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The important aspect to consider is the way that people perceive and accept these differing power distributions. The barrier and problem that Sally experiences in this particular case is that she comes from a society that favors a low power distance model of behavior as the accepted norm; whereas in the society in which she is now staying the cultural norms and accepted context is one of high power distance.
In theoretical terms this means that Sally wishes to reduce the distance between herself and the housemaid on the cultural and normative grounds that all people are equal regardless of their social position. However, this view runs counter to the norms adopted in the high power culture, which reflects the view that the maidservant should know her place in the societal and cultural structure and that it is not correct or acceptable for the maid to address Sally informally.
This can also be related to the concept of in-group and out-group. In this instance one can refer to cultural class distinctions and the view that certain members of society should not mix with others. While this is a view that would contradict Sally's sense of human equality, yet it is also a view that she should be aware of in order to understand and interact with the culture more effectively.
The Sapir -- Whorf hypothesis is a theory that posits a relationship between language, the subtle grammatical nuances of the language and the worldview of the person speaking that language. In other words, language is not seen only a means of communication but as a repository of cultural norms and values that affect the way an individual perceives and acts in society. Language is therefore is associated with certain patterns of thinking about reality and it follows that if one does not understand the language then one will not understand these often different views of society and reality.
This in turn can lead to severe cultural barriers and misinterpretations of actions. This aspect is clearly seen in the fact that Sally is offended by the use of the word 'gordita'. However, the context of her environment and the fact that she states that people around her are very kind, would tend to suggest a different and non-offensive interpretation of the word from the point-of-view of the native language being spoken.
According to the Sapir -- Whorf hypothesis language is not only denotative but is also connotative and therefore what we in fact encounter in this situation is that Sally is not aware of the more subtle connotative meanings of the word 'gordita'; which is probably intended as a term of affection or endearment by the people she is staying with. This is supported by the fact that while the word gordita refers ostensibly to a food and means "little fat one" in Spanish, it also descibes an attractive woman or girl who is curvaceously built. (Definition of gordita)
Sally was frustrated by her classes because they seemed very different to the educational system in the culture. She complains that the classes were seemingly disorganized academically and somewhat chaotically structured, particularly in terms of time. An important observation that she makes is that there seems to be no allowance made for student participation.
These observations raise a number of theoretical issues. In the first instance, she is measuring a different culture in terms of the values and patterns of thinking in her own culture. In this regard we could turn to Social identity Theory from Henri Tajfel and John Turner for analysis. In this theory the view is put forward that inter-group or intercultural conflict and barriers to positive relationships are often caused by generalized and false comparisons that do not take into account the different cultural and social context.
Another theoretical view that helps us to understand this situation is Value Orientation Theory and the view that cultures function according to different world views and value orientations with regard to shared factors such as time. While Sally finds it disconcertning that her lecurer does not arrive to class on time, this is a cultural trait which supports a less strict concept of time.
This could also be related to a third important facet; namely power distance and power structures. Sally notes that the lectuer does not allow for student participation. This confuses her as she comes from a culture where this form of interaction is encouraged. However, in the context of the culture in which she lives there is a more hierarchical power structure and the lecturer asserts this by arriving late and by showing that he or she is in charge of the class in not allowing participation.
What may appear to be a form of abuse in one culture may be a compliment in another. This is also an aspect that can be related to Value Orientation theory; as well as to non-verbal expression in different cultures.
Sally reacts negatively to the man's comments and suggestions and interprets them as a sexist statement that is intrusive and objectionable. She reacts in this fashion because in her cultural and social framework the individual female has a right to object to any infringements on her privacy. Furthermore, these remarks are taken as an insult in terms of Sally's perspective or worldview. This may not be the case in other cultures and what is seen as a sexist infringement of privacy by Sally may be seen in another culture as an acceptable form of social interaction between male and female.
Contact theory stresses cooperative activity as an important factor in cultural understanding and in the process of cultural interaction. In this case study it is clear that Sally has not yet assimilated many of the norms and values of the culture in which she is staying. Some of the basic cultural norms, such as the hierarchical structure of the culture as well as the power relations are obviously not understood well enough by Sally.
However, the tone of the letter is extremely positive and Sally refers more then once to her optimism that the challenges that she faces will be overcomes. A theory which would be applicable in her case is Value Orientation. It is clear from this case study that Sally needs to become aware of the worldview and value orientations in this culture in order to understand and interact more positively.
Case study three
The central aspect that relates to the issue of the women and the bank loan is the fact that in this particular society there is a strong normative drive towards collectivism as opposed to individualism. This is a cardinal theoretical aspect that helps us to understand Jenny's reaction to Aisha's story. Jenny comes from a culture where individuality and individual action is placed above collective action and meaning in the cultural norms of the society. In her interpretation of the story Jenny therefore places the onus on the individual responsibility that Aisha should bear because she could not pay the part of the loan that she owed. In terms of Jenny's perception, the focus on individual responsibly would mean that the repayment of the loan was essential in the light of the fact that the group could lose their borrowing status. Jenny therefore states that from her perspective the women in the group should have been very angry at Aisha for not being able to pay back her portion of the loan. She is therefore surprised that the women invite Aisha back into the group.
Jenny's reaction is based on her cultural assumptions and she does not understand the collective and egalitarian nature of the norms that control the society. This can also be related to the theory of Value Orientation and Social Identity theory. Different cultures have different ideas about scoria relations, which is a point that is stressed in the theory of Value Orientation. While one society might prize individuality, another might place the emphasis on collectivity and egalitarianism. It is therefore important in interacting with another culture to understand the type of social relations that are preferred in that culture.
Taking this view into account, the loan group has a very different perspective, which is determined by their set of cultural norms and values. For them the group is more significant then the individual. Therefore they do not ostracize Aisha but accept her as part of the group -- which can possible be seen as a more inclusive and understanding view than that which is commonly found in individualistically inclined cultures.
A central aspect of this case study is Jenny's inability to understand and acknowledge the social mores regarding dress in the culture. She finds it difficult to understand the strong reaction to her attire because she does not understand the rigid nature of the society in terms of religion, dress and gender roles. She comes from an individualistic culture where dress style is…[continue]
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