Keeping on with the disgusting theme of my last post, I thought I’d share a whiff of Polish with you: In Poland, where this candy bar is marketed, the name translates to something like Lucky Streak and the word orzechowy means nutty. It does not help to think of it as a nutty lucky streak with the name association in English, especially with an elephant as the logo…
Tag Archives: Cross-cultural experiences
Have you ever stopped to consider the handshake? It is a non-verbal form of communication, and it can tell you volumes about a person. It is usually the first contact in a face-to-face transaction, used not only as a greeting form, but as an aid in assessing the other person’s confidence, assertiveness, aggression, or social skills. What if the handshake is weak or strong, clammy or crushing? Is it too short (which sends the signal that the person who breaks off the touch either disdains or disrespects the partner), or too long (which is an invasion of private space, too intimate, or disconcerting – it can even interrupt verbal exchange if it’s too awkward)? Is it a neutral-valued exchange, or does the touch signify some ulterior motive (power-play, intimidation, invasion of the partner’s intimate sphere, a sexual connotation, etc.)? What difference does it make for any of the above factors to take place between partners of the same sex vs. the opposite sex? In other words, if two men shake hands and one is crushing, what message comes across differently if the partner being crushed is a woman? Different cultural interpretations enter into the equation as well, as touch signifies various things in various cultures. What difference is there to a handshake with a superior or authority figure to that of a peer or inferior? What if the superior is a woman shaking the hand of a man of lower rank? Or a woman of lower rank? Or a man from a culture that does not recognize women as authority figures?
When developing a character for a novel, the handshake can be a telling gesture. Even if none of the above questions are answered explicitly in your manuscript, just answering the questions for yourself can go a long way to your own understanding of the character, and how you want to express them to your readership. So the next time you shake someone’s hand, alert your writer’s mind to take notes – putting those feelings into words develops your senses far more than simply identifying those feelings. There have been a lot of studies on body language, particularly in the field of international business. For a humorous yet telling video of the “Top Ten Bad Business Handshakes”, click on the image above.
I recently came across a very interesting TED video addressing the differences between the American and British cultures on the specific aspect of politeness. I grew up in the Midwest of America, emigrated to Scotland, lived in England for a while as well, and have friends scattered all over the “British Empire” & Commonwealth; I now live in Switzerland (adding several “Germanic” mentalities to my experience in that process!). What the speaker (Lynne Murphy) observes makes a LOT of sense on both sides of the Puddle (Atlantic). I share it with you because as a writer I know that those subtle, unspoken, unwritten differences in the ways people interact with each other and show their masks, or as Lynne calls them “faces”, make or break the authenticity in writing both prose and dialogue. Click on the image below to watch the video; it’s 18 minutes long, so please watch it when you have time to focus! (By the way, the two cartoons below illustrate perfectly the difference between the “positive” face and the “negative” face.)
The internet is amazing. You can find everything useful, useless, educational and brain-cell poisoning, all just a click away. Just for the fun of it, when you really want to find out something about another culture’s mentality and way of looking at things, try Wikipedia in another language! Click on the photo below to try it out in modern Scots. And if you’re having trouble reading it, trying reading it aloud.
What happens when complete strangers, from enemy-nations, meet face to face? Or in this case, screen to screen? Smiles, and the realisation that at the core, humanity transcends race, colour, creed, nationality, culture and language. Coca-Cola engineered the experience; unfortunately it’s not a permanent installation due to the complex technology involved, but what if it one day could be a permanent fixture? So many people are alone in a crowd; it would be a possibility to connect with a stranger face to face, and maybe in the process, even meet a new friend. To read the article and see the video, please click on the image below.