Bother Nicholaus Wilson has submitted this reflection from Ministry in a Multicultural Church, a course taught by Ms. Kathy Akiyama. Another reflection on this reading can also be found on the journalism blog.
The Stumbling Block of Superficiality
by Brother Nicolaus Wilson
In an article entitled "Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication," LaRay M. Barna addresses issues that arise when persons from different cultures meet. Barna identifies six obstacles which can inhibit clear communication across cultural groups.
One of the obstacles identified how smiling is interpreted by various cultural groups. If we assume that all cultures interpret a smile in the same way then it can lead to problems. In American culture smiling is seen as a common courtesy. Barne's quotes one Vietnamese student's reaction to the way smiling is interpreted differently in American than in Vietnam. The comments are too lengthy to repeat here, but the main point is that the student saw the casual way in which Americans smile at one another as a reinforcement of the stereotype that Americans are superficial. This comment gave me pause to reflect on my own superficiality.