Read the two texts and answer the following questions.
Week 3: Monochronic Time in Germany
I’m from Düsseldorf, Germany, and I earned my master’s degree in sports, media, and communication at the German Sports University in Cologne. From 2008 to 2009, I was an exchange student at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin.
Being a German exchange student showed me how important it is to have an understanding of what different perceptions of time mean in nonverbal communication. I, for my part—like most people in Germany—feel strongly committed to a monochronic perception of time. Always being on time, respecting deadlines, and doing one task after another, for example, are important to me and also affect my daily schedule, both at university and in my private life.
Apart from being overly punctual in private or business meetings, a good example to point out the perception of time for most Germans is the public transportation system. Since many people commute to work, they count on the punctuality of the public transportation system. People usually get mad quickly if a train or bus is 5 minutes late because they see time as a precious resource.
Especially when dealing with members of different cultures, one should keep in mind that differences in the perception of time might predominate. While Germany and the United States share a more monochronic perception of time, I realized on a trip to Spain that the people there are committed to more polychronic time systems. Nobody seems to care if the bus is on time or 20 minutes late, which is the result of a less formal perception of time.
Source: Neuliep, J. (2021) Intercultural communication: a contextual approach. 8th edn. Los Angeles: Sage
Week 3: Phrases that Bind People Together
When I first came to the United States as a foreign exchange student from Norway, I had to learn four crucial words and phrases to get me safely through everyday interaction with Americans: please, thank you, how are you?, and nice to meet you. These were not words that rolled easily off my tongue, so I had to make an effort to include them in my conversations and interactions throughout the day. Not because Norwegians are particularly ungrateful or impolite but because these are phrases that just were not part of the everyday words we exchange in the many brief encounters we have during a day.
Please. There is no equivalent word to please in Norwegian. We express the sentiment in the tone of voice we use when we ask for something. Can you translate a tone of voice and have it mean the same in a different language? Will an American understand that I mean to say please if I just use this tone of voice when I translate my words into English? Probably not. An American would expect a please, and if it doesn’t come I will be perceived as rude and entitled. Thankfully, I was told this before I came to the States, but it took me a while to add it naturally, without having to repeat in my mind don’t forget to say please.
Thank you. Norwegians do say thank you (takk), or if you are very grateful tusen takk (thousand thanks), but growing up this was something I was taught to say when I received a present or when somebody did something extraordinary for me. I wasn’t used to saying it whenever somebody extended a small courtesy or hand. After a few weeks in America, I was told by my host-father that if I did not say thank you when he came to pick me up, he would stop taking my call to come and pick me up. He wasn’t interested in doing anything for somebody who was ungrateful. This was confusing and stressful for me. To me, the gratefulness was implied, and I would show it in other ways, for instance by being a good host-daughter or by emptying the dishwasher. To me, thank you was just empty words expressing superficial gratitude; I would rather show my gratitude through action. In my mind, there was a clear link between my gratitude for being picked up after volleyball practice to me emptying the dishwasher, a much easier way to communicate than the explicit thank you after every act of service. I had to learn to insert thank you in my everyday interactions; if there was one thing I didn’t want it was to come across as ungrateful. The one thing Norwegians do learn to say thank you for from an early age is food: After every meal we say takk for maten (thank you for the food). How do you say that in English?
How are you? To a 17-year-old from Norway, this question meant the beginning of a longer conversation about how I was actually doing, generally and on that day. I genuinely thought people were interested in entering into a longer conversation about my well-being and was puzzled when the person greeting me didn’t even stop to wait for my response. Why do you ask if you are not really interested in my answer? And how do you know it is nice to meet me before you have actually learned anything about me? My first encounters with these phrases left me confused and after a while annoyed; what do these empty phrases mean? Why do people use them? How do you know that they are sincere if they just throw these phrases out every time they meet somebody? It took a while to get used to and eventually appreciate that these are polite phrases used to acknowledge the other person. Interestingly, Norwegian does have equivalents to these phrases. More and more often when meeting new people, we exchange a handshake with the word hyggelig, which means nice, shorthand for nice to meet you, and the phrase går det bra? (everything okay?), to which you are not supposed to answer anything more than yes, you? Phrases perceived as superficial und redundant have seeped their way into my native language and culture and are now appreciated by me and my fellow countrymen as friendly words that bind people together.