Dealing with Differences between Public and Private Culture

All around the world, peoples’ way of life shows peculiarities of different cultures. A notion “culture” can be defined as a learned pattern of behavior or a system of values, some of which are observable, while others are hidden. Culture distinguishes the members of one group from another. Public culture encompasses public ideas, policies and communications as well as the interactions between the public and the state. Even if people come from different cultural backgrounds, peaceful coexistence is the core as there is a need for communications and negotiations in order to accomplish public and private goals.

Diverse people have various cultural and ideological differences and it is, therefore, important to understand cultural customs and traditions. Much difference in culture is seen in the food prepared, music preferred or what is considered to correspond to politeness. According to Gloria Naylor’s essay “Mommy, what does “nigger” mean?” it is comprehensible that the author is puzzled when the little boy in their class utters the word “nigger” in public. It is evident from the author’s perspective that her community or culture does not allow for such words to be used openly. It may not be polite or right to utter them, while, from the little boy’s culture, the word could be used at a social stratum, especially to internalize racism.

There are greater distinctions between people of the same nation or culture as they are between groups. This difference is determined by what one considers as appropriate and polite behavior. For instance, some cultures perceive “yes” more frequently as “I hear you” rather than “I agree”; hence it is good to understand different cultures and customs.

With cultural variations in organizations, family, religion, sports etc. there is a danger of generalization. There are different approaches to what is polite and appropriate in public and in private or at home. Therefore, in order to deal with these cultural differences, one needs to pay attention to the customs of people in order to have better chances of assimilation. When interacting with others, we need to be receptive to interpersonal feedback and practice good observation skills. Ignoring these differences may create troubles for someone without thorough knowledge.

Asking questions about other people’s cultures, finding their historical literacy, learning some polite expressions in their language or even appreciating their music or food can yield a positive effect in regard to these interactions. Owing to this, it will be easy to prevent generalization about peoples’ culture. For instance, Ting-Toomey claims that Hispanics need to be close to someone when making a conversation, touch each other while communicating, and avoid eye contact. Without inquiry to ascertain these research-based studies and stereotyped behavior, it could lead to contention, especially when accompanied by suggestions such as moving closer when talking to a Hispanic or making more physical contact.

Interaction is determined by how people establish and organize relationships, and it derives whom they connect with, how they connect with them and also how people display their relationship to others. Communities’ culture depicts how one interacts and shares. Communities with strong private relationships favor self and personal connections compared to communities with dominance of public relationships and tend to have interactions based on ideas and interests. Communication-related issues present themselves in matters such as transparency or legal constraints depending on whether it is public or private communication.

Ting-Toomey says that people have a public and private zone depending on their culture. Americans are more friendly and communicative and have loose relationships with their friends, which takes place in public zones. On the other hand, people in the private zone are not very friendly and usually appreciate strong family ties in their private zone. These people are reserved and distance themselves from others. If two people in the public culture meet, this contact will take place in the public zone. However, when a person in the public culture meets a person in the private culture, many irritations and misunderstandings may arise because one feels his/her privacy has been invaded without the other person’s knowledge. However, one needs to be prepared to accommodate, live and work with different people since there is a need to collaborate with the others. One of the ways to reach this is to understand oneself and one’s culture in order to appreciate others and live with them easily.

Private or home culture involves the use of indirect words that can be understood only by people living in that home. The use of such words in public would contradict the meaning of the sentence. Therefore, misunderstandings may occur, especially when people are from different cultures; however, speakers from the same culture will achieve conversational goals. These speakers assume their system is self-evidently appropriate. In the essay by Henry Louis Gates Jr. named “In the Kitchen”, the word ‘kitchen’ is used to refer to the part of the head with a very kinky bit of hair, where our neck meets our shirt collar (Eighner par. 7). This word harks back to the language of his home or family; however, if used in public, it would mean a room where meals are prepared. The author, thus, personalizes this part of the body to bring and show the meaning intended.

In public culture, misunderstandings may occur when one party seems to dominate a conversation due to the cultural difference in turn-taking habits during a conversation and ways of showing friendliness. Normally, when a group of people talk, each person waits the others to finish talking before starting to talk. Speech pattern variations such as the use of questions, intonation or speed of speech would indicate it is the other person’s turn to speak. However, what seems as a simple criterion depending on one’s culture and differences that exist may be a complicated thing on where one is expected to pause between and within turns.

Misunderstandings may also occur depending on the tone of voice used either in private or public culture. For example, speakers of Indian English use increased volume when in their normal business which to British English speakers means one is angry (Gumperz). However, with much interactions and exposure between individuals may lead to understanding and appreciations of each other’s cultures. Moreover, this occurs if there are more positive than negative effects resulting from these interactions.

In conclusion, humans are social beings and need each other for survival. Communication involves two people who need to show involvement and respect for each other. One should, therefore, show respect for cultural differences, since no one is alike. Stereotypes should be challenged to stop discrimination. During interactions, it is, therefore, needed to exercise good observation skills, ask various people questions to get a balanced view or imitate interpersonal communication patterns one learns from different people. When one does this, he/she will easily deal with differences between public and private or home culture, and it will be interesting and exciting to communicate with each other.

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