Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Zimbabweans find it hard to survive in the English culture

24 Apr 2019 at 07:12hrs | Views
"Culture is the pattern of taken-for-granted assumptions about how a given collection of people should think, act, and feel as they go about their daily affairs"

Culture is all socially transmitted behavior, arts, architectures, languages, signs, symbols, ideas, beliefs, norms, traditions, rituals, etc. which is learnt and shared in a particular social group of the same nationality, ethnicity, religion.

There is a very sharp difference in Zimbabwean employment culture which makes it very difficult for most Zimbabweans to survive in British work fields. Samuel Matapi a nurse from Luton had a story to tell. " i was sitting in the dining room with other nurses. They were all white and seemed very friendly. One asked me to join in their discussions. I listened  to one saying his dog shares a bed with him. He would kiss his dog each time he gets home. I was so surprised and I said to him sharing a bed with a dog is inhuman. All the people in the room looked at me surprised. We ate in silence as if I had done something wrong. Three days later I was called into the managers office. I was given a suspension letter.  The charges were that I was insensitive and not a team player. I did not believe that I could be suspended for being shocked of the dog behaviour. It was in me that dogs are meant to be outside. But this costed me my job."  This was simply a cultural miss understanding.

Culture is handed down from one generation to another. It gives people their way of seeing the world and interpreting life. A single culture has many sub-cultures.
Cultural diversity makes communication difficult as the mindset of people of different cultures are different, the language, signs and symbols are also different.

Different cultures have different meaning of words, behaviors and gestures.
Matinenga Nyathi of Manchester UK stated that he was said to be rude for asking to buy a loaf of bread without saying excuse me. He was told that he was rude and uncultured. " I did not understand why should I say please. I was the one buying and did not find any reason why I should say please." Culture also gives rise to prejudices, ethnocentrism, manners and opinions. It forms the way people think and behave. When people belonging to different cultures communicate, these factors can become barriers.

The way you communicate is affected by the culture you were brought up in. The opposite is also true. Culture is, to a large extent, determined by the way we communicate.

In  the UK, people communicate freely and that is a part of their culture.  In Zimbabwe there are things you can not say no matter how these things are correct. It is rude in UK to say a person is fat or skinny. People are sensitive and what you say must be well thought. In Germany, an Indian who is used to being very indirect with his communication might find their direct way of speaking rude. Being direct is part of the German culture and it is reflected in the way they communicate.

Communication shapes culture and culture shapes communication. In UK a man was fired for saying to a friend good night God bless you. He he was charged of imposing his God on his friend. Many people have been fired for publicly showing their religious beliefs. While in Zimbabwe you are viewed as a good person and a religious one for wishing many well in God's name.

There are billions of people in the world who do not understand English or cannot communicate in English properly. Not speaking properly can cause various misunderstandings and be a barrier to communication.

Different cultures have developed their own language as a part of their heritage. People are comfortable communicating in their own language whereas have to work hard to learn new languages. A nurse in Swinton England was fired for speaking in Shona in front of a patient. This was regarded as unprofessional.

Even when people try to express in their own language, many misunderstandings arise. It becomes more profound in people speaking different languages. But in England bursting into your language could be a ticket home from work.

Non-verbal communication cannot be relied upon in communication between people from different cultures as that is also different like language. Signs, symbols and gestures varies in different cultures.

For example, the sign "thumbs up" is taken as a sign of approval and wishing luck in most of the cultures but is taken as an insult in Bangladesh. Similarly, the "V" hand gesture with palm faced outside or inside means victory and peace in US, but back of hand facing someone showing the sign is taken as insulting in many cultures.
The culture sets some meanings of signs like the ones mentioned above, which might not be the same in other culture. A finger can mean a lot depending with the finger used. Some fingers mean "you"and some means us but some specifically means an insult has been sent. In Zimbabwe pointing at a person is disrespectful while to others it simply means you.
Because of the miss understandings there has been stereotyping experienced in many areas in the Uk.

Stereotyping is the process of creating a picture of a whole culture, overgeneralizing all people belonging to the same culture as having similar characteristics and categorizing people accordingly. It is a belief about a certain group and is mostly negative.

Stereotyping can be done on the basis of many things like nationality, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, age, etc.

For example, Zimbabwean students are stereotyped to be good at Math which is a positive stereotype. But, there is also cultural stereotype of all people following a particular religion as being violent like Islam and is negative stereotyping.
Negative stereotyping creates prejudices as it provokes judgmental attitudes. People look at those cultures as evil and treat the people following the religion wickedly. Media is a tool of mass communication which promotes stereotypes and prejudices and creates more communication barriers. Zimbabweans in the UK are stereotyped as thieves. Yet its just a few thieves.   

Behavior and Beliefs
Cultural differences causes behavior and personality differences like body language, thinking, communication, manners, norms, etc. which leads to miscommunication.
For example, in the UK cultures eye contact is important whereas in zimbabwe it is rude and disrespectful.

Culture also sets a specific norms which dictates behavior as they have guidelines for accepted behavior. It explains what is right and wrong. Every action is influenced by culture like ambitions, careers, interests, values, etc. Beliefs are also another cause for cultural barrier.

For instance, mostly, people who believe in prophets can cope with their lows of life easily than atheists but atheists are more hardworking at all times which relates to their behavior and communication.

Appropriate amount of emotion that must be displayed is also different in different cultures. Roles are defined by culture. Good communication only occurs between people with different cultures if both accept their differences with open mind. The problem in UK is that the English believe that their culture is supreme.  They swim in a dip pool of Ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism is the process of dividing cultures as "us" and "them".
The people of someone's own culture are categorized as in-group and the other culture is out-group. There is always greater preference to in-group. There is an illusion of out-group as evil and inferior. This evaluation is mostly negative.
If the culture is similar to us, then it is good and if is dissimilar, it is bad. Other's culture is evaluated and assessed with the standard being their own culture. Ethnocentrism affects the understanding of message, and encourages hostility.

Similar to ethnocentrism and stereotyping, religion also disrupts communication as it creates a specific image of people who follow other religions. People find it difficult to talk to people who follow different religions. Religious views influence how people think about others. It creates differences in opinions. A Zimbabwean man who belongs to apostolic church was arrested when he was observed using a stick hitting the air. This explained as madness. All the things he said and done were taken as madness. The Zimbabwean community was shocked by such disregard of the tenants of Zimbabwe's religions.  

For example, in Zimbabwe the Christians have to speak up for their rights as the majority is of Atheist and the Christians are discriminated. There is also a lack of communication between these religious groups. As a result zimbabwe has to rely on the religious groups than on politics.  

Overcoming cultural barriers
There are other cultural barriers like frames of reference, political opinions, priorities of life, age, etc. Cross cultural communication is not only a barrier but also an opportunity for creativity, new perspectives, and openness to new ideas and unity in the world.

To make communication effective, the causes of cultural communication barriers must be eliminated as much as possible. Cross cultural understanding must be increased as it decreases communication barrier caused by culture difference.

This idea of wanting to be at the same level with the british is wrong. As long as our culture is pure Zimbabweans will still be seen to want to convince the white is a steep slope.

Many Zimbabwean have been for what they  have never taken seriously.

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.