Living and working with different cultures

Image article - Living and working with different cultures

Who has never faced different cultures in his life? Abroad during vacations, in the street, at work, while surfing on internet… we are constantly in contact with other cultures. Living or working with different cultures concerns everybody in our private or professional life and impacts all kind of organizations. Generally speaking, a culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, learned behaviors, traditions acquired by a group of people which are transmitted from generation to generation. Below some traditions from different countries of the world.


1. What is a pending coffee?
A pending coffee or “caffé sospeso” in Italian is a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity. The tradition began in the working-class cafés of Naples, where someone who had experienced good luck would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but receiving and consuming only one. A poor person enquiring later whether there was a sospeso available would then be served a coffee for free.

2. The sky is falling on us…
To banish previous bad luck, particularly in southern Italy, old pots and pans, clothes or any old and unwanted items are thrown from upstairs windows during end of year celebrations.

3. A specific meal structure !
Traditional Italian menus have five sections (antipasto, primo-piatto, secondo-piatto, fromaggio, dolci). A full meal usually consists of an appetizer, first course and a second course with a side dish. It’s not necessary to order from every course, but usually people order at least two courses. Traditional meals may last one or two hours or even longer.


4. Teeth tossing…
Loosing teeth is a “BIG” event for any child around the world… it lets them know that they are becoming a big boy or girl. Some cultures pop children’s teeth under their pillows and wait for a swap with candies or cash by a fairy. In greece, they throw a kid’s recently liberated tooth on their roofs.


5. Be carefull not to offer any “poisoned gifts“.
Clocks, handkerchiefs, straw sandals and flowers are all associated with death and funerals in China. Deemed inappropriate and morbid, you’ll risk damaging the relationship if you present these gifts—for any occasion—to someone in China.

6. Superstitions – things to know to get away with bad luck.
While Christmas and New Year period is a time of festivity, there are quite a few things to avoid doing – according to Chineese – to dodge a year’s worth of illness or bad luck. Related to the loss of wealth, knives and scissors should not be used as any resulting accident is thought to lead to “inauspicious things” – including “the depletion of wealth“. More bad news for your bank balance – and the cleanliness of your house. If you sweep on this day then your wealth will be swept away too.


7. Going to KFC for Christmas dinner.
When you think about Christmas dinner, your mind immediately goes to staples like ham, turkey, and mashed potatoes, or even the fancy Christmas goose. For people who live in Japan, however, it’s all about the fast-food chain KFC. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the tradition began all thanks to a successful campaign launched by KFC back in 1974.

8. The unique famous penis festival.
Every year, on March/April, the Japanese take part in a fertility celebration called Kanamara Matsuri (otherwise known as The Penis Festival). Participants carry a giant penis-shaped statue across town, which is supposed to ensure fertility for everyone and everything, including the local crops.


9. Like singing? Limit it to the shower when in your house.
In the Netherlands, spilling salt in the table or lending salt to a neighbour is considered bad luck. Singing at the dinner table should also be avoided because it’s thought that you are singing to the devil.


10. Blackening the bride !
Bride is surrounded by her friends before her wedding and all ugly things are thrown at her loke soot, eggs, paints, etc… When she is fully covered with such things, she is then paraded around town that is very humiliating. Reason behind this is to prepare her for upcoming Marital Problems.


11. Never add more salt or pepper !
If you are invited over for dinner and want to add more salt to your dish, dare not touch the saltshaker because Egyptians feel it is equivalent to insulting the host.


12. Breaking things to get away with bad spirits.
Before a couple marries in Germany, their families and friends will have an informal get-together where they will break things – many things such as dinner wares and flower vases – until the entire place is in shambles. (The only exception to the rule is you can’t break glasses). Afterwards, the betrothed couple will clean up the mess as a symbol of being united and the willingness to tackle hard work together which is necessary to make their marriage work.


13. Forbidden to clink glasses full of beer.
The most mysterious custom in Hungary, for foreigners and Hungarians alike, is that Hungarians never clink glasses full of beer. The most known explanation seems to be that the Austrians celebrated their victory over Hungary in 1849 with a few mugs of beer. This celebration marked the beginning of a long regime of terror and the vengeance against the rebel Hungarians.


14. Socks full of holes as a pledge of loyalty.
Hand in hand with the beautiful, elegant and glamorous tradition of the bridal waltz is a special tradition just for the groom. Male guests will lift the groom up in the air and cut off the toes of his socks. Danish believe that no woman would be attracted to a man wearing socks full of holes and therefore believe that the groom will be loyal to his wife.


15. Look before you leap in the street…
The legend says that the manhole covers in this Scandinavian country can control one’s dating destiny. The covers are marked with either a “k” which technically stands for kallvatten (fresh water), or an “a” for avlopp (sewage). But the superstitious read these letters differently, believing that the “k” represents kärlek (love) and the “a” signifies avbruten (broken love, aka, the sewer). Because of this, hopeless romantics and the perpetually single are often seen ducking and weaving throughout the streets, incorporating all of the “k” manholes into their routes while adamantly avoiding those labeled “a”.


16. Vive le roi !
In France, Epiphany is celebrated in January with a “King cake”. This cake is made with a pastry crust and a dense centre of sweet frangipani. The person who gets the piece of cake with a porcelain figurine inside gets to be the king for the day and wears the paper crown which accompanies the cake!

17. Poisson d’Avril “April Fish” !
Simple office pranks to elaborate hoaxes are just as much part of the French tradition for April Fools’ day as it is in the US and many other English speaking countries however, it’s not called April fools’ day. Instead, those lucky victims who are fooled on April 1st are called a “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish) and a common prank, especially among school aged children is to stick a paper fish on the back of some unsuspecting person.

Title - 2. High context or low context?

The anthropologist Edward Hall founded the field of intercultural communication in 1959 with his book The Silent Language. He defines intercultural communication as a form of communication that shares information across different cultures and social groups. One framework for approaching intercultural communication is with high-context and low-context cultures, which refer to the value cultures place on indirect and direct communication.

A high-context culture relies on implicit communication and nonverbal cues. In high-context communication, a message cannot be understood without a great deal of background information. Asian, African, Arab, central European and Latin American cultures are generally considered to be high-context cultures.

A low-context culture relies on explicit communication. In low-context communication, more of the information in a message is spelled out and defined. Cultures with western European roots, such as the United States and Australia, are generally considered to be low-context cultures.