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Written Communication and Cultural Differences

Fay A.

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I want to take a moment to try to explain some of the things I've learned about people who come from different parts of the country.

I don't mean to imply that people are not intelligent. But there are very real "cultural" differences throughout our Country. I've lived all over the USA and the World, and I can honestly say that the greatest episodes of Culture Shock I've experienced have been those that resulted when I moved from one part of America all the way across to another; Washington State to Massachusetts, Massachusetts to Florida. I've criss crossed this country numerous times, made stops in Alabama and Tennessee to visit family, and some moves to and from the Orient and Europe. And the biggest shock of all came when I moved to California. What an eye opener that was!

One of the hardest things for me to get use to was how terse people are here. The first time I visited my brother in Southern California I was astounded by the way people acted and the way they spoke to one another, including my brother! He grew up in the same places I did. He was raised by the same folks I was raised by. I thought to myself: These people are downright RUDE. Then I started looking at the way life is lived in this part of the world. REALLY looked at it, and listened to people. Things are done at a break neck pace here. People are forever saying to me "I told you _____ already." They aren't attacking me. They're just commenting on the fact that they have already communicated something, and they're doing so again. I'm not kidding. My brother says this to me all the time. It's as typical for someone in this area to say "I told you_____ already.", as it is for someone in Alabama to say, "Ya'll".

Anyway...I hope that you Folks understand that all I'm trying to do is point out that in different parts of the world certain behaviors and ways of communicating are acceptable, and in other parts of the world the same behaviors and expressions are considered to be very insulting. (Belching comes to mind. Here it's rude to do so at the dinner table. In Saudi Arabia it's rude NOT to do so at the dinner table.) I don't think people are attacking one another, or deliberately trying to insult anyone. I honestly believe that part of the problem is simply not speaking the same "Geographic English". And I believe this because I have lived where many of you are living. And I have some understanding of how life is where you are.

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Hi Fay,

Really interesting message. I'm currently finishing my masters in linguistics. And I think what you are mentioning is about the « Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis » (= language defines the way a person behaves, so differences in language reflect the different views of different people).


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Good post, Fay. 30 years ago I moved from small-town West Texas to Kansas City. HUGE cultural shift for me. I felt as though I had moved to a foreign country. It took me years to become accustomed to the differences.

For instance, in West Texas every clerk at every retail store knew our family and we knew theirs, so there was conversation and warmth while they ring up your purchases. In Kansas City, they don't even make eye contact or acknowledge your presence. In West Texas, drivers who don't even know each other wave when they meet on the highway. In Kansas City . . . well, let's just say I'm glad that most people don't carry guns.

You're a good and thoughtful person, Fay. I love the way your mind works.


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I know when I lived and worked in Mississippi I had to change the way I greated people. They did not hear what I was saying with my Boston accent. As " Hello, how are you today" They heard " Hello, How old are you today?" I was working at the health department . First they would give me a weird look and answer " Twenty two" or " Eighteen" . Donna G

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Excellent point, Fay. We have experienced the same thing as we moved from New Orleans to Detroit to Houston to San Francisco to Houston to Baton Rouge and back to Houston. We have found that once you get used to the "culture", you find good, nice people everywhere. Don

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I'll never forget moving to Nashville from West Texas. A friend is talking about the "eyes" on her stove. She leaves the room, and I am intent on finding the "eyes." In the south, the burners on a stovetop are often referred to as "eyes." Who knew? :lol:

Also -- dressed eggs (deviled eggs in Texas - or closer to deviled "aigs")

I would have thought Texas would have been closer to the souther states in these kinds of things, but nooooooooo. I've embarrassed myself more than once since living here!


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Yes. behaviors even inner-state have pockets of sub cultural norms and mores.

In the city, a double negative is a no-no. Dangling particples is another. In the coutry it defines humility and social approachability. It says, I am one of you.

In the City, it is a sign of ignorance or stupidity.

You should see the differences in the dinner tables and what is served. We could have a great discussion on that one.

Like Don said, once you get used to it, you will find good people all over. Intelligence has nothing to do with finding good folks. I used to be a snob...but I a'int one no more! :wink: You can be sure to find good people wherever you are at. :wink:

Cindi o'h

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I left England with a regional accent that only the people in my area could really understand, I moved to Montreal where there were two accents to get used to and they really didn't understand me at all. Eventually things got better and then we criss crossed Canada with exactly the same result.

From Toronto we moved to Texas and then the real excitement began! My English/Canadian english was now being tested by Texans that I couldn't understand either. My first request on the phone for directions resulted in my asking the man how to spell the street name.........C-A-R-S-O-N.......he thought I had two heads (or maybe no brain).

When all these differences are met in person it's a lot different than the written word would imply, I guess we all should count to ten and re-read things before we react.

Very good food for thought


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