Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beyond Culture

Culture is what we often take for granted. Normally, we live and communicate in a semi-automatic mode, producing standard reaction for regular stimuli and predicting others’ behavior easily. We play social games every day and rarely care of rules – we’ve learned them from the early childhood. We start thinking of culture only when something goes wrong. I.e. negotiations with business partners from another country failed for unknown reason. Or managers of a global company faced strong and irrational resistance from the staff etc. You may be aware of cultural differences in theory, but real practice of cross-cultural communication is always (and often unpleasantly) surprising.

Mr. Edward T. Hall, an anthropologist and cultural researcher, has a great experience in solving cross-cultural problems, grounding anthropological theorizing in concrete examples. Beyond Culture is his third book summarizing years of direct experience in inter-cultural communications.

When I bought Beyond Culture, I thought that this book is good to begin cross-cultural studying with. I didn’t expect to get any practical use of it. I was wrong. Besides expanding my knowledge of communicative linguistics and other related sciences, I learned how to recognize cultural issues in my everyday work, I got deeper understanding of behavior of my colleagues from other countries. I really found this book very helpful. However, Beyond Culture is not a how-to sort of books. I’d say, this is a why-guidance to cross-cultural communication — it explains why misunderstanding happens, why miscommunication occurs. It helps to take a fresh look at routing things. It teaches to distrust the common sense which is, in fact, not so common.

Written an a popular manner, this book deserves attention of everyone who works globally and deals with more than one culture.