understand about cultural differences, it helps to view “culture” as
Most of an iceberg is invisible, below the water level. Only a
small part can be seen.
Only a small part of “culture” is
open to view. We can see how people act and we can hear what
they say. We
may understand or misunderstand what we see and hear, but we
can see and hear it.
But what people do and say is based on assumptions and values
that are invisible, below the level of the water. The behavior
is based on the assumptions and values, just as the tip of
the iceberg is based on the larger part of the iceberg below
The behavior of any group of people—Chinese or Americans
or any other—is based on assumptions and values that
people of another group may not know about or understand. The
behavior is thus likely to be misinterpreted and to seem wrong
or out of place.
The Chinese and the American cultural
icebergs are of course different. The Chinese cultural iceberg
includes, below the
water level, some important assumptions and values that are
not found in the same form in the American cultural iceberg.
These differences cause misunderstanding and disharmony when
Chinese and Americans interact. Some of these assumptions: