privacy vs inclusion

family meetings are common in this inclusion culture

In Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures, Sarah Lanier discusses cultural differences in 7 aspects, divided into 2 groups based on general climate: relationship vs task orientation, direct vs indirect communication, individualism vs group identity, inclusion vs privacy, hospitality concepts, high-context vs low-context, and concepts of time and planning. I've done a lot of reading on culture and cross-cultural understanding. This is one book that I would recommend to pretty much anyone who is relating to someone of a different culture. It is short and simple. She won't give you answers about a specific culture, but generalizes in stereotypes and extremes. In reality, it works more on a sliding scale, and is a little messy. Not all hot-climate cultures take the hot-climate characteristics, and not all cold-climate cultures take cold-climate characteristics. When they do, it may be extreme or only slight. They may take their designated characteristics in rural areas but not in urban centers. This is a tool to help you analyze cultural difference on your own.

I may not blog about all of the categories, but this is one that comes up almost every day in our house: privacy vs inclusion.

Though the American south is roughly a hot-climate culture, I feel we fall more on the side of privacy (the cold-climate characteristic) in this one (and compared to Kenya, we appear cold-climate in almost all aspects, though we would still appear hot-climate to true cold-climate cultures). Kenya is most definitely on the hot-climate side.

Privacy is not a thing here. Neither is solitude. Neither is making your own decisions for your own life. Everything is done as a group (this is the individualism vs group identity chapter). And there are very few times that the group doesn't include absolutely everyone.

One of the ways this is most apparent is in conversations.

Almost every single day in my house:
I say something Rodgers can't quite hear because he's in the other room.
He asks me to repeat myself.
I yell back, "I'm not talking to you!"
Rodgers says something that I can't quite hear because I'm in the other room.
I ignore him, assuming he isn't talking to me.
He starts yelling, "Helloooo?! Anybody there? I said..."
He was talking to me.

In a privacy culture, if you have something to say to someone, you will indicate by word, gesture, or eye contact that you are going to talk to them. They give an indication that they are listening, and you say it. If you overhear someone speaking, you don't assume they are talking to you. You actively try not to listen in order to give them privacy. Eavesdropping is rude.

In an inclusion culture, if someone is talking in your general vicinity, even if they aren't specifically talking to you, they are talking to you. You are here, thus you are part of this. You at liberty - maybe even expected - to listen and respond.

I have had neighbors respond to me when I ask my kids something. I don't really know what to do with that. Rodgers knows me well, so I don't think it's rude for me to tell him bluntly that I wasn't talking to him. But I'm not sure about doing that to other people. Considering the keyword "inclusion," should I carry on the conversation with them? After all, they're here, they should be included in the conversation. Normally I pretend I didn't hear them, but that's my privacy culture showing.

On the other hand, I have yet to work out how I know when I'm supposed to respond to someone. Inclusion culture: if I am near what's going on, I'm part of it. I suppose I should always be listening and ready to jump in. But, for this introvert, that is unbearably exhausting. For now, I rely on Rodgers to get my attention. "Hey! Someone's talking to you!"


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