I have been exploring cultural differences briefly at work this week as part of difference and diversity training. There are some very entertaining things to be found on the internet relating to this topic. For example did you know that in Britain if you want to indicate that something is kept secret, you tap your nose. I’m not sure I have ever done that. I guess you can never write the definitive list of cultural gestures because 1) not everyone does them and 2) they date.
The interesting thing was the tendency to stereotype and make generalisations about etiquette, gestures, communication and what is considered polite but at the same time give a warning that stereotyping is never a good thing. One paper clarified the thinking by saying,
‘differences between two people within the same culture can be greater than differences between two people in different cultures'.
Another paper differentiated between generalisations and stereotypes by stating generalisations are about saying that a nation tends to do something in a certain way but a stereotype assumes they will just do it.
It’s comparing two overlapping bell curves - with the stereotypes sometimes at or near the peaks innit! Ooo I love a good bell curve.
I concluded that it’s just best to keep an open mind and understand that cultural differences do exist and if someone from a different culture offends you, try not to be too shocked and if you offend someone else, explain.