Cultural Diversity


Communication styles differ among cultures.  Making eye contact, a sign of respect in one culture, is viewed as a sign of disrespect in another. Direct eye contact can endanger the spirits of both parties since the eyes are viewed as the windows to the soul in one culture. Expressiveness, a communication feature in one culture, is viewed as inappropriate in another.  Communication with authority figures may be limited in one culture and assertive in another. To save face or embarrassment a person in one culture may reply "yes I understand" when they don't or "yes I agree" but not follow through. Speaking loudly or fast, using non-verbal markers such as head nods, quick responses, and expression that is objective, task oriented, and expressive are still other areas of differences to note and understand. 


It is the sum of acquired beliefs, values, practices, traditions, customs and laws, and common experiences of a group of people.  Culture influences the meaning individuals attribute to events and experiences. Cultures transmit attitudes, customs, and beliefs to future generations through language, material objects, rituals, institutions, and art. 

Helping others effectivelyrequires understanding and respecting cultural differences. It involves shedding one's own biases, assumptions, and stereotypes as you learn to know someone from a different culture. Culture determines what an individual views as a problem and how they attempt to solve it.  It also affects who they seek out for help and what they regard as helpful.   It will take more time, effort, and energy to understand and use the cultural values of the individual or group to successfully be helpful.   

Cultural differences not only include languages, communication styles, greetings and use of names, but also values, time consciousness, family relationships, level of independence, authority figures, and disease etiology.  Deviation from one's culture depends on the length of time away from it, age when left, desire to assimilate, level of education, residing in a new culture in either the rural or urban area.  Too often there is a tendency to group people from eastern or western cultures together forgetting that some came from countries of origin that were historical enemies within the eastern or western hemisphere. 

Cultural Values
Here are five areas where cultures differ:

  1. Relationship of humans to nature: One culture may try to control the environment through use of dams, animal cages, irrigation, cloud seeding, etc. ​Another culture does not seek to control or change nature but rather to develop/maintain a harmonious relationship with it. 
  2. Relationship of man to man:  One culture emphasizes individualism and independence while another emphasizes collectivism.
  3. Nature of man: One culture believes humans are basically good while another believes humans are basically bad and need saving. Still other cultures believe man is both good and bad at times.
  4. Preferred mode of activity:  One culture focuses on doing, another on just being, and still another on becoming.
  5. Time orientation: Cultures vary as to whether they live more in the past, present, or future.  Cultures also differ on time consciousness--Monochronic time (do only one thing at a time, adhere to schedules, and keep time commitments) or Polychronic time (multi-task and time is measured by the sun and seasons and not a clock).