Individual identity and intercultural communication



Like any other species, human beings are social beings that live in the company of others. The way we organize ourselves depend on various factors such as cultural, social, political and economic within which we play, trade, work, reproduce and interact in many ways. Consequently, the society of human beings differs from place to place and across cultures making a social world very dynamic and complex environment, (Holliday, Hyde, &  Kullman  2010). Beside internal factors such as attitude, feelings and emotions, there are certain external factors which have great impact on the identity of an individual. The way we perceive ourselves is different from how other people perceive us, therefore, it is important to note that different cultural backgrounds communicate a lot to our identities. Behavior and identities of people varies depending on the society or culture of an individual, thus unless we interact it will be hard to realize that our long held beliefs about certain behaviors of human beings are actually incorrect. The discipline of intercultural communication is very crucial especially when trying to get exposed to cultures of other people or when learning new things. Identity of an individual varies depending on the external factors which are hard to control. Education, race, ethnicity, language, religious affiliations among others are some of the factors that directly or indirectly impact the identity of an individual. The paper seeks to address some external factors that affect the identity of an individual in line to intercultural communication.

Intercultural Communication

The way we express ourselves portrays a lot especially when interacting with strangers for the first time. Even before saying a word, how we conduct or carry out ourselves is enough to show our personalities. However, judging someone based on what one sees can be very misleading as some people try to hide their characters the first time they are interacting with strangers. Countries, regions even societies have different cultures. While people try to maintain their cultures there are those who try to hide it to avoid judgment. For example when one is going for further studies in a different country; they try to fit into the culture of that particular country. the notion that they are going to be down looked upon or discriminated due to the cultural background have impacted  nature or identities of many. Some even end up behaving in a different way from what they really are resulting to some form of discomfort. One has to appreciate the fact that all people come from different cultural background and there is no way we can pretend to be what we are basically far from. It is obvious that when a Chinese goes to America he/she will feel uncomfortable as he practices their culture same to American in different country, (Dodd  1991).

For example according to the culture of Japanese, students are supposed to be silent and be passive in class. When these students go to America it is obvious that student of America will conclude that Japanese students are not genius. Their judgment is based on the observation they make after seeing Japanese students remain silent in the classroom. Cultures both inherited and created identities define us in case of national cultural perceptions. Although we may t be in full control of the resources or factors that determine our identity for example ethnicity, age or sex, we can work with the available discourse to influence how we wish others to see us or even influence others’ perceptions. Cultures communicate a lot, however, it is important to respond to people in relation to how you find them rather than make an assumption based on what you have heard about them. We should appreciate that each society is culturally varied and very complex as our own, (Harris 1998).

External Factors

There are some factors or components that communicate much about us especially when trying to hide the identity. These components have had impact on personalities of many especially those who feel inferior. Socio-economic and cultural factors play great role in portraying nature of an individual. Technology and modernization have changed the culture of individuals as they try to fix into the rapid changing national culture. It is hard to do away with culture being that out of interaction people have come to identify people depending on the culture they are coming from.  Consequently, when meeting someone for the first time it will hard to rate him/her according to physical characteristics or how he conduct himself. Many people disguise themselves differently especially when interacting with strangers.

Language Learning and Identity

Learning of a new language has impacts to the culture and identity of an individual especially when one is forced. Before settling down to learning a new language they have to consider factors such as social distance and psychological distance, (Schumann l976).  It is important to bear in mind that the solidarity that exists between two societies is important when learning a new language as this will impact how fast the concept of the target language is gained. The greater the social distance the more difficult it will be to learn the target language. Psychologically, learning of a second language depends on how one is psychologically prepared otherwise one will feel the language shock. When confronted with expressions and new words, an individual will be shocked thus resulting to embarrassment, confusion, or get lost. Language learning can also result to cultural shock where one realizes that the process of problem solving and coping mechanisms of learning a new language is much different from his/her normal culture, (Collier 1997). Besides, activities that pertain to new language are much different from that of his native country as much effort is needed to capture the new concepts. As a result of this, an individual might end up being disoriented, fear, stressed and anxious.  That mental state can also lead to syndrome of rejection withdrawing attention from learning second language as well as rejecting himself, the organization he is working for and the culture of the host country. We should consider these factors before settling on the desire of communicating using a different language, (Kubota 2002).

Globalization and Identity

The rapid changing culture of various societies is a result of globalization that has bridged nations together through internet, (Giddens 1991). The advent of technology changed people’s ways of living as people try to adopt cultures of other people. Previously, ladies could put on long dresses which have changed of late due to globalization, (Chaney 2002). Dressing code has changed and women are now wearing trousers or short skirts as opposed to the culture. Cultures of certain societies or religions prohibit ladies from exposing themselves from wearing short or tight clothes. However, after the invent of technology, people have accessed internet and copied cultures of other communities, (Crystal 2001). Export of foods or commodities from different countries have bridged the gap between communities and people are currently eating food that they were not previously taking due to cultural constraint.  The world has become a village market where one can easily get what he/she wants.  Though it is not bad to adopt a different culture, importantly, there is always a reason why that particular cultural norm is practiced. Not unless one understands better, that ne culture will affect the character or identity of an individual. The society will perceive him/her differently, (Chaney 2002).

Race and Identity

Over the decade, African-Americans have been conducting themselves according to the way they think they should act rather than just becoming themselves. Actually, it is a fact that the character of the minority outstand that of the majority so whenever they act differently it become recognized easily. Issue of racism has affected personality of many people especially of those that feel discriminated due to their color. Being different reflect uniqueness and special and therefore one should not feel ashamed of their race. The world is moving to a generation where people will be living as community without a boundary. We are moving away from belonging to a community of traditional origin. Very educated people who understand the logic behind racism have allowed fear to overcome them just because they feel discriminated due to color. We have to be ourselves regardless of our ethnicity. Ability to express oneself through face to face interaction where an individual show his real physical characteristics, from the color of the skin to vocal patterns help in conveying racial identity. Many people have allowed the fear of race to rule their personalities leading to failure in life. We should realize that color has nothing to do with our nature or character as through acting in a normal way can deter people from rating our personalities, (Bremer 1996). The picture we show to the public determines what people will perceive about us. Being determined and exploiting the opportunity without caring about the geographical boundary or race helps us become real. Racism communicates a lot as people have preformed perception about certain communities that is based on ethnic background. Africans have been perceived to be very poor and illiterate. This stereotype has deterred the blacks from working hard and achieving their dreams.

Gender and Identity

There are communities where men are regarded to be superior beings and therefore deserve to hold high ranked jobs in organizations. Men have dominated communities denying female counterparts the freedom of expression, (Singer 1998). The fact that gender issue is beyond human control have led to gender discrimination in most communities as females are regarded to be inferior and therefore should not participate in public. There are feminine who have the potential of doing jobs that can generate income to the community. The fear of inferiority has stopped many from fulfilling their agendas. Though there are cultures that treat all genders equally, the percentage of male figures engaged in public participation is so high as compared to that of female figures. Formal education has helped reduce cases of gender disparity especially in developed countries, (Sarup 1996).

The discipline of Intercultural communication allows women and girls to embrace their potentiality due to interaction with people from different communities. Public participation and freedom of expression in many countries have been implemented in the constitution of various countries to allow women express their effort and help develop a society. It is evident that a country where women are equally treated as their men counterparts is much developed. Women therefore should do away with fear of inferiority and express themselves in public ass this will help eradicate cases of poverty, (Bremer 1996). However, baring female from interacting with people from different cultural background and realizing their potential will always drag them behind and stop them from development.

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Religion and Identity

Most cultures are intertwined with religion. Dressing code, types of food and even giving birth in some religion are restricted. Muslims don’t take pork and at the same time wear long dresses. It is very hard to go against their religion but because out of interaction with people of different cultures and religion their life style get impacted, (Hannerz 2001). The identity of an individual can be easily influenced through intercultural communication as we become what we see and mostly we try to please the surrounding rather than our selves.


Mis-communication occurs when person is perceived I way than they intend to be regarded. Pretending to be someone else other than what we really are has misled so many as they try to read what is portrayed. It is mostly possible if one acted out of ignorance without caring the environment and people who are likely to read the event. We should be very sensitive to the multiple reading events to avoid misconception.  Racism, gender, religion, globalization and learning of new language have impacted the identity of many when trying to fit themselves into a culture where they don’t belong.  Though breaking the cultural barriers can positively impact our lives, we should try to behave in a manner that portrays what we really are instated of pleasing other people at the expense of our identity.

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