Cultural differences may be an obstacle when communicating with others. And these differences go beyond the way you dress, the way you talk, the food you eat… they have more to do with the way that you look at things, they way that you look at the reality and you interpret it. And why are these interpretations so different? Because each community, nation, culture, group of people share two things: a common history or past and a common place or situation, that is to say, time and space, it´s as simple as that.
- Past-oriented vs future-oriented communities. We all can think about certain nations that are focused on the past, on their traditions. They usually show a lot of respect to the elder people and have very organized rituals. China or Japan are good examples but also Great Britain is a country very fond of their traditions. On the other hand, United States is the perfect example of a society focused on the future, maybe because they do not have a long history to look back at, so they can only face the future and think ahead.
- Mono-task vs multi-task communities. I am referring to what in some internet sites is called monochronic or polichronic societies. The first ones are known by their performance of only one task at a time, one after another and their implementation of procedures and the existence of burocracy. The best example is not very far from us, because they seem to rule Europe nowadays: the Germans. Confronting this, we find for instance the Spanish people, managing themselves to do several actions at a time.
- Quantity of time. In certain countries, time is seen as a limited resource (think of british punctuality) whereas in others, it seems that they have plenty of time, in fact they act as if they have all the time of the world (¿don´t you recognize some South American attitudes in that? “ahorita mismo”)
- There has always been a difference between the people living at seahores and the people living surrounded by mountains. Traditionally, people at sea became explorers, sailors, traders, etc, and as a consequence they became more open-minded than the cultures that have had geological obstacles to expand their territories, where they became more self-centered. We are the result of those first mediterranean cultures, the Greek, the Phoenicians….
- And finally, I can´t forget the weather factor. Countries where day-light last longer and the climate let us be outside more often, we find people with a tendency to belong to groups, (they are continually interacting with each other), with more communication and social skills, than those from countries where darkness or cold force them to remain at home, amusing themselves with indoor and sometimes lonely activities.
The conclusion is obvious: we are all different, for sure, but all differences must be respected because they are after all circumstantial. If we were born somewhere else, we would be different, so what?