Communication Between Cultures

(Sean Pound) #1


The Deep Structure of Culture:

Lessons from the Family

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never
failed to imitate them.

In every conceivable manner, the family is a link to our past and a bridge to our

The family is the nucleus of civilization.


hy do members of some cultures seek solitude, whereas those of other cultures
become dejected if they are not continuously in the company of others? Why do
people of some cultures frantically cling to youth, whereas others welcome old age
and even death? Why do some cultures worship the earth, whereas others mistreat
it? Why do individuals in some cultures strive for material possessions, yet in other
cultures people believe that wealth hinders a“settled”life? Why do some cultures
believe that great insight can be found in silence, but others feel that words contain
the world’s great wisdom? Why do families in some cultures have children living at
home even after marriage, and in others children can hardly wait to flee their
homes? These sorts of questions need to be answered in order to understand how peo-
ple of different cultures see the world, live in that world, and communicate with other
people about that world. In the study of intercultural communication it is not enough
simply to know that some people bow while others shake hands or that some
exchange gifts as an important part of a business transaction while others perceive
such an act as bribery. Although these specific behaviors are significant, it is more
important to know what motivates people to engage in one action rather than
another. The key to how members of a culture view the world can be found in that
culture’s deepstructure. It is this deep structure, the conscious and unconscious
assumptions about how the world works, that unifies a culture, makes each culture


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