More than ever in the history of humankind we are surrounded by images, which we interpret using what is culturally and environmentally known to us; the so called ‘pictures in our heads.’ Call this a ‘hard disk’ of images if you will but each one of us has accumulated images which help us to communicate and understand concepts and objects in the environment we find ourselves in.
However, due to the progress in information technology, images are now instantenously crossing borders and more often than not, receivers in poorer countries are disempowered because of negatively comparing their reality against the seemingly glamorous reality of the industrialised countries. Some believe that ‘it is greener on the other side’ and take the decision to even risk life in order to reach these portrayed paradise-like places. Sadly, the Western languages that accompany these images reinforce the notion that there is only one standard of life that all should aspire to, which can be measured in materialistic terms.
Consider for instance the word chair. According to the Oxford dictionary, a chair is ‘a separate seat for one person, typically with a back and four legs.’ This is taken for granted in communities with such seating arrangements but it may be ‘lost in translation’ when the word crosses socio-economic borders to a rural community where people happily sit on mats and reserve the three legged kigoda for visitors or elders!
For understanding ‘other cultures’ it is crucial to develop ‘transcultural competence’ in order to compassionately interact respectfully from the point of view of the people living it. This is easily done by not imposing our own interpretation on another person’s reality! Different cultures have different ways of seeing the world, which means your truth should end where someone else’s truth begins.
We are now living in a highly sophisticated and interconnected world where cultural boundaries are quickly becoming redundant and therefore it is wise to make a conscious effort to use appropriate cultural lens in order to interact peacefully with others. In fact it not wrong to assume that most wars are a result of broken communication!