Different countries, different customs

How to avoid missunderstandings

In our recent posts you can often read about misunderstandings that can happen on both sides during an exchange project. But how can you avoid those misunderstandings and why do they happen so often?

An mathematical example

It shouldn’t take you too long to get the result for an easy calculation like 8 – 2. But how long will it take you, when the well known rules of calculation do not apply any more. Imagine the symbol plus is now representing a division and when you see a division you must multiply. Try to solve the following equations as fast as possible. Use the following new rules:

+ turns to /, / turns to  *, * turns to and turns into +

8-2 =
12+4 =
4*3 =
6/2 =
12*2 =
20+10 =

Was it more difficult than ususal? It gets better when you practice more often. But you still have to stay concentrated all the time. Otherwise you fall back into old patterns.

Different countries, different rules

When you enter a foreign country you also have to apply to new rules. But contrary to the example above nobody tells you these rules, you have to figure out the norms and conventions all by yourself. And when you finaly get to know the right rules you have to apply to them accordingly all the time.

Can you imagine how exhausting it is when you try not to make any mistakes and you  ponder all the time how to interpret certain customs the right way?

If you make a small mistake only once, you create one of our so called small misunderstandings!

How to avoid misunderstandings

But you can get rid of those misunderstandings. First you have to show tolerance when somebody doesn’t act like you expected. Second, you have to to project your self into the other’s perspective. What could be the real purpose that you guest acted like he did?

At the Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium we do a lot of role plays during our intercultural training. The students act and diskuss different scenarios. In all those stories somebody behaves different and therefore doesn’t answer your expectation. With the help of an experienced teacher the students talk about the situation and consider the actual reason for the strange behaviour.

My guest stays in his room all day! Why doesn’t he/she eat our food? Doesn’t he like what we cook? Why doesn’t he want to attend my training  with the football club?

Just read our worksheet about this problem (in German language only). Or tell us your story! Could you solve a misunderstanding with the guest you hosted? Or did you even cause a small misunderstanding? We are looking forward to reading your comments!