Most people like to think of themselves as tolerant, but there is a cause and effect factor in many cross cultural misunderstandings. If you were to educate yourself on the causes of misunderstandings, then the effects may not occur. Within my essay I will demonstrate the causes of misunderstandings and the potential effects of such causes.
Cause – Sex and women in China
The Chinese culture does not prudishly shy away from sex, and even paying for sex is frowned upon but understood. It is not unheard of for business persons to meet other business persons in high brow brothels and massage parlors. However, when within a romantic endeavor with a woman you meet socially, one may go to bed with a woman in the same way one may do in the west.
Effect – Commitment is expected
Going to bed with a woman (specifically) in China is a very big sign that you want a long term commitment with the woman, even if they went to bed together the same day. Love is something that Chinese culture understands will grow over time, and women will become very upset if the man is not looking for a long term commitment after the pair has had sex.
Cause – Giving the Okay symbol in Brazil
The okay symbol is common in the developed world and is done by making a circle formation using the thumb and index finger, with the other fingers fanned out. This is a way of saying that the person feels okay or that the subject at hand is okay.
Effect – Offense is caused
In Brazil the okay symbol is a description of an anus, and by giving the symbol you are suggesting that a person place something in their anus. In American colloquialism it is best described as the saying, “Up yours.” In Russia the symbol means zero, in Japan it means money. In some parts of France the okay symbol means zero, and in others it means useless, so if you are describing a meal or a store then the okay symbol is not recommended in France.
Cause – Snapping your fingers in restaurants
This is done in America to get the attention of the waiter/waitress and was born from the fact that eating establishments are often busy and the waiter/waitress may be able to see and hear a clicking hand, but not a person calling or waving for attention.
Effect – Offense is caused in the UK and France
The UK (Britain) is rather high brow, and even their waiters/waitresses can be a little bit like posh butlers. With this in mind, if you click your fingers to gain attention then it suggests the waiter/waitress does not know how to do his or her job and you will probably get the wrong end of a breadstick. In France however it is considered offensive because clicking ones fingers to gain attention is seen as a sign you are desperate to leave and therefore that you are advertising you are having a bad time in the restaurant (which is obviously not very good for the restaurant).
Simple gestures can cause just as much offense as having sex without the promise of commitment. It is only really in the Muslim countries where cross cultural misunderstandings will get you in lots of trouble, such as if you accidentally show your shoulders as a woman or a woman is not escorted by a man (one may be arrested by the police of vice and virtue). Otherwise, if you stick to non-Muslim countries it is just polite to know what will and will not offend people; because as this essay shows, there are sometimes effects to things you never considered to be provocative or insulting causes.