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Why Cultural Communication Differences are Important

We often talk about how culturally diverse the staff and student pool are at ME Education, but have you considered WHY this is important?

The way we interact with each other is crucial. A large part of the way we learn to do this, is during our school going years. Cultural communication differences can make or break interviews, social engagements and practically every interaction a child or adult will encounter during their lifetime. It’s important to understand the nuances involved and the best way to learn this, is through exposure.

What is ‘Culture?’

Before we can discuss the differences in cultural communication, let's understand what ‘culture’ refers to.

“Culture is the pattern of taken-for-granted assumptions about how a given collection of people should think, act, and feel as they go about their daily affairs”— Joynt & Warner, 1996

When people interact with one another, each one brings their own set of expectations about how the other will behave. These expectations are taught through our families, friends and communities. We simply ‘get used to’ what we grow up with or are frequently exposed to.

When these expectations are not met, it can cause friction or lead to uncomfortable or embarrassing encounters.

In a world as ‘small’ as ours, where we are exposed to different cultures all the time, it is important to understand how to be respectful and understanding when faced with unfamiliar behaviours.

American Anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher, Edward T Hall is best noted for his contribution to the classification of communication styles, based on cultural variables.

Context: High-Context versus Low-Context Cultures

Have you heard the saying, “Don’t beat around the bush?”

People who value directness will use this statement to encourage someone to speak directly, or say what they mean instead of skirting around a subject.

A culture that values this direct communication style, is considered ‘low context’ whereas a culture that considers a more indirect method of communication is considered ‘high context.

Low-context cultures are very direct when they communicate and if they are speaking to someone from a high context culture, it can easily be interpreted as rude or brash.

Conversely, high context individuals place value on HOW the message is relayed and believe the physical context of a message carries a lot of importance. These people will pick up on body language cues and often extract even more meaning from them than the actual words spoken. If the two individuals were to interact, a low context person may not pick up on the body language of his high context peer, and could put himself at a disadvantage by not understanding important cues.

Examples of high context cultures are Japanese, Chinese and Russian.

Examples of low context cultures are German, American and Belgian.

Without the proper education or exposure, communication between people from high-context and low-context cultures can be confusing.

How Does ME Education Bridge the Cultural Gap?

Apart from developing sensitivity to other cultures, which we spoke about in more detail in our post Bridging the Gap: Differences between Local and International Schools, students who are exposed to other cultures during their school going years are far more likely to understand the nuances between cultures. This primes them to perform better socially, academically and ultimately in their chosen career.

The role of our admissions consultants is not only to prepare the students scholastically. We place great importance on ensuring they are culturally prepared as well. This eliminates any unnecessary misunderstandings between students and their new teachers and peers. We also practice ‘interviewing skills’ with students applying to international schools. This ensures they know how to communicate effectively with their interviewer, especially if they are crossing cultural divides.

A large part of cultural education is achieved by mere exposure. We teach and advise students from 20 of the top international schools in Hong Kong and over 40 local schools.

Since our students and teachers hail from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, our students experience important cultural differences on a daily basis. They learn to navigate these nuances in a safe and comfortable setting which prepares them well for their future endeavours.

“Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity.” — Robert Alan

To learn more about our school and what we can offer you or your child, reach out to us at


"I moved to HK in 10th grade from Harbin, China where very few speak English. My goal was to attend a university abroad, but I was nervous because I had very limited English proficiency. I didn’t know what my goal was or where to begin. ME Education helped me from the beginning to the end of the process. They helped me with admissions interviews and the application process and I was accepted into American International School. The teachers helped me so much with my transition during my first year in HK on a new curriculum. In grade 11, I took exam prep courses for SAT, IELTS and TOEFL. I raised my scores tremendously. I’m proud to have been admitted to the college of electrical engineering at many top universities including: University College London, Queen Mary University of London, Brunel University London, King’s College London, HKUST, CUHK, and University of Illinois Urbana Champagne and Virginia Tech”

Harry Xu


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