One of the things that has stuck to me the most has been the way different cultures communicate. I now see the way each culture communicates. For example, I relate more to high-context cultures because I surround myself with close friends and family. I was unaware there were different names for these types of cultures.
I am a white, middle class male that grew up in the suburbs of Las Angles, California. My ethnicity is primarily of the English decent. I also identify as a Mormon, being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints proved to be a challenging at times growing up in California. Most of my social circle were not members of the church I belonged to. My friends did have the same value system as myself, every Friday and Saturday night my friends would go off and party. They knew I would never partake of such substances, so I was not invited to the activities. Today I am grateful for the respect they showed me, but back then I often felt alone and nowhere to turn. Being the youngest of four siblings made this even more difficult on me. By the time I reached high school all my siblings had either left for college or were on a mission at the time. Because I did not fit in anywhere and felt lonely, I attempted to adopt other cultural behaviors. This was to the point where people teased me.
Back in high school I viewed the African American culture as something I could relate to. Not only that, but I felt it was a lot cooler to be a part of that community. Because I felt lost and did not know where I belonged I yearned to be cool and popular. Adopting the qualities of African American was the only way I would be able to find my identity; or so I thought. I copied the clothing choices, speech patterns, and dance moves of those that were African American. Due to these choices I was brutally laughed. Other peers would yell phrases such as “WHITE BOY!” or terms like “wanna be” or “poser”.
Ideas about Cultural Groups Different from Your Own:
As I said in previous sections, I identify as a white middle-class male. There was much discussion about the female culture that I found fascinating. It is almost as if males and females speak two separate languages. There is a video that discusses how different the two genders truly are. The video is called “It’s Not About the Nail” she has a dilemma and just wants her significant other to listen to the issue, when he just wants the issue resolved and not have to deal with this. Viewing this video I find myself laughing at the fact I completely relate to this situation. It never occurred to me the differences males and females have until I got married. Though I have only been married a short time, many lessons have been taught. To this day I am working on just listening and shutting up. Hardest part about marriage for sure!
Other culture differences I find is with the very culture I attempted to impersonate. I have noticed as a white guy, I talk and act differently than African Americans. With the history of African Americans in this country, I have noticed African Americans have to be careful with what they say or do. I have been privileged to not have to be cautious with what I say or do. When around those of your own race, one is much more comfortable with the jargon he or she chooses. I have experienced this first hand, at the gym I ran into my friend’s father, he was speaking to us differently than when his close friend went up to him. I noticed his entire domineer change as soon as his other friends walked up to him. It was interesting to see the comfort levels sky rocket as soon as someone came up to him who he viewed as a close friend. In high school I especially observed my African American friends and how their volume would raise when around those of the same of race as themselves. This is prevalent even today, but especially within stereotypes.
Another culture I differ from is hispanics, when I served a mission for the LDS Church I noticed hispanics loved to feel others and were offended if your plate was not finished. I see this even today, whenever my hispanic friends have me over for dinner they will not allow me to leave until my plate is empty. Sometimes even when it is empty they force me eat more. Over the summer I worked with mostly hispanic people. I noticed they enjoy their music extremely loud and they like to talk extremely loud. Those of hispanic dissent do not enjoy being alone, but would rather congregate in large groups and poke fun at one another. It was interesting to see them communicate with one another. I noticed it was completely different from the way white people communicate.
Another culture I find fascinating is the Indian American culture. My brother-in-law is about half Indian and his father is completely Indian. The thing I have noticed is Indians are much more quiet and love to cook. When Adam’s (my brother-in-law) father comes to visit he typically keeps to himself and quietly goes about his business. Whenever I am around white people we tend to announce the things we do, but Indians will keep to themselves and mind their own business.
Sources of Cultural Knowledge and Input
I have gained much knowledge from lots of different experiences. My dad being from Louisiana, has taught his experience with the American American culture. When you think of the south; honestly and unfortunately prejudice is still alive. My father never understood why white people hated blacks. He never saw color of the skin as difference. His parents taught him to love everyone and respect those who had different skin color than himself. He has passed this onto me. I was taught to always love and respect those with different skin color than myself. Because of that I have learned to love everyone from different cultures and background. My father’s parents taught him to be culturally aware of those he surrounds himself with and due to that life lesson he taught me to always be educated about other people’s culture. This is probably the most important lesson I learned from my father in all my childhood.
I experienced first hand how African Americans act by surrounding myself with them in high school. I gained lots of insight about what infuriates a African American. When they do not view someone as one of their own it is frustrating for an outsider to adopt their culture. When I would attempt to copy their lingo it would typically backfire and result in laughter and kicking me out of their friend group. It was interesting to me who they would allow to use their lingo and who was unable to. I was in the group that was unable to use such jargon. I thought using terminology they used would help be apart of who they were, but it just drove a larger wedge between me and them.
Media has impacted how I view different genders and races by portraying both in a more negative light. The media has shown African Americans to be lazy, self-centers, and full of complaints. When in reality, this is not the case. As I have previously mentioned, I have associated myself with African Americans and have tried to immerse myself in their cultures. On the contrary to how the media portrays this race, I have never met an African American that wasn’t hard working, honest, and that didn’t take responsibility for their actions. I now understand that the media like to take stories, twist them, and show people as being criminals. Some of the greatest men and women that I know are African American and have inspired me to be a better person.
Not only has the media altered my perception of African Americans, but it was also negatively skewed how I view females. In the media, all I see are women that are complaining and are blaming their problems and their hardships on men. When in reality, women are strong, take responsibility for their actions, and have no problem with dealing with hards. I view women in such a positive light. Women are strong, honest, and overall, are some of the best people that I have ever met. I have many of times found myself being uplifted and supported by women and I am forever grateful for that. Examples of what a person should be, I think of a woman. In my life, women including my two sisters, my mom, my niece, and now my wife have had some of the most positive influences on my life. Woman have this uncanny ability to get men, and literally anyone else, to open up about their feelings and their emotions and to help them to be okay and to be stronger.
The media portrays women as creating chaos. On the contrary, I have seen women create more peace than any other gender. One example of this is my wife. My wife is wonderful at de-fusing a situation that seems impossible to defuse. She constantly makes me feel relaxed and calm, even when nothing is going right.
Areas that I am interested in related to intercultural communication is that of more effectively communicating with women. I also want to better understand how to go about communicating with cultures that I am unfamiliar with such as the Asian cultures and I don’t have much experience with them. I also have the following questions: what causes women to communicate so differently than men?
I want to know more about how stereotypes came to be, how to better get rid of stereotypes, and if there is anything that we can do to get rid of any negative thoughts that linger from the history of our nation.