When people from different cultural backgrounds interact with each other, they face various problems in effectively communicating their messages and expressing their thoughts, expectations, and beliefs (Paulston, Kiesling, & Rangel, 2012). These problems lead to serious intercultural communication issues in multicultural societies. Researchers have found that difference in languages is not the sole reason of intercultural communication problems; people fail to effectively communicate due to different cultural dimensions that differentiate them from other cultures and societies (Nelsona, Al-Batalb, & Bakaryc, 2002). This paper presents a comparative analysis of Arab and American culture in the light of two important cultural dimensions, Individualism/collectivism and Masculinity/femininity. The paper focuses on explaining the challenges and issues which people from these cultures face while they interact or communicate with each other in different situations and settings.
Intercultural Communication between Arabs and Americans
Intercultural communication is largely effected by the cultural dimensions which shape the way people from one culture share and express their messages and beliefs with the people from other cultures (Nelsona, Al-Batalb, & Bakaryc, 2002). Arab and American cultures have been regarded as quite opposite to each other by the researchers with respect to their verbal and non-verbal communication patterns (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy, 2012). However, there are some specific values which separate them from each other and bring different communication challenges for them (Paulston, Kiesling, & Rangel, 2012). The following sections explain these values for both the cultures under Individualism/Collectivism and Masculinity/femininity cultural dimensions (Tessler, 2008).
A. Individualism/Collectivism Cultural Dimension in the Arab-American Communication
Individualism refers to the degree to which people in a culture believe that individuals should be given rights and responsibilities independently rather than in groups (Neuliep, 2006). It is like a desire which make individuals think that everyone should have his own aims and targets which he should strive to accomplish without the interference of others. It is a psychological stance which is found in every culture and region in the world (Nelsona, Al-Batalb, & Bakaryc, 2002). On the other hand, collectivism refers to the belief that the rights and success of groups are more important than of individuals in a society (Willemyns, Hosie, & Lehaney, 2011). The Arab culture is highly collectivistic due to the strong cultural values that respect for the rights of groups. Arabs possess very low individualistic values as they show deep concern for their families, coworkers, and the community members with which they interact and share (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy, 2012).
Disagreements due to Individual Preference:
In contrast, Americans are highly individualistic as they focus more on personal achievements and growth. When people from both these cultures interact with each other, the biggest problem which they face is the huge differences in their way of treating each other (Willemyns, Hosie, & Lehaney, 2011). For example, when Americans have to work in a multicultural setting in the Arab regions, they generally find very few opportunities for personal growth. It is because Arabs give more focus on achieving group targets instead of personal interests or targets. They also do not support the progress of women in the society. They show strong disagreements when individuals are given more preference than groups or teams (Paulston, Kiesling, & Rangel, 2012).
The "Only Me" Attitude:
In the Arab work settings, Americans find lack of individual motivation and promotion. The same difficulty is faced by Arabs when they go and work in the American regions. Americans are keen towards achieving personal goals and targets in everything they do at the workplace or in the society (Neuliep,...
They possess the 'Only Me' attitude in their lives with little concern for the society and organizations they work for. As Americans possess high individualistic values, they give a strong competition to the Arab people who work with them in multicultural contexts (Nelsona, Al-Batalb, & Bakaryc, 2002).
Disagreements in Policies and Procedures:
Americans wish self-recognition, appreciation, and freedom in their actions. They have quite different mind sets than Arabs who are highly modest and interdependent (Tessler, 2008). This thing also creates problems for the investors from both these cultures. Researchers believe that partnership businesses cannot be successful between Arabs and Americans due to the communication problems which may arise due to individualistic and collectivistic values in both these cultures (Neuliep, 2006). These cultural dimensions can create conflicts and disagreements between Arab and American investors and entrepreneurs in formulating policies, and defining procedures and working patterns for their workers. Business relationships may also get spoiled when they have to set goals for their teams and individuals (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy, 2012).
B. Masculinity/femininity Cultural Dimension in the Arab-American Communication
Cultural Diversity and Gender Discrimination Laws:
The Arab society is highly dominated by the masculine gender in every aspect of life. From workplace to household and social welfare, every decision is made by the male members of the society. Converse to this culture, American culture shows equal concern for both Masculine and feminine genders. The local businesses as well as the multinational corporations working in the American region have set their own cultural diversity and gender discrimination laws to protect the rights of female population of the society. This is the reason why American women are free to choose their own life styles and professional career. They also feel confident in working in multicultural workplace settings in the local and international organizations (Paulston, Kiesling, & Rangel, 2012).
Difficulties in Implicit or non-verbal communications:
Masculinity/femininity cultural dimension affects the communication and interaction between the people of both these cultures in a variety of ways. First of all, Arab people find a totally different organizational culture in the American workplace where females are a significant proportion of the total workforce. They also face difficulties in communication their messages in an effective and efficient manner (Nelsona, Al-Batalb, & Bakaryc, 2002). The difference in languages and the ways of implicit or non-verbal communications make them feel uncomfortable in the new cultural setting (Neuliep, 2006). According to the most recent researches, the dominance of male gender over female gender in the Arab region is more due to the religious beliefs of Arab people than the cultural dimensions or geographical location (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy, 2012).
Lack of Awareness of Other Cultures:
Females in the Arab region are strict to their rights and responsibilities within the boundaries of their home. A large percentage of Arab females are unaware of the foreign languages which is also a big issue in intercultural communication between Arabs and the rest of the world. Americans strongly believe in achievements and performance rather than making gender or cultural discrimination (Willemyns, Hosie, & Lehaney, 2011). On the other hand, Arabs respect their religious values and hardly allow their females to interact with the outside world. The Arab male society is also unaware of the values and beliefs possessed by the other cultures of the world. It happens due to their lack of interest in learning new things or exploring the life styles, habits, and patterns of the people of other cultures. This thing creates serious issues for them when they meet foreigners in their own country or in international locations (Tessler, 2008).
The problems in intercultural communications arise due to the cultural dimensions which the members of these cultures possess. The Arab and American cultures have a number of dissimilarities in their cultural values, religious beliefs, and interpersonal thoughts. These values, beliefs, and thoughts make them totally opposite cultures from each other. In this paper, the differences in both these cultures have been explained in the light of individualism/collectivism and masculinity/femininity concepts of cultural dimensions (Neuliep, 2006). According to the first approach, Arabs live in a highly collectivistic society where there are very limited growth opportunities. In contrast, Americans are individualistic and believe in personal growth and achievements (Nelsona, Al-Batalb, &…
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