Intercultural Communication(简倩桢,2019级硕士)
发布时间: 2019-12-11 浏览次数: 36

 The topic for today’s class is nonverbal communication and culture. As usual, the class starts with a presentation from intercultural cooperated group. Students from China, Pakistan, Haiti and Indonesia gave their performance in two different forms. One was a video and the other was like a sitcom. The former is more related to nonverbal while the latter contains too many verbal expressions. Fortunately, they managed to deliver the contents they wanted to present. There’s an anecdote: Monsito from Haiti has spent over seven years in China and he speaks fluent Chinese. While in the group meeting, where there are two Chinese girls who do not speak fluent English, he insisted on speaking English. I talked to him after class and found that during the conversation, we would still use English in the conversation though sometimes we could not express ourselves precisely in English. Same situation happened when I talked to other international students who could speak Chinese. I asked for the reason, Monsito said for those friends who don’t speak English, he would speak English; but with those who do, he usually uses English. Similarly, when I myself talk to someone who speaks Cantonese, we will speak Cantonese other than Mandarin. I guess people tend to reply on something they are more familiar with, which sometimes would stop them from improving their abilities or other competences. Therefore, from the language’s and other perspectives, we’d better walk out of our comfort zone and push ourselves a bit more for improvement.


The class continued to talk about unique gestures in one’s culture. Alex from Ukraine mentioned that tickling one’s neck in Russian-speaking area means asking someone out for drinking alcohol; Suwi from Zambia and Tabula from Uganda said there’s a gesture that serves as a warning by telling people that the police is around. We could see that these unique gestures are closely related to their culture. Sometimes we make association with alcohol and people in Russian-speaking area, like alcohol is one of the images they have. For the other, with all due respect, sometimes black people and crime are related (no offense), which is partly because of the crimes they committed but also for discrimination. Thus they have gestures about the police. From this perspective, we could consolidate the point that nonverbal communication is culture-bound.

Contents about chronemics has drawn immense attention and sparked heated discussion among the class. Tabula from Uganda said something typical: “In China, two o’clock is two o’clock. In my country, two o’clock is about two o’clock.” This shows the characteristics of the polychromic time orientation. For example, our group agreed to have a rehearsal at 12:30 p.m. one day. But students from Bangladesh and Pakistan were late for 15 minutes to half an hour. I was a bit angry and confused. If they couldn’t make it at 12:30, why don’t they just say it? They could just tell me and we can make another appointment. I don’t know about their culture, but in my culture, this could be regarded as a sign of disrespect. And they did not apologize for coming late, as if they didn’t waste our time. Since we were not in a serious and formal situation, so I am just discussing their behaviour instead of blaming them for being late or other things. In my opinion, another reason why they were late and seemed not to be guilty about it is that they treated us as their friends already and in their mind, friends won’t care about time. Maybe they took it for granted that the other group members have already accepted their culture the first second we became friends. This also reminds me that don’t take anything for granted and expect all foreigners can accept our culture.

The most important question for this class is: which is more important, nonverbal communication or verbal communication? I think the answer depends. For special group like the deaf community, that nonverbal communication is more important than verbal communication is beyond question. For other situation, there could be three possibilities: nonverbal communication contradicts verbal communication; verbal communication contradicts nonverbal communication; nonverbal and verbal communication connect together and strengthen the expression. For the first one, for instance, one ate an awful dish and said it was good with an unnatural smile because he tried to be polite; the second, one said he couldn’t accept the money but he opened his pocket (like the picture below: Chinese words are verbal and English words are nonverbal); the third, the consistency of both communications would effectively improve the efficiency of the communication. However, for various reasons, the third kind of situation is not always catered to. There are things like morals and politeness that sometimes restrict our ways to express ourselves, which is closely related to our culture. The way we behave is culture-bound, so are nonverbal and verbal communications. Therefore, under general circumstances, despite all those special rules or situation, we say that nonverbal and verbal communications are of equal importance. 


Professor An read us some of the articles that students wrote about intercultural adaptation at the end of the class. Most of them mentioned the sufferings they experienced or are experiencing. Some said, adaptation was like rubbing off on you. We could feel the struggles and agonies from the words written. Although we have different cultures, we still respect every culture and will show more empathy and patience to hopefully help them better adapt their lives in China.




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South China University of Technology, Guangzhou University Town, Panyu District, Guangzhou, China 510006