Culture hides more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants.
- E.T. Hall -
What do people value the most, a legal document or an informal agreement? Words they can hear/read or the meaning in what is not said? How likely is an Asian customer to appreciate an attempt to get straight to the point during a business meeting?
As explained in the post “Communication: High- and Low-Context Cultures”, our audience can only be fully understood once we gain insight into their inner functioning: the purpose of this whole section on cultural dimensions is to provide an insight into some of the values hidden “below the water line”, that, according to the Iceberg Model of Culture theorized by anthropologist E.T. Hall, is the realm of deep culture.
The main differences between surface- and deep culture is that the former is mostly conscious, and knowledge - easily shareable and transferable - tends to be explicit and objective, while the latter is unconscious, and knowledge is usually implicit and subjective.
Above the water line we can only see the tip of the iceberg represented by behaviours, while below the water line we find the values and beliefs that drive those behaviours.
To find out more about global cultural values and their relevance in the workplace, please check out the following resources:
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