoke some English, I definitely converged my speech patterns in that I spoke a little bit slower than normal and used simpler words that I thought they would understand. Since all of the people we were around worked in agriculture, we were able to communicate about these topics fairly easily. We only came across issues when discussing different types of vegetables that they are able to grow in Southeast Asia that are not able to be grown in the US. When speaking with the farm workers and the students very little verbal communication was able to take place. I, and the other American students, only knew how to say hello is Lao, and the workers did not know anything else in English either. We began to communicate through very simple language, hand gestures, and by showing exactly what we were trying to communicate.

    My personal identities were very apparent when traveling in the northern mountainous region of Laos. We were the only seven white Americans that some of the villagers had ever met. Everyone knew we were there from the minute we arrived on the farm. People treated us differently, and we had to adjust to their collectivist ways since we come from a very individualist nation. In Laos they make jobs that could be run by a machine a three or four-person job, because they want everyone to be able to provide for themselves and their families. Every person has a place and a job in their culture. I can appreciate this since it is such a strict contrast to the operations of US industries. If I were to go back to Laos or a country that has a similar culture as Laos, I would consider learning more of the language beforehand. I would also be prepared to understand the collectivist community.

    After reading the blog “unbearable whiteness of urban agriculture” and chapter 10 this week I noticed quite a few over laps. Number one from the blog reminds me of communication accommodation theory in that we need to be able to converge when discussing topics across cultures, so everyone can reach an understanding. I think this also closely relates to number three from the blog in that we should not assume we know everything about a person just based on some very superficial information. As agricultural communicators we need to ask some deep personal questions to judge how much an individual knows about agriculture before we start speaking to them like they know nothing.

  11. I have to agree with Dr. Baker that is culture is among agriculturist is collective. Agriculture is very unique and my interactions that I had with the Media, Communications, and Journalism department. I studied my undergraduate at Fresno State in Agriculture Communications. So I had to take classes through the agriculture department and MCJ department as well. As Brandelyn mention when us ag kids interact with non ag kids the culture is very different.

    The jargon we used would confuse many of the kids I took my journalism and communication courses with. I learned though to make sure my information that I reiterated to the journalism students was concise and were able to understand. The communication accommodation theory comes into play here because I learned to adapt to the communication behavior so there wasn’t a social difference. This also help improve my overall communication with non-ag community.

    1. Definitely an intercultural communication is based a lot on trust and human relationships, try to adapt to different environments without altering their beliefs and ancestral knowledge is very important. As in the case of the Quichua indigenous communities of the Andes, where they have a calendar of harvests and sowing, they perform rituals to bless the crops and maintain a seed bank to preserve their plantations year after year.

  12. Intercultural communication is a discipline that aims to study the way in which people from different cultural backgrounds communicate with each other. It is subject with several variables such as: diversity, definition of the concept of culture, communicative obstacles such as language, integrating policies of the States, social hierarchies, inclusive or excluding economic systems.
    Mainly interculturality has to do with communicative problems, between people of different cultures and in the discrimination of ethnic groups. Interculturality is not only concerned with the interaction that occurs, for example, between nationalities, but also what happens between a man and a woman, a child and an elder as an example. Intercultural communication has become in recent years a tool for analyzing the relationships that exist between different cultures of the world, in the new millennium with the phenomenon of globalization the problems between the cultures of the world have exploded, due to the great migrations, armed conflicts and the relationship of the developed world with the third world.

    For effective intercultural communication it is necessary, on the one hand, a new communicative competence and, on the other hand, a certain knowledge of the other culture. Interpersonal communication is not simply a verbal communication, non-verbal communication (spatial, tactile, etc.) is of great importance. That is, it is not enough to know a language, you also have to know, for example, the meaning of the interlocutor’s gestural communication. In addition, we must remember that communication is not a simple exchange of messages that have an unquestionable meaning. The same discourse can have different levels of reading that only people who know the culture well can reach. For example, possibly most of us have seen the movie Forrest Gump, interpreted by Tom Hanks, a certain knowledge of American history and culture was necessary. Evidently the film could be seen without this knowledge, but the references of many sequences of the film were lost. It is necessary, therefore, the widest possible knowledge of the culture of the person with whom it is interrelated.

    When you come into contact with people from very different cultures you can produce what has been called a “cultural shock”. In this cultural shock not only is there a lack of understanding of the behavior of others, but also a series of negative emotions emerge: distrust, discomfort, anxiety, worry, etc. To overcome this cultural shock, you have to communicate. Communication is not a simple exchange of information. Communication also means being able to share emotions. That is, you have to be able to create a relationship of empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel the emotion that another person experiences. Having the ability to empathize is essential in many interpersonal relationships. Empathy is also necessary for a better understanding of “the other”. It is not simply about feeling what he or she feels, but through emotions increasing our understanding.

    In everyday life we work with a lot of understandings, presuppositions, in which the meaning is not in the literal meaning of the message. It is a meaning shared by the members of the same community of life. But in intercultural communication the understandings or presuppositions can be a source inexhaustible of misunderstandings. Therefore, it is not enough to communicate, in many cases it is also necessary to meta-communicate. In intercultural communication, it cannot be assumed that my interlocutor will understand precisely what is not explicitly stated.

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