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Week 3
• How can cultural assumptions lead to particular expectations of, and explanations for behaviours?
• In what ways is taking this approach useful? Think about some contexts in which you have done this, and how it has been positive.
• What does it mean to use ‘culture’ as an explanatory variable? What value does this approach to culture have? What limitations does it have?
• What do you think are some of the problems associated with using ‘culture’ to explain differences in behaviour between people from different cultural groups? Draw again on your own experiences.

  1. How do Bond et al use research on ‘indirectness’ in Chinese (specifically Cantonese) and Australian English to draw out some of the issues that arise when we draw conclusions about ‘culture’ from language and communication practices (and vice versa)?

It is often said that Chinese are more indirect in their speech than Australian. According to Bond, although it is more important within both cultures to tell opinions or suggestions rather than avoid disagreements, the way to express disagreement is different between Chinese (specifically Cantonese) and Australian English. While Australians express disagreement by saying ‘Yes, but …’, the Chinese use rhetorical questions. However, indirectness is used to fulfill a social convention in both cultures. Therefore, Bond argued that judging the indirectness of people who rely on actual spontaneous communicative behavior is intuitive and comparative rather than calculated.

• Bond et al argue that it is problematic to take political entities as ‘surrogates for culture’. What does this mean? How does the multi-faceted and complex nature of modern political entities (e.g. states) make it difficult to draw conclusions about behaviour and its expression in communication practices?

Bond’s argument that the problematics of taking political entities as ‘surrogates for culture’ means the value is different across language communities within a nation. For example, both English and French are used as official languages in Canada. The value is also different within a nation which composed of various cultural groups such as India or Singapore. Cultures are different between language communities or cultural groups rather than between nations or states in those countries. Therefore, it is difficult to draw conclusions about behaviour and its expression because we can not consider them as the difference of people in each country. That is, we can not think behaviour A as the typical characteristic of people in multicultural nation X.

• What happens if we start looking at communication practices beyond culture-as-nation? E.g. consider how language and communication practices might gendered, drawing on your own life experiences. Do we assume that people of some gender identities will speak in particularly indirect or direct ways? If yes, why is this? Is this a ‘natural’ cultural difference? Can it be explained by something else? If so, what? Is this problematic? Why?

I have not felt so much that language and communication practices are gendered. Although elderly women change the word ending, young people do not change it in Japan. However, I feel more women speak in indirect ways than men. I think it is because politeness and modesty have been taught as the virtue of women. Since it happens in many cultures, I think it is not a ‘natural’ cultural difference. I do not have confidence about it, but in my opinion, it is due to the spread of modern thinking such as ‘women are inferior to men’ or ‘the virtue of women is modest’. I think it is problematic. At first, women are required to be modest and speak in indirect ways while men are not required. In addition, it does not consider about transgender people, intersex people, and people whose sex is different from their biological and assigned one because people expect to change the way of speaking according to their biological or appearance of gender.

2.While cultural assumptions can allow us to have a small insight into a cultural “norm” or behaviour, as Bond et all discussed, the complexity of research, scales, categories, and other means used to distinguish differences between cultures is near insurmountable. Certain methods used allowing for clear distinctions to be made between cultures as “nations” but almost disregards the individual that comprises it, while on the other hand, a look at the individual can lead to conclusions that may betray the nation’s public values. We can see these cultural assumptions as, essentially, stereotypes, particularly notable in Yeung’s research into indirectness in Chinese and Australian bank employees (Cantonese vs. English) in which we would assume that the Chinese employees would display a greater leaning towards indirectness, and yet that was not the clear cut case, with an examination of language and cultural norms leading to an idea that our cultural assumption as “outsiders” to those aspects have shaped how we see the interactions of others.

However, cultural assumptions can be useful, my understanding of the values of Japanese culture led to my trip there being much more placid and careful than if I had exhibited city behaviour like some in Sydney do. This marks a point to consider in which cultural assumptions can be, more or less, correct. Usually, an assumption does come from some sort of truth, even if that truth may be a little misguided but in this particular instance, understanding Japanese etiquette from these assumptions I was able to benefit.

I would say that culture as an explanatory variable, one that attempts to justify why a group acts and behaves as it does, is difficult and should be used vaguely. Cultures are too large and filled with too many individuals, all with their own beliefs, ideas, and actions, to be entirely accurate.

I think most notably it removes the individual, for instance if we were to look at Japanese culture (once again) and if we were to separate the older generation from the younger generation we would have two incredibly distinct cultures, with vastly different ideas, beliefs, day to day actions and particulars, and this is just one nation separated, let alone using two, giant generalisations of countries against each other. To use culture as an explanation between countries, we would be drawing upon assumptions, generalisations, and even possibly, dated data that in no way reflects the individual makeup of these countries.

• 3. How can cultural assumptions lead to particular expectations of, and explanations for behaviours?

While the foundation of prejudices, stereotypes, and assumptions must stem from somewhere and they are fundamental tools for gaining understanding and insight they are however very limited mechanisms for approaching what are effectively conventional behaviours.

When you are exposed to a culture and any inherent assumptions we also need to question why and how these stereotypes were presented and perpetuated as well as by who. Any assumptions, no matter how effectively they have been reinforced, does not necessarily eliminate their inherent potential for incorrectness.

These expectations reinforce ‘other’ ness, and we need to be aware of such drawbacks as “is it informative, is it demonising, or is it even accurate?”.

• In what ways is taking this approach useful? Think about some contexts in which you have done this, and how it has been positive.

Cultural assumptions can provide exposure to alternative methods and ideas of thinking, and an increase in self-awareness. Embracing positive stereotypes or negating negative prejudice (such as the reclaim of derogatory terms) can undermine attempts as misguided ideals.

There is also an aspect of appreciating social norms inherent in cultural assumptions, they are presumed to be the modus operandi for a reason, most (but not all) people adhere to this social code or social programming to some extent. This can allow people to establish parameters within their relationship to another person effectively before ever conversing with them in order to adapt to a hopefully agreeable interaction.

• What does it mean to use ‘culture’ as an explanatory variable? What value does this approach to culture have? What limitations does it have?

I feel like using ‘culture’ as a term has the capacity to act as quite an arbitrary and potentially dismissive justification of difference. It is effectively breaking down an interaction to something as rigid as “[x] person does [y] thing because they are from [z]” when there are far too many shifting dynamics involved in an individual’s behaviour for that kind of over simplistic classification.

This sort of categorisation of ‘culture’ isn’t the only factor that limits or justifies a personal behaviour but I feel like we need to consider any person’s ‘culture’ as an ongoing personal evolution that will alter depending on what they embrace and are exposed to.

• What do you think are some of the problems associated with using ‘culture’ to explain differences in behaviour between people from different cultural groups? Draw again on your own experiences.

Any approach that attempts to classify all as one is going to embrace broad strokes with no basis for accuracy. You’re effectively limiting a person to a pre-conceived notion, or perhaps even a series of them, without any facts or information to support this idea. In an attempt to identify someone, even if it’s subconsciously, you are applying that label or definition of a group to an individual and prescribing your idea of ‘the other’ in something digestible to you. Despite the fact that they have almost no control in how you view them, these people will likely need to interact on the basis of these preconceptions.

Type Of Service: Academic Paper Writing
Type Of Assignment: Essay
Subject: Communication Strategies
Pages / words: 4/1000
Number of sources: 8
Academic Level: GCSE /A Level
Paper Format: MLA
Line Spacing: Double
Language style: UK English

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