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2. Cultural Dimensions

            We are part of intercultural communication system in the globalized world which concludes to the idea about the communication in the framework of linguacultures. Linguacultures are seen as superior semiotic systems in human societies governing verbal and nonverbal languages. Recent research in cultural antropology and socio-psychology (E. Hall, G. Hofstede, F. Trompenaars et al.) has revealed cultural dimensions (CD). CDs are serving as subregisters of linguacultures. Let us take an overview of the most important CDs discovered so far.


2.1. Context (high vs low; erős vs gyenge kontextus)


            In this respect, context („silent language", E. Hall) means unwritten rules that are known, mostly subconscioiusly, in the society.  In high context cultures verbal utterances can be understood with the help of the traditions, beliefs, customs, habits making up context. Therefore much is taken for granted. Nonverbal communication (meaningful behaviour, gestures, mimicking, clothing etc.) is also significant. In low context cultures, as a rule, utterances are understood in their literal sense. Little is taken for granted. Nonverbal communication is mostly overshadowed.

            In Anglo-Saxon, German, Scandinavian lingvacultures verbal language plays a leading role. As a rule, the messages are identical with the utterances' literal meaning. Contrary to this, Asian, Arabic, Mediterranean and East-European countries are high context ones where intuitions, rituals, figurative and allegorical expressions are prevalent. „The way of thinking of Western people is verbal-logical but Russians have figurative and intuitive thinking. (...) A Westerner can hear just what was said to him, he does not try to find ulterior motives of the message. In the first place Russian speaker utilizes his imagination and intuition and his will and intellect, in the second place" (Sergeyeva 2005: 139). In the eyes of Americans, Hungarians are often less direct than Americans and depend on nuances of meaning in many cases: one has to watch for allusions and hidden meanings, and listen what is not said as well as what is said.


2.2. Power Distance (high vs low level of power distance; hatalmi távolság magas vs alacsony)


            Power Distance is the endorsement of higher vs lower level of inequality in a given society. High power distance cultures are Japan, China, Russia etc., intermediate power distance cultures are Hungary, Slovakia, Poland etc., low power distance cultures are the USA, Great Britain, Sweden etc. Every linguaculture is characterized by a certain level of unequality. Members of the society are accustomed to the given state of affairs. It is important to keep in mind, that these rules are usually observed by people unconsciously. Everyday activity and communication are subordinated to power distance issues in linguacultures. In Hungarian and Russian languages, e. g., sentences Mindig a főnöknek van igaza. Начальник всегда прав. [The boss is always right.] are in common use. Anothe example is, as follows. „A British-Hungarian company in Budapest had a British manager and all the staff  were Hungarian, and they were allowed to work in the way that people work in the west. (...) They were working very well for years. Six month ago (...) a Hungarian manager were appointed. It was immediately apparent to everybody that this system was lost now. All the product managers had lost their independence (...). It was a very sad state of affairs. Eventually we lost the business completely because he [the Hungarian manager] brought his friend in" (Falkné Bánó K., 2008, 192).


2.3. Individualism vs Collectivism (high vs low individualism vs collectivism score; magas vs alacsony individualizmus vs kollektivizmus érték)


            In individualist cultures individualism, personal rights are dominant. As a rule there are weak relationships with a larger circle of people. In collectivist cultures individuals are integrated into strong in-groups like family etc. Ties between individuals are strong. The role of collective responsibility is important. American students as a rule do not cheat when doing their assignments because they want to know their individual success.      In America „students might cheat in school, but they know deep down that it is wrong. (...) . In Hungary students cheat because they want, so to say, everyone in their class to be successful, so they "help each other." Part of the game is to discover the most creative ways to cheat" Differences of Life and Culture in Hungary and America. Compiled by Doug Coppage.  Additional contributions by Arden Campbell. This edition: 2007.5.29.

            The following story gives an example of the Russian collectivism, hospitality: „One Saturday evening, when I [Hedrick Smith, former Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times] was working late, alone, in a Moscow office, I heard a knock at the door. (...) When I opened the door, there stood the dezhurnaya. (...)  "You've been working hard for a long time. You must be hungry. Would you like me to fix you a cup of tea?" (...) She returned, not just with a cup of tea but with a whole tray of things: a large mug of tea, four small open-faced sandwiches, bologna topped by a slice of cucumber, a packet of tasty Polish biscuits. (...) That (...)  illustrates an endearing quality of Russians: their extraordinarily warm hospitality, their love of bestowing gifts on each other and on people whom they choose to befriend. To American travelers who have found Russians on the street to be brusque and impersonal, who have found Soviet officials to be cold and rigid and Soviet waiters exasperating in their imperious and surly indifference, this generous side of the Russian character often comes as a surprise" (see: Russian Character).

            In Russian mentality and behaviour you can reveal a series of features of collectivism: merry making, feast, hospitality, proposing toasts to each other. In case of need it is customary in Russian culture поговорить по душам (pogovorit' po dusham, lit. to talk according to souls), to have a heart-to-heart talk with a friend: to give advice, comfort him / her when being in trouble. There are lexical units, mostly untranslatable, typical for Russian character, such as  самоварничать - samovarnichat' (a company of near friends or colleagues sitting around the samovar, drinking tea, eating biscuits and having a chat). The proverb В тесноте, да не в обиде  (V tesnote da ne v obide, lit. in narrowness, but not in offence) means being in truly friendship. Potential English counterparts are The more the merrier. Plenty is no plague. More sacks to the mill! There is always room for one more.It is a bit tight, but all right if we don't fight. (Kuzmin, Shadrin 1989: 33-34). In English there are similar idiomatic units too, but individualistic ones are predominant:  An Englishman's home is his castle, My house is my castleEvery man for himself, Every man is the architecht of his own fortune. God helps those who help themselves. A public hall is never swept.


2.4. Masculinity vs Femininity (high vs low masculinity or femininity score; magas vs alacsony maszkulin vagy feminin érték)

            This dimension pertains to the distribution of roles between genders. Masculine cultures give priority to male achievement, control and power. Males are assertive, competitive, women are modest, caring by nature. In feminine linguacultures there is not significant between masculine and  feminine roles, at least the difference between males and females is not significant in this respect. „Work, strength, independence, financial stability, opennes, competitiveness and different roles among male and female are in the center of masculine cultures. (...) (see: Masculine / Femimine Cultures). «Masculine cultures» are the Arabic countries, Russia, Hungary, Japan, less masculine are Austria, Italy, Germany, the USA, Great Britain and Canada. Feminine cultures are, first of all, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finnland and Netherlands. Masculinity is closely connected with the dimension of context, see below. Individuals macho (Spanish, lit. male) are typical representatives  of the category. In Hungary to be a man of few words is seen as a sign of beeing wise man (!), because „only silly women and immature children speak all the time". According to the mentality of Russians it is shameful if a male person is doing „non-manly" things, e. g. washing, washing up, cleaning up or shopping. Almost the same is true for Hungarian machos.


2.5. Uncertainty Avoidance: high vs low uncertainty avoidance; magas vs alacsony bizonytalanságkerülés / bizonytalanság-űrés)


            Uncertainty Avoidance means the society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. It is a human  attitude to unknown, surprising situations being reflected in everyday habits. In high uncertainty avoidance cultures there are strict laws, rules and customs, safety and security measures for the avoidance of unexpected, unforeseeable events. Contrary to this, in low uncertainty avoidance cultures we can witness tolerance of different opinions, as few rules as possible, relativism, many currents, more phlegmatic and complentative people. „People in these cultures tend to be more pragmatic, they are more tolerant of change. For example cultures with high uncertainty avoidance usually do better with more laws and regulations and cultures with low uncertainty avoidance expect more space and more freedom. Managers study uncertainty avoidance to be better prepared to manage in an international setting. (...) Some of the highest uncertainty avoidance countries include Russia, Germany, Turkey or France. Some of the lowest uncertainty avoidance countries include Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark" (see: Uncertainty Avoidance).

            It is noteworthy to say, that, to some extend, cultural dimensions are changeable. This is the case with uncertainty avoidance, too. For example, Russians (especially elderly and middle-aged) often say „I don't like to risk, I prefer to be on the safe side". The same applies to Hungarians. Economists often accuse Hungarians of not being flexible enough for changing their places of work. To certain extent it is true, but it also has to be considered that these days more than half a million Hungarians are working in Austria, Germany, Great Britain or elsewhere in Western Europe.


2.6. Attitudes to time: (long- vs short-term orientation, hosszútáv- vs rövidtáv-központúság);  past vs present orientation in Human-time relationship (múlt- vs jelen-orientáció); monochronic vs. polychronic culture; monokrón vs polikrón kultúra).


            „Long-term orientation exists when you are focused on the future. You are willing to delay short-term material or social success (...) for the future. If you have this cultural perspective, you value persistence, perseverance, saving and being able to adapt. Short-term orientation exists when you are focused on the present or past and consider them more important than the future. If you have a short-term orientation, you value tradition, the current social hierarchy, and fulfilling your social obligations" (see:  Long-term-orientation). „For example, how long does a house mortgage run in the Western World? A typical number would be some where between 20 and 30 years. However in Hong Kong, and China there are plenty of cases where a mortgage runs for 80 years if not longer" (ibid).

            Past orientation means respecting ancestors, old people. The meaning of present orientation: priority is given to present activities. Future orientation: enjoing prospects, future achievements. A monochronic time system means that things are done one at a time and time is segmented into precise, small units. Under this system time is scheduled, arranged and managed. The United States is considered a monochronic society. (...) For Americans, time is a precious resource not to be wasted or taken lightly. (...). For monochronic cultures, such as the American culture, "time is tangible" and viewed as a commodity where "time is money" or "time is wasted." Monochronic cultures include Germany, the United Kingdom, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Jamaica, Canada, Switzerland, most parts of the United States, and Scandinavia.

            A polychronic time system is a system where several things can be done at once, and a more fluid approach is taken to scheduling time. Unlike most Americans and most northern and western European cultures, Latin American, African, Asian[vague] and Arab cultures use the polychronic system of time.  Time is money, He who is everywhere is nowhere, If you chase two rabbits, you will not chatch either on. These cultures are much less focused on the preciseness of accounting for each and every moment. (...)  Instead, their culture is more focused on relationships, rather than watching the clock. They have no problem being "late" for an event if they are with family or friends, because the relationship is what really matters. As a result, polychronic cultures have a much less formal perception of time. (...) Polychronic cultures include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Mexico, New Orleans, the Philippines, Pakistan, India, and many in Africa.

            For Americans the value of time is material:  "Time is money". They tend to have a materialistic approach attached to achievements and time.  Time is sacred in the U.S.,  being late is very rude, deadlines  are fixed. For Russians, the value of time is "elastic". "People" come before time, a Russian proverb says: "seven people do not wait for one". Being late is not perceived as being rude. Deadlines are flexible.  Russian management does not fit easily in "westernized" practices of time management. Planning is not rigorous. Issues and problems are solved under pressure and stress at the last-minute. If you want to manage your Russian team you better be a night owl. Often employees work late until 11 pm or 1 am (the direct consequence of dealing with things at the last-minute) (see: Perception of time).


2.7. Universalism vs Particularism (univerzalizmus vs partikularizmus)


            „Universalism vs. Particularism indicates how a society applies rules of morals and ethics. In a Universal society such as the U.S., rules and contracts are developed which can apply in any situation. For example, take the case of trying to cross the street at the red light. In a very rule-based society like the U.S., you will still be frowned at even if there is no traffic. It tends to imply equality in the sense that all persons, or citizens, falling under the rule should be treated the same. On the contrary, in Asian societies like Taiwan, where particularist judgments focus on the exceptional nature of circumstances, it is likely to be OK with one if it is his/her brothers or friends that violate the traffic rule" (see: Universalism).


2.8. Achievement vs Ascription Orientation (teljesítmény- vs titulus-központúság)


Ach: previous achievement, demonstration of knowledge. Asc: extensive use of titles, respecting superiors. „Achievement cultures are action oriented. Doing something is preferred over doing nothing. Effectiveness can be measured by action. However, Ascription cultures value waiting for the right situation to do something, They value understanding the complexity of a situation and do not act in a hurry" (see: Achievement Orientation).


2.9. Neutral (N) vs Affective (A) Attitude (semleges vs emocionális viszonyulás). N: cool, self-possessedness, controlling feeling. A: gesturing, smiling, body language, voicing feelings.


            „Affective or neutral context describes how cultures express their emotions. In affective cultures like in China people express their emotions more naturally. Reactions are shown immediately verbally and/or non-verbally by using mimic and gesture in form of body signals. They don't avoid physical contact, which is well known especially from Italians and Spanish when meeting each other very enthusiastic and with raised voices. In contrast neutral cultures like Japanese tend to hide their emotions and don't show them in public. Neutral cultures don't express precisely and directly what they are really thinking which can lead to misunderstandings and certain emotions are considered to be improper to exhibit in certain situations. It is also considered as important not to let emotion influence objectivity and reason in decision making. In general they feel discomfort with physical contact in public and communicate in a more subtle way which makes it difficult for members of other cultures to read between the lines and get the message. (...) The Americans are in the middle of this dimension. They express their emotions but try to avoid that they won't influence the rational decision making, especially in business situations. Germany, France and Finland are also more centered within the scale of this context neutral versus affective" (see: Affective vs Neutral).


2.10. Specific (S) vs. Diffuse (D) cultures (szeparáló vs diffúz kultúrák). S: separation of private life and business. D:  interrelation of private life and business, preference of connections.


            „Specific cultures have a small area of privacy which is clearly separated from public life (USA). They have many personalities/sectors where they are acting and just there like socializing in clubs and organizations. Diffuse cultures (Germany, France, China) are concerned with keeping people's face. (...)  Germans have a high degree of privacy and share just a low percentage with public. Americans have a small degree of privacy and share these public sectors (clubs e.g.) very easily and freely with members of these areas. It is one reason why the Americans seem to be so friendly (...). Chinese belong to the diffuse societies. If a European manager gets invited by his Chinese partner at home he would share nearly everything they have to be a good host. The guest becomes a close person because of the established close relationship. This is very important in diffuse cultures to build up close relationships in business life" (see: Specific vs Diffuse).


2.11. High vs Low Territoriality (nagy / kis térigény)


            The perception of space is culturally determined.  People from different cultures perceive space differently. This cultural dimension concerns with the issues of „personal space bubble" of speakers' belonging to different linguacultures. In Southern and Eastern cultures the „personal space bubble" is smaller than in their Western counterparts. A Japanese person who needs less space thus will stand closer to an American, making the American uncomfortable. People with lower territoriality have less ownership of space and boundaries are less important to them. They will share territory and ownership with little thought. People with low territoriality tend also to be high context (see: Territoriality).


            As has been proved, cultural dimensions are fundamental rules of linguacultures. Among linguacultures they may be different just like grammatical categories ( e. g. tenses in English, verb aspects in Russian, subject / object conjugation of verbs in Hungarian) among languages. Therefore it is advisable to teach / study cultural dimensions within language teaching curricula.