Communication - It's Intercultural


posted on 23rd of august, 2007

I've been meaning to write on that for a while already, but now that the current month's assignment is communication I decided to not be lazy anymore. :)

It's already a given that a large city will have a significant number of foreigners. It's also a given that once you meet with the Internet face to face you'll also stumble across people from cultures and places you would not have met otherwise. Naturally, sooner or later you'll start exchanging information with these - whether orally, in writing, face to face (even that phrase has more meaning, but I don't refer to web-cams now :)) or on-line (here come the web-cams!)... Often you might not even notice you've communicated with someone, yet they received a "message" from you.

The fact is: a culture cannot remain in isolation for far too long today. Sooner or later it will have to communicate to another. Then, communication becomes intercultural. The big question is what do you do in such cases? Before I jump into that, we need to somehow confine the term culture to something basic enough to be easy to use. Anthropologists will define it in many ways, and probably very different, but since I'm not one of them, I'll suggest that a culture is formed by a group of people who have a common characteristic which is strong enough to keep the group together. This could be ethnicity, interests, money, lack of money, language, attitude, ideas, beliefs, values... Got the point? Ok.

Back to the main question: what to do when you have to communicate to someone from another culture? Number one" be sensitive, humble, and ready to laugh when you/the others goof up. This is very crucial, esp. at a place like Dreamstime, where most of the communication is done in writing and for many of us - in a foreign language (but then how does language benefit the others - speaking the same language doesn't mean you'll communicate well). Over and over I've come to the conclusion that the Internet is a disadvantaged place for communication simply because the Net was made for us and not vice versa... Mildly said, we're crippled when the only way of expressing ourselves is in writing and by the use of emoticons (click here to learn more about those, it's really interesting!). So, dear folks, next time your nerves are stretched - scream and yell, but don't touch the phone or any input devices on your computer. :) Then drink a glass of cold water, and only after that begin typing with the consideration that people here are from another culture, have different background, and you might hurt someone.

By the way I always thought this baby was crying. Ha ha... while it's actually having fun. Anyways, how does reading about culture and some very ground basics about intercultural communication benefit you. Well, as you're preparing for the assignment here are some ideas you might want to consider:

- Mix cultures in your photos - music cultures, business cultures, age ones, peaceful with those that are in rage... You'll be impressed by the effects of that!
- Think about the culture of your potential audience and see how your images will communicate well with it. Do the same gestures mean the same thing? By the way, in Bulgaria the up-down head movement means "no", and the left-right "yes"... So you know for your next vacation trip. :)
- Since you'll be exposing your images to a large audience try also to consider the things which are universal (and there are such things valid for all cultures). Values is only one example - but how in the world do you take a photo of that - this is your problem. I'm only writing an article about it for now.
- Rely on body language since it's being used everywhere and all the time. Plus, you images can't come with attached sounds and background scripts... And try to include more than just the face. Then your image will stand out (unless everyone followed this suggestion)
- Involve a tiny bit of something foreign to most other cultures. With the globalization (globalisation for the British folks and most Europeans) emphasis it's become quite appealing to spice up the "message" with something that will cause the other side to be curious about your culture/background.
- Finally - whatever you do, be sure it will make sense to the others. Everyone else will try to understand your image and the message behind it, but if it takes a nuclear science degree, then you won't be speaking anything near the language of the rest of us.

Let's see who can communicate what I meant best through an image. I'll vote for you! :)

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Photo credits: Diego Vito Cervo, Jurie Maree, William Lee O'dell, Stockphotonyc, Tommy Ingberg, Vividpixels.

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