in Humans

Inter-cultural communication

Brian Van der Horst’s essay on Edward T. Hall, a “Great-Grandfather of Neuro Linguistic Programming,” helps clear up some of the confusion I’ve experienced abroad. The below example of inter-cultural communication resembles how I met my wife in Germany, who must have thought I was over-sexed:

In both the British and American cultures, there are, let’s say 20 distinct steps in the ritual of courtship — between the first hello and going to bed. One step that occurs in both cultures is “the kiss on the lips.”

In America, this is about step number three. It’s something you do to establish intimacy. But in England, this is around step 18. It’s about the last thing you do before engaging in sexual intercourse.

So imagine a U.S. soldier on a date with an English girl. To get the relationship going in the right direction, to warm it up a little, the guy gives the gal a kiss on the lips. Just like in the (Hollywood) movies.

The lady in question now has a difficult choice to make. First, she thinks the guy is definitly over-sexed. After all, she hardly knows the fellow, and she’s just been cheated out of 15 steps. So either she walks off the scene immediately — in which case the Yankee says, “She is obviously over-sexed and hysterical — all I did was give her a kiss on the lips.”

Her other choice is to start preparing to go to bed. After, all the guy just yanked her action chain, and she is only a step or two away from the main event. If she follows this course, the American says, “Boy, is she over-sexed! She’s taking off her clothes, and all I did was give her a kiss on the lips.”