I’m collaborating with an American writer to write an ebook. The book will be marketed to an American audience and I have spent all of my life marketing to international audiences. So this represents a fair bit of cultural adaptation on my part. But with my cross-cultural marketing background I find this fascinating.
So I thought I’d share one of the first changes I made to adapt my writing to an American audience.
2 Different Perceptions of “Let’s”
My American mentor pointed out that I use the words “Let’s…” often and to an American audience this comes with a certain perception. With these 2 little words, American readers perceive me as putting myself above them.
With my cross-cultural background I find this interesting. I’ve worked so long within different cultures and the words “Let’s…” are not perceived in the same way at all… in fact the effect is the opposite. I use them to be perceived as part of their team, on their level, with the exact same words.
Opposite cultural perceptions with the exact same words.
Cultural Behavior Scales
Although these cultural scales have limitations they can often be helpful when looking for explanations in different cultural perceptions. Together with some basic cross-cultural skills you can also use them to look for ideas in improving your cross-cultural communication.
If this intrigues you, be sure to also take the time to look at this long list of countries with their scores on 5 different culture scales.
It’s not surprising how different cultures have different perceptions from the exact same words.
A word of caution: do not go overboard into stereotypes and broad generalizations. These scales can only provide a certain degree of insights into cultural differences. You need strong cross-cultural skills to interpret them wisely and learn how to apply them to your communication.
The Answer Is In The Culture Code
Another way to understand these cultural differences in perception is to look at the different culture codes. This example reminds me of The Culture Code which I re-read recently.
First in this book Clotaire Rapaille explains how when an American construction worker whistles at a American woman passing by on a big city street the woman will scowl and her response would be one of anger. And if you put the same woman on a big city street in Italy with an Italian construction worker, the woman would blush and be flattered.
The reason is because of different culture codes. The American code for sex is violence and the Italian code for sex is having fun. And this is communicated in the way men whistle in both of these countries and what women have to deal with. Clotaire Rapaille even goes so far to say in his book that he would never want to be an American woman today because of the challenges with the culture codes in being an American woman.
Changes In Culture Codes
This brings me back to the second reason why I thought of the Culture Code. In Clotaire Rapaille’s recent Archetype Discoveries Newsletter he alludes to the rise of the Latina, the South American woman in the United States. And I cannot help wondering how this will impact American culture codes. You see, in general all South American countries have higher scores on the Collectivism scales and the United States has a notorious high score at the opposite end of this scale – “Individualism”.
It is going to be fascinating to watch the rise of the Latina and how this impacts the American culture code as the older American generation dies off.
And this change in culture code will impact perceptions in how we write. With the Latina influencing American communication, I wonder if the perception of the words “Let’s” will change in the future.
Writing For Different Cultures
Writing in English for different cultures is not easy today.
We have gone through changes:
- The global economy and the web have given rise to a certain understanding and tolerance for cultural differences.
- There is also a certain International English used in “standard” international business today.
We are going to continue going through changes with as the populations in many of the world’s leading nations change and the once minority ethnic groups become the new majorities.
It’s easy to think everyone has the same understanding of the English. But this is not the case. Different cultural perceptions pop up in the smallest of places. It safe to expect these different cultural perceptions to change over time too.
I’m definitely looking forward to this exercise in learning how to adapt my own writing for a predominant American audience and hope to come back to you with more clear examples of cultural differences.
What about you?
- What does “Let’s” say to you? Do you feel included or excluded in any way?
- What expressions do you find have different meanings in different cultures?
- How do you think the cultural evolution in our societies will influence communication in years to come?
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and comments below.
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: International Marketing
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