Dialogue with cultural misunderstanding

Author: Ziwei Chen, Charles Yang


Aedan, an Irish, was invited to a dinner with his German friend, Niklas. The German was preparing the meal, and other German guests were chatting in the living room.

One Friday night, I invited my Irish friend, Aedan, to a dinner in my house. After serving the dishes, I was about to instruct all my guests to the table when I suddenly found out that Aedan had already taken a seat on his own. My German friends, who were standing by the table and waiting to be seated, suddenly stopped talking and looked at him strangely. In Germany, people take their seats in a dinner only after they are invited and instructed by the host. To my great surprise, Aedan, upon realizing of the situation, left for restroom. Instead of getting straight back, he waited until everyone took their given seats in order.



A Chinese wife, Yan, is having a conversation with her American friend, Jane. Jane takes notice of the bruise on her eyes and arm. She persists to find out the truth behind it.

Jane: There are bruise on your eyes and arm! What happened to you, Yan?

Yan :  Um…Nothing serious…It’s just an accident…I fell off the stairs.

Jane: No way! It must be a severe wound! Did you have a conflict with your husband?

Yan : No—

Jane: I heard your husband shouting yesterday evening! Tell me what happened?

Yan: (reluctantly) umm…yea…we did quarrell…and he hit me on my eye and arm.

Jane: How could this happen? You should’ve immediately called police!

Yan : I can’t never do that! My family will be ashamed of unsuccessful marriage.

Jane: Then you should talk with your husband about this matter!

Yan: I am afraid that the situation will worsen because he never listens to me and always act on his own will.



A woman from South Korea, Kim, won a million lottery. She shared the good news to her Australian, Mary.

Mary: How lucky you are! What are you going to do with the fortune?

Kim :  Well, I will certainly save it into my bank account and do some investments.

Mary: Are you crazy? Leaving your money in the bank as if nothing have happened? If I were you, I would go on an around-the-world trip with no hesitation! You should enjoy it!

Kim : I’m saving it for my kids’ education, and there is going to be so many expenses in the future.

Mary: You should enjoy your life at the present time! Not wait until it’s too late.

Kim : I have a tough role as a wife and a mom, so I can in no way waste the money on luxuries…

About Ziwei Chen

Ziwei Chen is a first-year Bucknellian under an undeclared major but with an interest in sociology. She comes from Beijing, China and speaks Chinese and English.
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9 Responses to Dialogue with cultural misunderstanding

  1. Xiaoyan Liu says:

    Nice post! The first story is interesting; the second is “horrible”; the third is real. All of them are quite great stories that shows different cultural dimensions in a vivid way. I would like to specially comment on the third story which shows the cultural dimension of “long/short-term orientation” because China, the country which I come from, is also a long-term oriented society. It is a social norm that people save money or properties for their son generation in order to prevent something bad happen on their sons/daughters. I know American do not do this. Instead, they spend what they earned on what they would like do with no (or not that much) consideration for their children’s livings because children need to take responsibilities for themselves. I believe that is a great topic that maybe our class can debate it later.

  2. Brittany Caceres says:

    Your stories are very interesting. The first story not only demonstrates someone making an incorrect action for a different culture but also how different the reaction to the realization was for different cultures. How the Germans looked at the Irish man but did not say anything and how Aedan excused himself to the restroom without commenting on his own mistake. I an glad you added the second story, it is one that people do not really talk about but is sadly very real and important in the lives of many women from various cultures. It demonstrates the dangers of being a part of a high power distance culture and of following the norms too much.

  3. Sophie Giuliani says:

    I really liked all of them. They were diverse in terms of what cultural dimensions they addressed. I would actually like to know what inspired you guys to come up with each scenario.
    The first skit was interesting in the fact that the person who erred did their level best to do the right thing. In a lot of the other scenes from Hofstede’s passages, the people didn’t know what they were doing wrong and so couldn’t correct it, but Aedan seems much more aware.
    The second skit was very sad. Especially because it seemed that the culture of her and her family leaves her with no support. The act of domestic violence is still seen as a failure, but at the same time she would be seen as guilty for causing it. It’s similar to my culture but then diverges at the last minute when the “Who is to blame?” question pops up.
    The third skit was cool. I was able to see it from both sides. It seems like the phrase, “Enjoy life while you can.” and “You only have this one chance.” are mostly short-term oriented phrases. However, the Korean woman, who was from a long-term oriented culture, wasn’t affected by the arguments of the Australian woman.
    Overall, your skits and scenarios were entertaining and did their job well.

  4. Iris Fu says:

    Those three examples show three different aspects of cultural misunderstanding. For the first one, it’s really awkward for the Irish man to take a seat without host’s instruction from my point of view. However, after he realized that he has done something wrong, he corrected this by going to the restroom.

    As for the second one, Chinese women Yan’s example shows the importance of maintaining a family for a Chinese woman. It might be due to the fact that China is a masculine society, and has a long power distance. I only agree to this story to a certain degree, as divorce is more like an acceptable choice for women, but those things do happen as in rural countryside, women have less chance to be educated and make more fortune as men can.

    The third example shows the long-term orientation of South Korean. Most Asian countries are long term orientated, as people take future and their kids in to consideration.

    After all, I like all three of your examples. They all illustrated some perspective we’ve learnt in class.

  5. Tyler Candelora says:

    I think the first story is definitely my favorite. I like the way you exemplified the embarrassing nuances of miscommunication between cultures. Skit number two is much more serious. I feel uneasy even reading it. As Jane would feel during the conversation. I think long-term orientation has a lot to do with this. Divorce is a short-term has a connotation of short-term orientation, as marriage is a life-long bond. In skit three, I enjoyed your diction that you chose for the characters throughout the dialogue. It expressed the “carpe diem” mindset perfectly, using words like “fortune” and “lucky”.
    Overall, good choice of countries as well!

  6. Haipu Sun says:

    All those stories show the real situation of those countries. The first one is pretty common in different countries; when can you sit down when you are with some guests. There are so many unspecific rules under this, which indeed shows the differences between cultures. I like the third one best. It shows different views toward money (save them or spend them). And I appreciate that all those stories are related to specific countries; it makes your stories more real. I did laugh after I read the third one.

  7. Sydney Janitschke says:

    I loved reading about all of the different scenarios that you all came up with! Each example was different from the last, but could be applied to many different intercultural communications. Your first example was definitely my favorite as I had experienced that example in real life and really connected with it. Your second scenario involving the beating still shocks me. As an American, domestic abuse is frowned upon, and for me I forget that there are nations out there where that kind of behavior is, at least, tolerated. The third example is extremely universal and differences between long and short term orientation can, not only exist between nations, but can also vary from town to town, person to person.

  8. Amanda Stefura says:

    I loved reading your skits because they were all very different from one another and gave very unique looks into cultural communications. The second skit brought up a very serious but touchy issue. It is interesting to put abuse into a cultural context because different cultures view abuse in different ways, which to Americans is shocking because it is very unacceptable here. Putting two cultures together that view it differently was a great way to show a very serious and real cultural miscommunication. I also liked the the third skit because it shows how different people value different things based on their culture. However, this scene could also represent personality differences as some people would love to splurge even if they were raised in a culture to save their money.

  9. Katie Faull says:

    Great comments on some really well constructed dialogues!

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