13.2 Understanding Cultural Context

Before you move forward in addressing other cultures, take a quick survey to see where you identify individually. Erin Meyer, in her book The Culture Map: Breaking through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, explores not just expectations and understandings informed by culture but also how different cultural context thresholds affect transcultural communication.

For starters, you might take Meyer’s self-assessment questionnaire: What’s Your Cultural Profile.

Try this

Take a moment to reflect on your results. Is there anything you learned that you did not know about your cultural profile? Is there anything you do not understand about the results? This is a good place to share via discussion with your colleagues about what you found and see if you have any obvious similarities with anyone in your class that you may not have known before.

Now that you have a partial idea of your cultural profile, take a moment to watch these two videos. First, in this YouTube video, Meyer discusses context: “Low Context vs High Context Societies.” Next, view this video from Meyer’s webpage that discusses “upgraders” and “downgraders” and their role in culture and disagreement: “Lost in Translation.”

In technical writing, we often conduct a piece of communication for a given reader, but how often do you think about the primary reader’s culture? What would you change in the communication if the reader has a different cultural threshold? How much thought do you put into colors, layout, and language? Are there different instances where you need to build a relationship or be more direct, more visual?


This chapter was written by Billy Merck, Portland Community College, and is licensed CC-BY 4.0.


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Technical Writing Copyright © 2017 by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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