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high and low context culture


The difference between high context culture and low context culture

High context culture and the contrasting low context culture are terms presented by Edward T. Hall in his 1976 book Beyond Culture. It refers to a culture's tendency to use high context messages over low context messages in routine communication. This choice of communication styles translates into a culture that will cater to in-groups, an ingroup being a group that has similar experiences and expectations, from which inferences are drawn. In a high context culture, many things are left unsaid, letting the culture explain. Words and word choice become very important in higher context communication, since a few words can communicate a complex message very effectively to an ingroup (but less effectively outside that group), while in a lower context culture, the communicator needs to be much more explicit and the value of a single word is less important.

Outline
Definition The countries of high context culture and low context culture Differences between high context culture and low context

Definition
High context refers to societies or groups where people have close connections over a long period of time. Many aspects of cultural behavior are not made explicit because most members know what to do and what to think from years of interaction with each other. Your family is probably an example of a high context environment.

Low context refers to societies where people tend to have many connections but of shorter duration or for some specific reason. In these societies, cultural behavior and beliefs may need to be spelled out explicitly so that those coming into the cultural environment know how to behave.

HC and LC in different country
High-context Cultures Japanese Chinese Korean African American Native American Arab Greek Latin Italian English French American Scandinavian German
Low-context Cultures

Characteristics
High context culture relies heavily on subtle(微妙的), often nonverbal cues (暗示) to maintain social harmony. It can be found in Asia, most of Latin American, Africa and Middle Eastern countries. Low context culture uses language primarily to express thoughts, feelings and ideas as directly as possible. The lowest context cultures are Germany, Britain, the United States, Switzerland and Scandinavian countries.

The difference in connotation and denotation
? In the high-context culture countries, people tend to be connotative, considering more about others' opinion, emotion or need according to not only the words but also the non-verbal code such as expressions, actions and environment. So they often think first before speak. ? While people in the countries of lowcontext culture, tend to speak out their opinion directly because of their straight way of thinking.

For example, if you cooked a meal, and you asked a Dutch person, how was it? He said: “yes, I like it.” That means he really liked it. But once you had this answer from a person from high-context culture, such as China, you have to think: “Does he really like my meal? Or just don’t want me to lose face.” Such and such….”

The difference in reaction
? The high-context cultural people don't like to have conflicts with others. They tend to keep their emotions inside or just remain silence to avoid trouble. ? The low-context cultural people have generally got the concept that anyone can protect his rights. Most of the time they would not mind offending others to get their rights of something.

The difference about interpersonal relationship
People in high-context culture usually have a clear demarcation line between two different groups. They act politely or even urbanely to the ones from another group, but much more casually and sincerely to the ones in the same. And to the very close friends, they got more intimate attitude. When they are worried about someone, they would immediately, or in the shortest time, make sure that he or she is OK, and this shows their caring for friends. They would be glad to share what they have known or even their big secrets.

In the low-context culture, people usually get a quite flexible relationship with the ones from different groups, for they've got a concept that everyone is equal and everyone is the same no matter who you are, even the family members. However, they hardly get such an intimate friend like a person from high-context culture, because they are quite serious about their privacy. If one cares too much, it would do no help or might cause unpleasantness.

The difference about the concept of time
People have got a polychromic time system in high-context culture. They treat time as a constitution of points. So during a period of time, they usually do several things in the same time. It's the result that they think is important, but not the process. As long as the result is satisfactory, whether you are concentrated or not in the process is not taken in consideration.

When it comes to the low-context culture, things run a completely adverse way. Monochromic time system controls the main current attitude. People treat time as a straight line. One can concentrate only on one thing during a period of time. They make detailed schedules for what they are going to do, and they are usually exquisite about efficiency.

Classes

We hear about the informality in an American class from time to time. For instance, American professors do not dress up and they generally call students by their first names. Students can speak out in class, where they do not even need to raise their hands. In addition, in many schools, students can drink coffee, tea or juice during classes. American students sometimes argue with their teachers in class, give teachers suggestions on things that need changing, or even criticize their ideas.

While these terms are sometimes useful in describing some aspects of a culture, one can never say a culture is "high" or "low" because societies all contain both modes. "High" and "low" are therefore less relevant as a description of a whole people, and more useful to describe and understand particular situations and environments.

In contrast, the relationship between teachers and students in China can be quite formal. It is not possible for students to "first-name“ their teachers. Rather, we address them with "Prof." or "Mr." or "Ms.", and in class we seldom challenge the teacher's ideas. We're taught since the first day we go to the kindergarten that we should sit up straight and obey all the disciplines. In most cases, we just sit there and are passively crammed.

In all, High-context culture relies on implicit nonverbal actions & environmental setting to convey meanings, unlike low-context cultures, which rely heavily on explicit verbal communication.



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