As a human being, we do not eternally live in a town or even in a country only. At least, we communicate not only with people from our own region but also with another ethnic culture. By learning cross-cultural understanding, we will see the difference between two or more cultures, understand them, so there will not be misunderstanding.
I am a student from Kediri, a town in East Java, Indonesia. I was born and have lived for 18 years there. Now I am staying in Malang, a place not so far from my hometown. Both of those towns are in East Java but they have some different cultures in general. I got a little culture shock when I arrived fist in Malang but now everything is fine. Culture shock is one of the adjustment processes when we move from a region to another. It is very natural. The important one is the process to deal with it.
That is why I learn cross-cultural understanding. There are many explanations about different cultures, especially between America and Indonesia. In this portfolio, I will explain one by one about cross-cultural understanding and also the example of culture between America and my own.
What will you do if you are in a new culture and you don’t understand anything about it? To be able to adjust easily in a new culture is the skill that we must have. Although you understand and are able to speak the language of certain country, it is not enough. Understanding the culture is also another important thing besides the language. There are many different cultures especially between America and Indonesia, such as the different of the way they speak, the different gestures, the different of family and its traditions, the different of friendship, and the education system differences. Before I explain and analyze those topics one by one, there are cross-cultural contacts, five culture dimensions and cross-cultural terms and principles that I am going to explain first.
• Cross-Cultural Contacts
Stereotype vs. Generalization
Stereotype is a quick conclusion about certain society or culture and usually a bad statement. In contrast, generalization is a conclusion based on examination of the whole society or culture and based on many aspects that have been observed. The difference lies on the process. For example, if we think Madura people are rude and cruel, that is a stereotype because not all of them are like that. Stereotype is not only applied to describe a culture but also a certain society. For example is you have a clever friend who is the member of the A class and you make a conclusion that all members of the A class are the clever students. That is also a stereotype because maybe there are some students of the A class that are not clever. The example of generalization is if we want to know whether there is no jobless in Java, we can do a survey one by one or by the sample for the data so we can make a conclusion after observation, instead of merely asking some of our friends who are Javanese and quickly make a conclusion.
• Five Culture Dimensions
1. Equality vs. Hierarchy
A culture in which all people stand in the same level and none is higher than the other, and is described as equality. On the other hand, a culture in which there is a different level, the one higher gives rule and the other obey, is described as hierarchy. In an equality culture, men and women are treated the same but not in hierarchy. I analyze this kind of culture by applying it in America and Indonesia. America is the country which has equality culture. There is no different opportunity to speak between the boss and the employees. The boss lets his employees to talk first and share something. In contrast, people in my hometown, Kediri, they apply hierarchy culture. There is usually a different opportunity to speak between the boss and the employees. The boss usually speaks first and opens a meeting. The employees have the last opportunity.
2. Direct vs. Indirect
Generally, there are two styles of the way people communicate: direct and indirect. People in a culture which tend to be direct in communication usually deliver something not around the bush. The important thing is what is said and they deliver clearly. The example of this communication style is Americans. The second style is indirect. They who live in a culture which tend to be indirect in communication usually concern not only in what they said but also the way they speak. They deliver something unclearly. The example of this communication style is Indonesian as well as people in my hometown, Kediri.
3. Individual vs. Group Orientation
Individual-oriented people tend to work individually, make their own decisions, and concern on themselves whereas group-oriented people think that friends are everything and put the importance of the group on the first priority. Individual-oriented people usually find difficulties when they are working with group-oriented people because they think that group-oriented people is too slow. This case also happens in group-oriented people when they are working with individual-oriented people. They think individual-oriented people work too fast. Almost all of Indonesians and also people in my hometown are individual-oriented while almost all Americans are group-oriented.
4. Task vs. Relationship
Task-oriented people concern on how professional someone is in a work, usually represent as the question “what do you do?”. However, relationship-oriented puts the relationship into first priority in a business, usually represents as the question “who are you?”. The example of task-oriented people are Indonesians and people in my hometown while relationship-oriented people are Americans.
5. Risk vs. Caution
Risk-oriented culture such as Americans tends to be free to make decisions without the tight rules, bravely taking risks, and prefers the present than the past. In contrast, caution-oriented culture such as Indonesians and also people in my hometown tend to be very careful when making decisions, avoid the risks, and learn the fault in the past so they are very slow when doing something.
There are some steps to increase our cultural intelligence:
1. Become aware of your own cultural style
Do not look at your own culture always has good things and other culture has the bad one.
2. Know the facts about cultures most commonly relationship
Understand the different facts of the other culture and respect them.
3. Identify ways to recently behavior to the other culture
Try to apply the other’s culture on our own when we communicate with them. This is such kind of respect each other.
4. Respond to other culture using modified behavior
After we understand the other’s culture, we respond them with our behavior which matches to them so there won’t be misunderstanding.
• Cross-Cultural Terms and Principles
1. Culture: a background of a certain group or society.
2. Communication: transferring information (ideas or feelings) to the others.
3. Cross-cultural communication: interaction between two or more people from different cultural background.
1. Culture may not work for every member of a society.
2. Cultural stereotypes are different from cultural generalizations.
3. No absolute “rights” or “wrong” engage to all culture.
4. Every culture has its own values and the other may not reflect these values.
5. Culture does not explain all behavior.
6. Do not see only either culture differences or similarities.
7. The more we learn about others, the more we understand our own culture more clearly.
CROSS-CULTURAL CONTACT WITH AMERICANS
1. Mainstream Culture: the values and behavior of the dominant group in a society or country.
2. Individual Behavior: the activities and attitudes of one person.
3. Generalization: a statement based on observation which describes the entire of a group or society.
4. Stereotype: a quick-made statement about particular group or society based on less information.
5. Melting Pot: a group or society consist of different culture, melt and blend become one and make a new culture for the group to be obeyed.
6. Mosaic: a group or society consist of different culture together make a new group without change their own identities and they do not always obey the new group’s rule.
7. Minority: the smallest number of people of a group or society.
8. Majority: the biggest number of people of a group or society.
9. Homogeneous: a group or society which the members are the same.
10. Heterogeneous: a group or society which the members are not the same.
1. Personal control: Americans arrange their live as good as possible.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, people tend to be lazy to make some arrangements and plans to their lives, they think whatever will be, will be. That is the God’s fate.
2. Change: Americans think to always develop and change so they can make new innovations.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, especially elder people, are afraid to change and develop because they still consider the ritual and culture from the ancestor, but the young generations in my hometown and my country begin to adapt this American value: change to make new innovations.
3. Control over time: Time is money so do not waste your time. Americans finish their work as soon as possible.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, they usually take all the work easy and do not consider the time.
4. Equality vs. egalitarianism: Americans take all people at the same level so there is no difference even between the company’s president and the employee. It represents equality.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, there is still a gap between the higher and the lower one. It represents egalitarianism.
5. Individualism and privacy: Americans respect individualism and privacy. It means that they want to have time to themselves.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, people do not respect individualism and privacy too much. The first priority is for the group’s needs.
6. Self-help: Americans have such kind of mind that the one who can improve you is just yourself.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, elder people especially, think that each person has his/her own destiny. The one who is rich will always be rich and the other who is poor will be eternally poor, but not in my own mind and also in young generation’s mind in my culture, we can improve our condition by ourselves.
7. Future orientation: Americans always do something for the future.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, elder people especially, think that they have to stick to their traditions as the rule when they are doing something. That makes the elder people difficult to develop, but not in young generation. We bravely take the risk for our future.
8. Action and work orientation: Americans look people’s identity from their work.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, the only way to look people’s identity is not from their work. There are other aspects like attitude and behavior for example.
9. Informality: It is very usual for Americans to call their first name rather than their last name and not respect the formal tradition too much.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, calling only the first name of people especially the elder considers as impolite. The formal traditions are still strongly influenced.
10. Directness, openness, and honesty: Americans respect the honest people and they who talk directly.
In my hometown, Kediri, as well as in almost all Indonesian traditions, people are not always honest. Sometimes lying is required to appreciate the other’s feeling.
CROSS-CULTURAL CONFLICT AND ADJUSTMENT
1. To adjust vs. to adapt
To adjust means change the total behavior to make it match to the new situation while to adapt means make us comfortable and suitable to the new situation by adaptation. We must adapt in a new situation to help us communicate easily to the new society without changing our own personality.
2. Elation vs. depression
Elation is a feeling of very happy and excited while depression is a feeling of very sad and anxious. It is very common in the first part of our adaptation we feel the elation and depression. Usually, we feel the depression first and after we pass the adaptation process successfully we will feel the elation.
3. Culture shock
Culture shock is feeling of fear and confusion when someone moves to the new culture. It is also the common process. Feeling culture shock doesn’t mean you fail adapt to the new culture but after you pass culture shock process, you will understand the difference between your own culture and your foreign culture so you will be comfortable to live in your new situation.
Integrate means mix and together become a part of a society. You have to integrate after you come to a new society in order to make your live in a new society comfortable.
5. Carbon copy
Carbon copy means imitate something as same as the original one. You don’t need to be a carbon copy of people in your new society. You just need to adapt without leaving your own personality.
6. A fish out of water
A fish which is out of water means it feels suffer. A fish out of water is a representation of a newcomer’s condition in a foreign country.
1. Motivation: the reason why a person goes to the foreign country and leaves his/her own country.
2. Length of stay: the period when a person live in the foreign country.
3. Language and cultural background: a person should know well his/her own language and culture.
4. Language and cultural knowledge: a person should know well his/her foreign culture in which he will live.
5. Personality: a person should know well about the personality of people in his/her foreign country whether they are tolerant and friendly.
6. Relationships with other: a person should have enough support from his/her family if he/she wants to go to the foreign country.
7. Financial situation: a person who wants to go to the foreign country should have enough financial or money.
8. Job: a person who wants to go to the foreign country should have a job that can support his/her life.
9. Age: how old a person is.
10. Degree of ethnocentrism: the person has to know what he/she should do when he/she is in his/her native and foreign country. Do not forget your native country where you were born.
VERBAL COMMUNICATION: THE WAY PEOPLE SPEAK
1. Heated conversation
Heated conversation is a style of conversation in which all people in the conversation have to participate, communicate directly and not around the bush. If there are some people who do not participate they will consider as the passive people. This kind of conversation is the style of Americans.
2. Hesitant conversation
The opposite of heated conversation, hesitant conversation is the style of conversation which is marked by speaking indirectly and considering the politeness of the speaking way. This kind of conversation is the style of Indonesians, including people in my hometown.
3. Direct communication
Direct communication is a communication style in which the people talk directly and to the point. This communication style is used by Americans.
4. Indirect communication
Indirect communication is a communication style in which the people talk indirectly and around the bush. This communication style is used by Indonesians, including people in my hometown.
5. Conversation structure
Conversation structure is the way people interact with others, the way people transfer what they want to say and what they feel. The example is conversation structure of Americans is talking directly and opening the opportunity whenever all people want to participate while the conversation structure of Indonesians, including people in my home town, is letting the one talks first (usually depending on the status or age) until he/she finishes speaking and after that, this is the chance for the other to speak.
Judgment is an opinion that you form after a careful thought. That is why we are not allowed to make a judgment incorrectly. We should learn about a culture well then we can make a correct judgment. The example is I should not judge Malang people as rude and impolite because they often swear. I have to learn and understand that swearing is such kind of greeting based on Malang’s culture.
NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION: SPEAKING WITHOUT WORDS
1. Verbal communication vs. nonverbal communication
Verbal communication is the kind of communication produced by our speech organs. It means a communication with sounds, words, and also the intonation. However, nonverbal communication is the kind of communication produced by our body. It means a communication without words, including expression, eye contact, and gesture.
Verbal communication of people in my hometown, Kediri, also almost all Indonesians tend to talk indirectly and consider politeness too much. In contrast, verbal communication of Americans tend to talk directly, get to the point, and open the opportunity to all people in conversation to participate.
This is the difference of nonverbal communication between people in my hometown, Kediri, also almost all Indonesians and Americans. If you talk to someone, you have to look at his/her eyes. This is the gesture of Americans. However in my hometown, Kediri, also almost all Indonesians, looking at someone’s eyes when you have conversations is considered as impolite.
Universal means something done by all people in the world. In this case, for example, a facial expression of smile indicates that someone is happy. This facial expression is universally used by all people in the world.
Gesture is the movement of part of our body to show and support our ideas or feelings. The example of difference gesture between people in my hometown, Kediri, also almost all Indonesians and Americans is moving hand. Move your hand from front to back side means call someone or “Come here!” in Indonesian culture. In contrast, this gesture means ask someone to go away from us in American culture.
RELATIONSHIPS: FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES
Friendliness is the attitude of friendly relationship. It can be indicated as smiling or other thing that can make our friend feel comfortable. The example of friendliness is people in my hometown, Kediri, also almost all Indonesians when we have done a mistake usually we smile. It means we realize our mistake and feel shy. However it has different meaning in Americans. Smiling when we have done a mistake means we mock the other and do not realize our mistake.
Friendship is our relationship between two or more people and we know them well each other. For example, it is very common in my hometown, Kediri, also in almost all Indonesia if there are two female best friends who are standing in a very near distance or even hugging. In contrast, it has different meaning in America. The may think those two female are a couple of lesbian.
3. “Singles scene”
“Singles scene” is a condition of women, especially, who are still single or being single parents. This condition is welcomed well in Americans traditions because it is considered as their own privacy. In my hometown, Kediri, also in almost all Indonesia, it will make other people ask “Why don’t you get married?” or “Who is the father of your son?”
Transient means in a short period or temporary. In this case, there is a stereotype that Americans usually make a friendship with someone only in a short period, engage to their “individualism” type.
Permanent means in a long period or immortal. In this case, usually people in my hometown, Kediri, also in almost all Indonesians, they will make a friendship with someone in a long period, engage to their “group-orientation” type which take the other’s need on the first priority.
FAMILY: TYPES AND TRADITIONS
1. Nuclear family vs. extended family
Nuclear family is a family that consists of only mom, dad, and the children while extended family is a family that consists of more than nuclear family, such as grandparents, uncles, aunts, and the other who have blood relationship.
In United States, almost all Americans prefer to live separate from the member of extended family. In contrast, in my hometown traditions even in almost all Indonesians, it is very common that the nuclear family live together with the member of extended family. But actually, in my home, I just live with my nuclear family.
Autonomy is an act of wanting to be freedom and doesn’t want to be controlled by anyone else. In American culture, the autonomy of children is represented by respect their privacy, for example since babies were born, they will have their own room separated from their parents. However, in my hometown and also in Indonesia tradition, there is still less-privacy toward the children. They are allowed to have their own room usually at the age of puberty.
3. The elderly
The elderly is the society of old people. The elderly in America are usually put in the nursing homes by their children because of some reasons. The common reasons are Americans think that their parents are getting childish and disturb their job. This condition is contrary to people in my hometown and also almost all Indonesians. They prefer taking care of their parents themselves in their home. This is such kind of thankful because their parents have supported them to be successful people.
4. Single-parent family
Single-parent family is a family consisting of only either mom or dad and the children. In America and some other western country it is very common and considered as something usual. Generally it is because of divorce in marriage or adopting a child. Although it also exists in my hometown, Kediri, and also in almost all Indonesia, this kind of family is still difficult to be accepted in society.
EDUCATION: VALUES AND EXPECTATIONS
1. Student participation
Student participation is such kind of student’s involvement that is expected in the education process. In some Indonesia’s traditional region, students less-participate because their teachers are dominating the classroom. The teacher gives speech and the students are taking note. But in my hometown, Kediri, as well as in some other Indonesia regions, the opportunity for students to participate in the classroom is given. The teacher just leads the class and the students discuss about the subject. This is also what Americans usually do in their education system.
2. Honor system
Honor system is the attitude of honesty especially in education system. There is no excuse to all kind of cheating, including plagiarism and fabrication. This attitude is very respected in American culture while in my hometown as well as in Indonesia, it doesn’t. Our people tend to share the answer in a test or exam, engage to their “group-orientation” type. They usually take the easiest way to reach the highest score, including by cheating.
3. Cooperative student relationship
Cooperative student relationship is a kind of relationship in which the students like to share information and work in a team. This kind of relationship in the classroom is represented by students in my hometown and also in almost all Indonesians, again, engage to their “group-orientation” type.
4. Competitive student relationship
Competitive student relationship is a kind of relationship in which the students like to work alone and independent. This kind of relationship in the classroom is represented by American students, engage to their “individual-orientation” type.
Respecting each other is the best policy. Do not see the difference as the hostility. We have learned the difference between some cultures and hopefully we won’t misunderstand when we meet someone from another culture. From this portfolio I can conclude that no culture is the best culture. Difference is nice to learn and to exchange knowledge each other. So before we go abroad or to other region which has different culture from our own, we have to learn and understand in which we will live, in order to make us comfortable to live there.
Levine, Deena R., Adelman, Mara B. 1997. Beyond Language: Cross Cultural Communication. 2nd ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Mackin, Deborah. 2006. Cross Cultural Understanding: Adapted from Cultural Intelligence by Brooks Peterson.
Rahmawati, Hanifa. (2011). Cross Cultural Understanding between Malang and Kediri.