Culture refers to a society's views, behaviors, traditions, ideas, and customs that distinguish them from other classes of people. It is the mutual conditioning of the mind that separates one group of people from another (Hofstede, 1991).
Role of Culture in Shaping Personality
Culture plays a vital role in defining and shaping a person's personality. As a result, many varied societies around the world have altered people's views about how different groups of people can act. Cultural variations present themselves in a variety of ways, including behaviors performed by a large group of persons and feelings conveyed by groups of individuals (Hofstede, 1991). The cultural difference can also be manifested by the symbols, heroes, and rituals that are shared by specific groups of people. A ritual can be something like team building exercises that are done to reinforce cohesion with business premises. Emotions expressed by different cultures are rooted from the values in which they have an active belief system.
The world has changed throughout the centuries by becoming a global village. Thus there has been an increase in the process of international integration arising from the interchange of different cultures, an increase in global businesses, social media, and the internet, migration of people and international students. The increase in cultural interaction has inevitably led to the creation of both opportunities and challenges for intercultural communication (Lui, 2014).
Personal Cultural Background
Culturally, I am most certainly a hybrid because I had the privilege of living in two cultural settings.
I am of Lebanese nationality, but I have lived almost my entire life in Kuwait due to my father's Job. At 16 years I returned to Lebanon to pursue an American diploma. In that transition, I was able to meet a lot of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. I come from a Christian family, and Kuwait and Lebanon are predominantly Islamic practicing nations.
Communication Styles in Lebanese and Kuwaiti Cultures
Communication in Lebanese culture involves direct eye contact with a lot of physical connections. Maintain eye contact conveys a sense of honesty and trustworthiness. However, maintaining a prolonged direct eye contact with elders is considered to be rude and challenging. In Lebanese culture, they have a non-confrontational style of communication which is indirect and relates to maintaining a person's honor. The communication style is high context since good communication in Lebanese is sophisticated with messages that are indirect or in between the lines. On the other hand, communication in Kuwait involves a lot of patience to create a personal relationship with people. Impatience in their Kuwait's culture is considered criticism of the culture. Therefore, for excellent or effective communication to happen in Kuwait social settings, a lot of patience is needed. Hence, business transactions are done once the atmosphere of trust and friendship has been established. Communication style in Kuwait is low-context since good communication is believed to be simple, eloquent and precise. In Kuwaitis, culture believes when you repeat your main points this indicates you are telling the truth. Ambiguous and indirect communication raises suspicion among the people in Kuwait hence one must be as clear to gain trust from people in their culture.
Expressing Criticism in Lebanese and Kuwaiti Cultures
In Lebanese culture, giving away negative feedback is done in an indirect manner that is likely to retain someone's pride and honor. People of Lebanon give criticism in a kind and diplomatic way since it is inappropriate to give criticism publicly and it can avoid the embarrassment of individuals. Also, in Kuwait culture, they prefer discussing problems in one on one situations rather than in a group setting. Kuwaitis, therefore, prefer indirect feedback that is clear, precise, and respectable. It also plays a role in building the relationship between two parties by promoting friendship and trust. "Some cultures that are low-context and explicit may be cryptically indirect with negative criticism, while other cultures that speak between the lines may be clear straight-talkers when telling you what they did wrong" (Meyer, 2014). Therefore, different cultures have diverse ways of expressing criticism either by direct or indirect criticism depending on which they think is appropriate. In both Lebanese and Kuwait culture, they prefer principle first in dealing with any situation before reasoning. If any situation is likely to produce an outcome that contradicts their beliefs, then it won't be executed. It is also crucial to not that both Lebanese culture and Kuwait prefer a holistic approach to problem-solving.
Influence of Culture on Attitude Toward Criticism
Both Kuwait and Lebanese cultures influenced my attitude towards criticism of people, unlike other cultures; I was bred to criticize a person to avoid embarrassment privately. Understanding is the first step toward acceptance (Liu, 2014); hence I had to understand the different cultural perspectives for peaceful coexistence between the two cultures. I believe I learned and inherited the culture of private criticism from my father as I watched him conduct his business in Kuwait.
Influence of Societal Interaction on Attitudes
People we meet and the experiences we encounter during our lifetime influence our attitudes towards different cultures. I believe that my past and my present societal influence and interaction have played a crucial role in contributing to my current person. Notwithstanding that, I have confidence that I alone have the power to choose what kind of influence will manifest in my life. Since I lived in between two cultures, the diversity made me change the way I think. Growing up in an Islamic nation and being raised by Christian parents enabled me to interact with people from different cultures. My cultural background has influenced my worldview since I believe that I am an open-minded person. The assumption of the cultural identity of a person just because he or she comes from a particular place or ethnicity leads to stereotyping. Stereotyping is the prediction of attitudes, behaviors, and values from nationality (Hofstede, 1991). There is a stereotype about Lebanese people that like scapegoating the economic problems and are intolerant of Syrian people. I believe my raising in different cultures, I was raised to treat every person equally no matter the race, color or gender. I do not feel completely unlike my social profile since I have adopted some of the values from my Lebanese culture. Being raised in Kuwait has enabled me to be flexible and embrace different cultures. Therefore, I do not fit the preconceived profile of Lebanese culture nor Kuwait culture. Also, I have been to international schools studying an American diploma. In school, there was a large ethnic diversity hence communication was imperative for peaceful coexistence. Being in an international school opened my eyes and changed the way I thought of other cultures. Interaction with people from various cultural backgrounds who have distinct values, practices, and traditions. Interaction with diverse cultures enabled me to appreciate both our differences and similarities. I grew up watching the foreign television channels, mostly western cultures from the movies to the series. Over the years of different cultural interaction, I made a conscious decision to change my behavior and attitude towards people. I was able to understand how cultures shape different expectations and behaviors hence I was empowered to know how to behave and interact with people from various cultural backgrounds. I believe I am merely a cultural anomaly because I do not conform to the reasonable standards that define a particular culture.
Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (Maidenhead. England: McGraw-Hill
Liu, S., Volcic, Z., & Gallois, C. (2014). Introducing Intercultural Communication: Global cultures and contexts. Sage.
Meyer, E. (2014). The culture map: Breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business. Public Affairs.
Friedman, J. (1994). Cultural identity and global process (Vol. 31). Sage.