Intercultural communication is commonly explained as an interaction between people of 'different cultures whether defined in terms of racial, ethnic or socioeconomic differences.' Human communication consists of verbal and nonverbal messages (language and gestures) which are shaped by gender, social class or culture. Thus, what perimeters define the intercultural exchange and what primary messages do we need or try to convey?
Our communication process or the way we attribute symbolic meanings to words and gestures, in order to express ourselves is shaped by the society in which we evolve. This shared use of codes within a given group of persons, also leads to a common philosophy of life, ideas or morals. Therefore, culture to a certain extent, shapes our thoughts in different fashions in spite of the fact that we have common biological or emotional needs and therefore, common responses to certain stimuli. In addition, various societies are now stratified in classes inside which, groups create and develop other codes. Each subgroup sustains its values and tradition through language and rites creating multicultural interactions. Hence, the human communication process cannot be held for homogenous, even inside the same society because factors like race, gender or social class will slightly modify this pattern.
Last summer, I spent one month in Quito, Ecuador and one week on the island Anaconda in the Amazonian Forest. This was my first experience in Latin America and I have been able to see two very different part of the Ecuadorian culture. In Quito, people speak Spanish, live in the capital and are from mixed descent (Spanish- Indian) while Anaconda?s population is mainly Indian, speaks Quichua (Ecuador?s second national language) and lives in the jungle. I had the chance to immerse myself in both environments because I was staying in a host family in Quito and in a traditional habitation in Anaconda.
Although Latin American countries like Ecuador are defined as ?Third World? due to their economical level the lifestyle in Quito, for instance, follows more or less the pattern we know in this part of the world. People, drive to work, eat out and children go to school. However, this system functions with different values, customs or schedule. I spent four weeks in Quito at the Spanish Academy to take transfer credits in this language. During this time period I lived with an Ecuadorian family that is the parents and their two daughters, which allowed me to interact with them on a daily basis. The father, Ramon works in the United States and Marcella, 18, the eldest daughter attends college in Quito where she studies medicine. I found it easy to interact with Marcella because our age difference is not big and we are both college students. In addition she is a girl and we could discuss topics that are relevant to our gender, such as fashion or dates. The fact that this family educational level does not...