Intercultural Interactions: A Practical Guide

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Kenneth Cushner & Richard W. Brislin

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  • Cross-Cultural Research and Methodology Series

    Series Editors

    Walter J. Lonner, Department of Psychology, Western Washington University (United States)

    John W. Berry, Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario (Canada)

    Volumes in this series:

    Volume 4 Myerhoff/Simić LIFE'S CAREER-AGING

    Volume 5 Hofstede CULTURE'S CONSEQUENCES

    Volume 6 Williams/Best MEASURING SEX STEREOTYPES, Revised Edition

    Volume 7 Pedersen/Sartorius/Marsella MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

    Volume 8 Lonner/Berry FIELD METHODS IN CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH

    Volume 9 Cushner/Brislin INTERCULTURAL INTERACTIONS (2nd edition)

    Volume 10 Dasen/Berry/Sartorius HEALTH AND CROSS-CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY

    Volume 11 Bond THE CROSS-CULTURAL CHALLENGE TO SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY

    Volume 12 Ward ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH

    Volume 13 Williams/Best SEX AND PSYCHE

    Volume 14 Brislin APPLIED CROSS-CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY

    Volume 15 De Vos/Suárez-Orozco STATUS INEQUALITY

    Volume 16 Nsamenang HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN CULTURAL CONTEXT

    Volume 17 Kim/Berry INDIGENOUS PSYCHOLOGIES

    Volume 18 Kim/Triandis/Kagitçibasi/Choi/Yoon INDIVIDUALISM AND COLLECTIVISM

    Copyright

    View Copyright Page

    Series Editors' Introduction

    Suppose you are about to enter a labyrinth. It is dark inside, and the only thing you know for certain is that you will face many twists and turns as you try to grope your way through the maze. Would you consider this situation as a thrilling and welcome personal and individual challenge, or would you prefer to get some expert guidance before taking your first cautious step?

    This book is a helpful guide to the labyrinth of culture. While not usually as foreboding as negotiating a real labyrinth, entering the frequently baffling and often strange domain of a rather different way of looking at the world—that is, entering a culture different from your own—can be worrisome, confusing, and generally not very pleasant. It can also be delightful, invigorating, and the thrill of a lifetime. In either case, a guidebook can make the “lows” not as precipitous and the “highs” more exhilarating. And that is the intent of this second edition of Intercultural Interactions: A Practical Guide. The first edition, published in 1986, and prepared by Richard Brislin, Kenneth Cushner, Craig Cherrie, and Mahealani Yong, was a very big success. As a unique approach to learning about other cultures, the authors developed the original book around 100 “critical incidents” that were spread across 18 themes of human interaction. It proved to be a large help to students, academics, people in business, and others who were novices when faced with intercultural interactions. The revision, developed by Kenneth Cushner and Richard Brislin, has the same goals as the first edition. However, this new version introduces a number of new incidents and uses an expanded definition of “subjective culture.” For instance, it includes incidents that will be helpful to understand the “culture” of the deaf. This unique addition serves as a reminder that the labyrinth of culture need not cross national boundaries or involve the show of a passport or currency exchanges to be different and potentially bewildering.

    The Sage Series on Cross-Cultural Research and Methodology was inaugurated in 1975, and was designed to satisfy a growing need to integrate research method and theory and to dissect issues in comparative analyses across cultures. The ascent of the cross-cultural method in the social and behavioral sciences can largely be attributed to a recognition of methodological power inherent in the comparative perspective; a truly international approach to the study of behavioral, social, and cultural variables can be done only within such a methodological framework.

    Each volume in the series has presented substantive cross-cultural studies, considerations of the strengths, interrelationships, and weaknesses of its various methodologies, drawing upon work done in various disciplines. Both individual researchers knowledgeable in more than one discipline and teams of specialists with differing disciplinary backgrounds have contributed to the series. While each individual volume has represented the integration of only a few disciplines, the cumulative totality of the series reflects an effort to bridge gaps of methodology and conceptualization across the various disciplines and many cultures.

    Thus we welcome this book into the cross-cultural literature, and into this series. Culture training programs, as one aspect of the growing interest in cross-cultural psychology, have become quite popular in the past decade. The original Intercultural Interactions found a solid place in such programs, and this revision will be even more warmly welcomed by those who serve as culture guides as well as by those unseasoned sojourners who choose not to enter the labyrinth of culture without some expert guidance. May this book help make your journey more pleasant, productive, and memorable.

    Walter J.LonnerWestern Washington University
    John W.BerryQueen's University

    Preface

    The efforts that led to Intercultural Interactions: A Practical Guide (1986), and to this second edition, began at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. As a group of people from a variety of academic disciplines, professions, and cultural backgrounds, we agreed, and the research literature supported, that there are a number of interesting facts about intercultural interactions and the ways people learn to behave in such interactions, including the following:

    • Whether people like it or not, they are increasingly being expected to engage in interpersonal interactions with individuals from cultures other than their own. Reasons for this phenomenon include developments in the global marketplace, increases in international tourism, affirmative action policies, changes in school curricula in response to demands for cultural sensitivity, changes in immigration policies, and the movements of international students.
    • There has been a history of success in developing programs to prepare people for such interactions in a variety of contexts, and there has been vigorous discussion concerning the best ways to design and administer these programs.
    • In virtually all these preparation efforts, most commonly called cross-cultural training programs, trainers frequently use the method of relating stories about situations similar to those that are likely to happen to trainees when they cross cultural boundaries. Often, these stories are from the trainers' personal experiences.
    • However, there is a danger in total reliance on such stories. In any given program, they are limited to the experiences of one or a few people, and the conclusions trainees should draw from them are often not clear. The ultimate danger is that trainees will conclude, We heard a lot of interesting stories, but I don't know what to expect when I interact with people from other cultures. There was thus a need to go beyond the stories to examine ways they could be used as instructional devices.
    • There is some overlap between the material covered in cross-cultural training programs and the content found in college courses on topics such as cross-cultural psychology, intercultural communication, multicultural education, and international management. Consequently, materials from training programs can be of use to professors developing college course work, and trainers can benefit from the materials developed by professors.

    Given these observations, a group of four people (Richard Brislin, Kenneth Cushner, Craig Cherrie, and Mahealani Yong) made an attempt to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages they contain. We attempted to prepare a set of training materials based on interesting stories that were organized around a set of 18 concepts that provide a framework for understanding cross-cultural interactions and for developing effective cross-cultural training programs. We moved beyond our own personal experiences by integrating stories gathered from large numbers of people and also from the published literature in such fields as cross-cultural psychology, intercultural communication, and international business. We placed the specific occurrences typical of individuals' stories into a broader framework in the hopes that this would be a model for people to follow during their own intercultural experiences. As we discuss more fully in Chapter 1, we benefited from the approach to cross-cultural training known as the culture assimilator, a method in which stories constitute critical incidents that should be of widespread interest to people moving across cultural boundaries.

    We were pleased with the positive reaction to the first edition of Intercultural Interactions, which appeared in 1986. That book went through 10 printings, and we were asked to write numerous articles about its use for diverse groups such as international businesspeople, teachers and teacher education students, psychology professors, cross-cultural trainers, and health care professionals. It was widely used in both cross-cultural training programs and college courses. For the latter, professors often used the approach of introducing a topic through the use of the incidents as a key point in understanding complex concepts. Then, with the importance of the topic underscored, they could expand on the scope of key concepts through assigned readings, lectures, and classroom exercises and demonstrations. Classroom exercises often took the form of having various students role-play the people in the incidents and explain their behavior from particular cultural viewpoints; students also were asked to prepare incidents themselves, based upon their own knowledge and experience.

    Perhaps most memorable and gratifying for us, because of their immediate impact, have been people's personal responses to the book. People have stopped us in organizations, at conventions, and on campuses, and have written and telephoned, to express their appreciation for our efforts. They have told us, “I was having a terrible time adjusting to my new coworkers from cultures very different from my own. I thought that it might be due to some unrecognized prejudice on my part. But reading your book, I discovered that lots of people have problems similar to mine, and that many miscommunications can be understood through the framework you provided.” Or people in large multicultural organizations and schools would comment, “Your framework has helped me to understand better the complexity underlying the range of potential cross-cultural interactions I might encounter.” Sometimes someone would stop us and say, “I had terrible anxiety and stress readjusting to my own country after being abroad for 2 years. I never had a clue that this would happen. But you covered this in your book, and I learned both that many people have reentry culture shock and that it can be understood.”

    For this second edition, we have added new critical incidents, reviewed research studies that used materials and concepts from the first edition, and integrated recent research studies and analyses related to the 18 themes in our framework for interpreting intercultural interactions. Much of this new material represents expansion into areas that our colleagues have identified through their use of the materials. Examples include interactions between members of the deaf culture and hearing individuals, the delivery of health care across cultural boundaries, differences among ethnic groups within a large and complex nation such as the United States, and misunderstandings between males and females who think they are communicating but are not as effective as they would wish. We hope that readers continue to find these materials and concepts useful in their teaching, training activities, and interpretation of their own intercultural encounters. We are eager to continue receiving your comments and feedback.

    KennethCushnerRichard W.Brislin

    Acknowledgments

    This second edition of Intercultural Interactions: A Practical Guide has been prompted by continuously changing events worldwide as people have continued to explore and grapple with issues of intercultural interaction and cultural diversity, within as well as between nations. This updated edition expands upon the successful culture-general framework and critical-incident approach of the first edition by recognizing changes in world events as well as integrating issues of cultural diversity within given nations, including issues surrounding gender and exceptionality.

    Our most pleasant task in the preparation of this book is to thank the many people who have generously offered assistance. The following individuals helped in one or more ways: They participated as members of the validation sample (for the original and/or this edition), suggested first drafts of incidents, offered editorial assistance, made suggestions that were incorporated into essays, and offered encouragement during frustrating moments. This book would not exist without their able contributions.

    Rosita Daskal AlbertFrances Biedler
    Diane Aliens worthJ. Sam Biedler
    John AllensworthMary G. F. Bitterman
    Michael ArgyleMichael Bond
    Fale AsauaBetsy Brandt
    Gale AwayaAlice Brislin
    Michelle BarkerAnn Brislin
    Jim BaxterDarrell Broaddus
    Patricia BerghArlene Cabacungan
    John BerryRobyn Carl
    Gail Bartking CarterMichael Hamnett
    Craig CherrieLisa Hancock-Leung
    Elizabeth ChristopherBetsy Hansel
    Leeva ChungCharles T. Hendrix
    Jo Ann CraigIkumi Hitosugi
    Hyla CushnerNaomi Horoiwa-Taguchi
    Christopher DeeganAnne-Katrin Eckermann
    Juris DragunsMartha Horvath
    C. Jeffrey DykhuizenJohn James
    Ann Marie HorvathS. Susan Jane
    Linda Husain EhrlichMarion Korllos
    Jeanne ErdmanCharles Nieman
    Katinka EvensenMcCarthy Nitsa
    Roxanne FandR. Michael Paige
    Caroline MeiMei FoxPauli Stewart
    Jan FriedNestor G. Trillo
    Seiko FurahashiKozie Ueki
    Cannon GarberSheldon Varney
    Jayne GarsideMary Wang
    John GouldSonja Wiley
    Dennis GrossmanDavid Williams
    Neal GroveMelinda Wood
    Jean HaasGlenn Yamashita
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    Author Index

    About the Authors

    Kenneth Cushner is Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Center for International and Intercultural Education at Kent State University. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa while on scholarship with the East-West Center. He is a frequent contributor to the professional literature in intercultural education, conducts professional development activities for many professional educational associations worldwide, and has developed and led international education programs for young people and educators on five continents. He is coauthor of Human Diversity in Education: An Integrative Approach (1992). He enjoys playing guitar and percussion instruments, and is also interested in photography.

    Richard W. Brislin is Senior Fellow and Project Director at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from Pennsylvania State University. In addition to teaching and conducting research, he directs yearly programs for college professors who want to develop intercultural course work and for cross-cultural trainers who want to expand their skills. His recent books include The Art of Getting Things Done: A Practical Guide to the Use of Power (1991), Understanding Culture's Influence on Behavior (1993), and Intercultural Communication Training: An Introduction (1994). He enjoys playing banjo, penny whistle, and Irish folk harp.


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