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  #1  
Old 29-09-2018, 07:17 AM
Jack of Spades Jack of Spades is offline
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American communication culture

Brief background story; I'm a European (Finnish) and I'm very interested in the US culture and history and I like the company of Americans generally. The one most distinct difference I have recognized in the cultures of USA and my own is the communication culture, or the way how people speak to each others.

I had a Eeureka moment, when I listened to an interview of an ex- East German KGB agent Jack Barsky, who had grown up in Europe and since then been an undercover agent in the US. (his life story is quite dramatic and interesting but that's another topic) He put the difference between the communication cultures as follows:

"I have tried to soften the way how I approach people. Germans are in your face, all the time, they will tell you what they think, even if you don't ask for it. They will criticize you at any chance they get. Americans on the other hand, will be little more passive, sometimes passive-aggressive. Americans will wrap everything, every piece of bad news in some kind of a velvet cloth, so it doesn't hurt that much." (he speaks of Germans, but I recognize a wider Norther European characteristic in what he said)

Listening to that description gave me a "Oh, so that's what I have been doing wrong when talking to Americans." - kind of a moment

Any comments on the observations from Americans? Does it ring true? Are Americans more polite than Europeans? Is it important to avoid saying anything negative with Americans?

(I have no idea where to post this, if this is the wrong place, please move it elsewhere.)
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Old 02-10-2018, 12:01 AM
ocean breeze ocean breeze is offline
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This seems interesting. I've spoken to a few Europeans mainly from England. Never had an issue. Italians can be pretty loud for no reason. There may be some truth to that though but i feel like much depends on location. In the South they are more sugar coated while in the northeast like New York and New Jersey people are much more blunt. But overall it does appear like many do not take criticism well. Speaking with people from all parts of the world, i personally find the Japanese to show the most courtesy, and respect. They are some of the most politest people i've encountered.
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Old 02-10-2018, 02:55 AM
Lucky 1 Lucky 1 is offline
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The thing that needs to be pointed out is that unlike smaller countries such as Finland or Germany. ...the United States is huge and the population is far less homogenous in cultural behavior. ....not even close!

Go to the North East......very different culture from the south....particularly when you compare them to states like Texas. ....

Southern Louisiana? ?? Well.....those folks are different than pretty much everywhere else....

And as they say in the south....." we have our ways"

Northern tier states? Again totally different culture....and different ways of handling and responding to social cues.
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Old 02-10-2018, 11:08 AM
Native spirit Native spirit is offline
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This can be said for any culture it doesn't matter where you come from.i live in Wales we have many americans living here.i get on with them.some can be more forward than others,
but that can be the same doesn't matter where you come from.every one is different.
my daughter has gone to live in Flatland ( Holland) I don't like her bf he is arrogant. but I give as good as anyone I take from no one. we have people from all different nations living in the uk.not so much here as we are a village we have not got any germans here now but we did he passed away he was a lovely guy I knew him years.he could be blunt but I just took it as his quirky side.

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Old 03-10-2018, 06:47 PM
Jack of Spades Jack of Spades is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ocean breeze
This seems interesting. I've spoken to a few Europeans mainly from England. Never had an issue. Italians can be pretty loud for no reason.

I was thinking of the Northern half of the continental Europe. In continental Europe there is a stark contrast between the cultures of the North (Germany, Scandinavia etc.) and the South (Italy, Greece etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocean breeze
In the South they are more sugar coated while in the northeast like New York and New Jersey people are much more blunt. But overall it does appear like many do not take criticism well.

Well, nobody likes being criticized, but in my culture, if I praise somebody the same way I sometimes see Americans do, everyone would think I'm just being dishonest and pretentious. In the culture I have grown up in, if you have only tons of good things to say, people will think you're not saying what you think. It undermines the idea of making a positive impression.

Spicing your praise up with something a bit criticizing gives it an "I'm speaking my mind, and most of it is positive" - impression, it's more likely to be taken seriously if you don't see only positive things. I guess it's a matter of communication tradition of people valuing honesty (someone who's honest is trustworthy) over positivity.

But because it's more of an undertone and a nuance in communication, rather than something very clear-cut, this is very difficult to explain in words for someone who hasn't experienced them both. If someone who's not from Northern Europe and doesn't have the cultural experience of knowing how to do it right, it's better not to try to do it, or it might come off just offensive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocean breeze
Speaking with people from all parts of the world, i personally find the Japanese to show the most courtesy, and respect. They are some of the most politest people i've encountered.

Yup. But Asians have in many ways very different culture. The thing with Americans and Europeans is, the culture is very much the same for the most part, so any minor differences stand out.
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Old 03-10-2018, 10:16 PM
linen53 linen53 is offline
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Yes, like Ocean said different regions have different cultures. I've lived in the Pacific Northwest (nw coast), California (sw coast), Texas (central/south, U.S.), Maryland (east coast) and now Colorado (sw U.S.) and I've seen differences in each area I've lived.

Generally I'd say we don't deal with trauma well. Our own or anyone elses. We will try to avoid it in conversation for the most part. And we will change the subject as soon as it is polite enough to do so. And never mention it again. If the other person brings it up again, and we feel uncomfortable we may then avoid them.

I'm not speaking personally. These are my observations.

We also respect privacy. If a person has a habit that annoys us we either avoid them or pretend we don't see it. Mostly we wouldn't not mention it to them.

Now regarding politics, all bets are off. It's put the gloves on and duke it out.

Again I'm not speaking personally. As a matter I refuse to discuss my political views because I see no point in arguing. What? You're going to change each other's minds. I think not. So why have a heated discussion? I've seen friendships destroyed because of heated political discussions.
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Old 03-10-2018, 10:40 PM
Jack of Spades Jack of Spades is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linen53
Generally I'd say we don't deal with trauma well. Our own or anyone elses. We will try to avoid it in conversation for the most part. And we will change the subject as soon as it is polite enough to do so. And never mention it again. If the other person brings it up again, and we feel uncomfortable we may then avoid them.

To be fair, I don't think people anywhere are particularly good at dealing with traumas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by linen53
Now regarding politics, all bets are off. It's put the gloves on and duke it out.

I have a story to tell about this one. For an American, this is going to sound naive, but it illustrates the difference of the political culture pretty well. I'm not telling the story as a point for or against anyone but just to demonstrate my culture shock with US politics generally:

The first time I got familiar with American politics was when I watched some clips of speeches of Obama and McCain on the campaign trail in 2007 - 2008. Before seeing that election, I had never heard of an "attack ad" and didn't know what it means. In Finnish television, I had only seen ads which were something like "I'm a candidate and here is what I think are important issues. The End." Really tame in comparison, basically just introductions. So, out of cultural curiosity, I watched a few US attack ads from Youtube, and then I told my friends "Wow, in the US politics, they make these things called attack ads! That's really dirty!"

In hindsight I feel like I grew up witnessing rather innocuous politics.
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Old 04-10-2018, 12:44 AM
linen53 linen53 is offline
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I was trying to think of an example comparing to the Germans. That's why I picked trauma.

So can you give me an example of how/why 'germans in your face' scenario?
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Old 04-10-2018, 07:39 AM
Jack of Spades Jack of Spades is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linen53
So can you give me an example of how/why 'germans in your face' scenario?

I can't come up with a very good example on the spot, it's more like a different balance with how much good versus how much bad it's okay to say, and how much it's okay to leave unsaid, rather than something being totally off-limits in one place and totally okay in the other. It's more of a matter of balance than a matter of completely different behavior.
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Old 04-10-2018, 11:23 AM
Baile Baile is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack of Spades
Germans are in your face, all the time, they will tell you what they think, even if you don't ask for it. They will criticize you at any chance they get. Americans on the other hand, will be little more passive, sometimes passive-aggressive. Americans will wrap everything, every piece of bad news in some kind of a velvet cloth, so it doesn't hurt that much.
I'm from a "neutral" country lol. I've worked in the States for years. And due to the international aspect of the career I was in, I worked with many Europeans, mostly Germans and UK individuals. There is a cultural observation here, sure. Cultures are different. But I would say the more important question has to do with consciousness, and how that consciousness (or lack thereof) manifests in the society.

Europeans in general are more open spiritually: more inquisitive and spiritually independent. Just compare the percentage of people in the US versus Europe who are religious and evangelical. More than 90% of US people believe in God; 65% of Europeans do not. And it's THAT which is mostly responsible for the very noticable difference in how US versus European people think and conduct themselves.

In the US, religion -- fanatical belief -- IS their culture: religion of flag and country, religion of military, religion of guns, religion of free speech, religion of Christianity of course, and religion of "Don't ask me to pay for someone else's social care." It determines how people look at life, what they think about others, and how they choose their leaders and make their laws. Think about it: Besides the US, which other countries in the world today, due to their religious beliefs, enact laws to prevent women from receiving abortions? The answer is extremist Muslim countries, and that's about it. And that's just one of many such examples one could come up with.

Last edited by Baile : 04-10-2018 at 03:19 PM.
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