Hello, all! I’ve been away for a little bit, haven’t I? Well, let’s get right back to it then. Today we’re looking at how culture influences the way in which we communicate.
I am from ‘it takes a village to raise a child’,
From circumvent and circumlocute
Talk around the truth;
I am from ‘know your place’
and ‘see what’s gonna happen if you come all up in my face’
From ‘live in the moment’ yet ‘plan for the future’ too.
More from contingency plan than from reckless abandon –
More from indulgence than from restraint.
That’s where I’m from.
The verse above is a short, self-penned (literally just now, in fact) “where I am from” poem that summarises classifications of my culture. I believe Barbadian culture to be collectivistic (line 1), though now it may be tending more towards individualistic thanks to global influence; low context, because we like to beat around the bush (2-4); high power distance, because there’s always a disparity between the position of the speaker and the listener(5); and masculine, because the goal is strength and the approach is aggressive (6).
My culture also falls into a sort of middle ground in some ways. I would say historically my culture is long-term oriented and has low ambiguity tolerance. My grandmother is always stressing on “keeping my head on straight” and “making sure I don’t jeopardise my future”, so clearly, the older generations were long-term thinkers. Conversely, I think my generation and the younger generations in general are more ‘in the now’, seldom really concerned about consequences (7-8).
Finally, and as much as it pains me to admit, my culture is rapidly turning to indulgence. Maybe the older generations practice restraint because that’s what contingency calls for, but I don’t think delayed gratification is as prominent in the younger population’s vocabulary (9).
It’s unfortunate if you ask me.
Representations of Barbadian culture in verbal communication
In my day-to-day life, I find it interesting sometimes to just sit and observe people. That might sound a little weird, but it’s harmless. When I was about 15, I saw a shift in society. My English teacher at the time had suggested I enter an essay competition on the role of the extended family in Caribbean society and my fascination with individualism versus collectivism unwittingly sprung from there.
In my essay, I basically explored the way in which my once collectivistic society had become individualistic in regards to child-rearing. When I was younger, everyone in my neighbourhood was like a family member – they could scold me for being a busybody or being troublesome just like my blood relatives could. Everyone played a role in raising me.
Nowadays it looks a bit more like ‘every man for himself’. People revel in the opportunity to say stuff like “I’m glad that’s not my child” and “If he/she were my child, he/she wouldn’t behave like that”. Gone are the days when people would reprimand a child on a parent’s behalf now.
Maybe it has something to do with how everybody is more focused now on minding their own business. Maybe it’s something else. Either way, it got me thinking about why the ‘village’ helped to raise me.
I come from a history that pretty much necessitated that everybody help raise the children. Historically speaking, it made sense that if the children were to survive everybody had to pitch in and help.
Now, I have a different take.
When people hold your family in high regards, they make sure that image isn’t tarnished by anything you do. By extension, if I stepped out of line, my behaviour reflected badly on the people who had a hand in raising me. It was a way to save face – to make sure that the collective who raised me was accurately represented through the way I behaved.
I never really thought about my culture that way before. It’s funny how things fall into perspective, don’t you think?
Cyndi, the Child raised by the Village