Communication Between Cultures

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simply blended into the existing culture or eventually discarded as“passing fads.”How-
ever, values and behaviors associated with such things as ethics and morals, definitions
of the role of government, the importance of family and the past, religious practices,
the pace of life, folklore, and attitudes toward gender and age are so deeply embedded
in a culture that they persist generation after generation. This continual embracing of
one’s culture is called“cultural boundary maintenance.”It is the manner in which a
culture maintains its distinctiveness that in the end strengthens its cultural traditions.
Barnlund offers a religious example of cultural maintenance when he writes,“The
spread of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Confucianism did not homogenize the
societies they enveloped. It was usually the other way around: societies insisted on
adapting the religions to their own cultural traditions.”^78 You can observe the com-
mand of these core values in the United States, where studies on American values
show that most contemporary foundational values are similar to the values of the last
250 years. Thus, when assessing the degree of change within a culture, you must con-
sider what is changing. Do not be misled into believing that major cultural shifts are
taking place in Japan because people in Tokyo dress much like the people in Paris or
that Germans are abandoning their love of soccer because people now play basketball
in Germany. These are“front-stage behaviors.”Most of what we call culture is below
the surface, like an iceberg. You can observe the tip, but there are other dimensions and
depths that you cannot see. That is the subterranean level of culture.
Second, because much of culture is habitual and deeply rooted in tradition, you can
find countless examples wherechange is not welcomedand at times is greetedwith hostil-
ity. France maintains theAcadémie française, which acts as a type of“language police”
whose duty it is to monitor outside“infiltration”of their language. The French, it
seems, are ever vigilant to keep their language (and their culture)“pure”and free
from outside corruption. In the United States, there are still people who rail against
women having equal rights with men. In much of the Arab world, some of the aggres-
sion aimed at the West can be traced to a fear of having Western values supplant tradi-
tional Islamic beliefs. Many Arabs believe that is what happened as part of the
“contact”with the West during the Christian Crusades, the Ottoman Empire, and the
occupation of much of the Middle East by the West in the early twentieth century.

The Elements of Culture

As you have now learned, culture is composed of countless elements (food, shelter,
work, defense, social control, psychological security, perceptions of illness, sexual
taboos, forms of governing, social harmony, sex roles, purpose in life, etc.).
Although each of these plays a role in the life of each culture, a handful of other
elements are most germane to the study ofintercultural communication. Many of
them focus on what peoplebring to a
communication encounter and also influ-
ence how theytake partin that encoun-
ter. An understanding of these will
enable you to appreciate those cultural
perceptions and behaviors that usually
distinguish one culture from another.
Many of them represent the major themes
that flow throughout this book.

Worldview provides some of the taken-for-granted underpin-
nings for cultural perceptions and the nature of reality. In this
sense the worldview of a culture functions to help define reality
and in so doing keep the world from being perceived as disor-
dered, accidental, and meaningless.

56 CHAPTER 2•Communication and Culture: The Voice and the Echo

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