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3. Selected Intercultural Incidents (Verluyten 2010)

            In this section we will consider intercultural encounters containing collisions of participants on the occasion of differences of cultural dimensions. Case studies of intercultural encounters are powerful devices for comparative description of the „hidden" rules of how different cultures communicate. For compiling a grammar of a linguaculture a great number of intercultural case studies must be provided, but the good news is that this process is under way.  Case studies consist of stories of respondents, expert's commentaries and evaluations in a methodological perspective. It is crucial that communicative acts of uncoscious nonverbal behaviour are transcripted by explicite verbal language. The data gained this way sould be fitted into the system of cultural dimensions and key concepts of cultures in comparison. The key words are as follows: case studies of intercultural encounters, grammar of linguaculture, explication of acts of nonverbal communication, cultural dimensions, key concepts of cultures.

            Intercultural encounter 1. „In the summer of 1984 I was on holiday in Bulgaria with my father. We lived with a Bulgarian family and once in the evening we invited them to go out and have a cup of coffee with us. They replied da ('yes'), but turned their head from the left side to the right side, as if they were saying 'no'. We were really surprised because we did not understand what they ment. We did not know whether our invitation was accepted or not... (Natalia B., Czechoslovakia. On a visit in Bulgaria). Verluyten notes that In several Balcan countries including Greece and Bulgaria, people shake their head from left to right to convey the meaning 'yes'. To compound the difficulty, they raise their head to mean 'no'. Differences in nonverbal communication, including body language can be considerable. It is important to know that they mostly operate in a subconscious way. When it comes to discussing nonverbal items of communication, speakers are confident that it is their system that works correctly. That is why Natalia is astonished that a body language of a certain culture item could be different from her own culture. But in reality, there are no „good" or „bad" systems of communications, they are symply different from each other. The only thing to do is that speakers should get aquainted with the partner culture peculiarities in advance".

            Intercultural encounter 2. „In Italy it is quite common among males to kiss each others on both cheeks. Especially on birthdays or other celebrations and when we meet again after a long time. While in England, I wanted to wish an English friend a merry Christmas and approached in order to kiss him. He backed off horrified. Verluyten notes:Touching behaviour (including handshakes and kissing) is culture-specific. In many Mediterrenian countries, two males may kiss, hug and hold hands in public (what exacltly is acceptable or not depends on the country or region)". Once again, differences in nonverbal communication, namely in body language are witnessed here. It has to be added that Hungarian linguaculture, much like many Mediterranian countries, includes the above gestures. American expats suggest each other how to behave in Hungarian circumstances: „Perform the cheek-kiss. Hungarians, like many other Europeans, greet each other with a kiss on each cheek, starting with the left cheek. Contact between the lips and the cheek is optional, the gesture itself is what matters." (see: Behave-Hungary)
            Intercultural encounter 3.  „In my class there are some thirty Americans, and four Indonesians including me. When the professor asks questions in class, none of the Indonesians will raise their hands and volunteer for an answer, even if they know it. Tipically, only the Americans participate in the classroom dicussion. The professor called one of us one day and asked why we were not participating in the discussion. He attribued aur passiveness to a lack of interest to the subject. In fact, in Indonesia, rasing our hands and participating in a class discussion is not our custom. However we are more than willing to answer questions when the teacher points to us or calls our mates in class". (Omar H., Indonesia, in the Netherlands). Verluyten notes that „In some cultures, a class is mainly a lecture by the professor with, the students learning through listening; in other cultures interaction and discussion is felt to be an essential part of the process. In cultures where modesty is highly valued, students will be reluctant to put themselves forward by raising their hand and thus 'showing off' that they know the answer while others may not. In cultures where excelling is of high value, students my exhibit precisely the opposite behavior: they do want to show that they know more or perform better than the others." Differences in communicative behaviour are observed here. It is also interesting to note that Hungarian students classroom activity is slightly similar to that of the Indonesian students. Somehow, Hungarians are also reluctant or shy to raise hands when discussing classroom matters. It is also fairly conspicuos that during classroom activities Hungarian students do not show much initiative. This kinds of incidents should be taken into consideration by both Americans and Hungarians when planning future intercultural encounters. Otherwise there can be misunderstandings from both of the sides. In Americans' eyes Hungarian students can be seen as lazy or shy. As for Hungarians, they can accept Americans as geeks. We believe that in such circumstances (mutual ignorance of the other party's culture) this kind of misunderstanding could have serious consequences, for example,   alienation. Misunderstandings,  misinterpretations and disagreements could be avoided by prior learning of foreign linguacultures.

            Intercultural encounter 4. „A businessman from the former Chechoslovakia went to the United Arab Emirates to discuss a deal. The meeting with his counterpart, an Arab businessman, was to take place in the Arab's house, as is apparently common there. As he was invited to a dinner in someone's house, the Czech businessman decided to bring flowers for his host's wife, as he would have done at home. He was sure the wife would be pleased and her husband would appreciate the attention the visitor paid them and the talks would start in a positive atmosphere. The Czech man brought the flowers and expected at least a good welcome, but in fact he was not even allowed to enter the house. Verluyten notes: „In some Arab countries, the wife (or wives) have their own, private quarters in the house and do not receive male visitors, except very close relatives. (...) Any reference to someone's wife ('How is your wife doing?') is to be avoided. Needless to say, in such a culture bringing her flower will be considered as a terrible insult to the husband, as it shows a lack of respect for the woman  who is his wife."

            Differences in communicative behaviour play crucial role in the story. If you want to deal with business in a foreign country, prior study of the „silent language" (as E. Hall puts it) is preferable in the training framework. The Arab world is considered a high context one, where traditions, customs, myths, beliefs play important role in communication.