- Why People Misunderstand Each Other

Why People Misunderstand Each Other

Why do people from different cultures misunderstand each other so badly? What is the reason for the misunderstandings and aggression? Cultural researcher  Professor Lothar Käser provided plausible answers at the Agik Forum.


The expert on intercultural relations gave an example at the Agik Forum on the topic of “Cooperation – No problem?!” on Saturday, 30 April 2011 in Hägendorf: When the padres were baptizing dying people in New Caledonia so that they would still go to heaven according to the Catholic understanding, there were unforseen consequences. The people didn’t want to bring their children to be baptized, because they interpreted baptism of the dying as death-bringing magic.

Getting to Know the Deeper Levels

Lothar Käsers explanation: Cultures clashed in this example, people who in their “deeper level” had a different understanding of things and the world. That’s why there are so many misunderstandings and distrust; people can even accuse each other of nastiness because they interpret the other person’s actions and words differently than how they are meant. Both sides therefore need an explanatory framework to be able to interpret the other person’s deeper level.

Economy Determined by Culture

Lothar Käser

Often there are very natural circumstances which determine the deeper structures and the resulting behavior. Whereas we have a hoarding economy in Central Europe, southern cultures cultivate a relationship economy. Europeans know that they have to survive the winter. Where there is no unfruitful season, people don’t need to store lots of food. When fishermen on the African coast catch more fish than their famlies can eat, they give the fish to others. Whoever has more than he needs gives some of it to someone else, that way everyone has enough to eat.

Time- or Event-oriented

According to Käser, such knowledge can be determinative when creating relationships, particularly in contacts with people from other cultures in Switzerland. For example, it would be helpful to know that Europeans are "time oriented"when they want to carry out a church service. Africans are "event oriented". Käser has published his findings in his book "Fremde Kulturen" (Foreign Cultures).

The Agik Forum was carried out by the Working Community for Intercultural Communication (Agik), which networks Christian organizations, working groups and individuals who maintain contacts to foreigners from other cultures. 

Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Interkulturelle Kommunikation (Agik)

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Datum: 03.05.2011
Autor: Fritz Imhof
Quelle: Livenet.ch
Author: Henriette Ludwig