In my experince there has always been a slight amount of culture shock when traveling abroad. Even up in Canada I experienced a wall between effective communication. Here in America the vast, sometimes ironically disdainful dependence on mostly American things, such as our strange media, allows for a fast track, so to speek, when communicating. The use of idioms, references to our culture, and unique adaptions of the english language allow us to bypass longer routes of expression and communicate what we are thinking in shorter ways. Keeping up with my dated reference theme, an American can communicate so much simply by saying, “Well they just jumped the shark.”
The use of our culture to maintain short cuts to understanding through communication is something that has become deeply imbedded and mostly subconscious in our day to day communication. When I have travled abroad it always takes me a conversation or two to remember to bypass the short cuts in communication that our media and culture have provided us. I think that this somewhat restricted, interwoven stretch of highways, whom individuals not familiar with American culture may be unaware of, is most likely the greatest cause of miscommunication at a basic level on our part. Of coarse I would be a fool not to mention the cultures of the individuals we engage in sessions with as well as the more respectable clash of our own deeper cultural identity, yet I think that approaching communication doing ones best to avoid these “fast tracks” would allow us to commit ourselves to practicing routes of expression that are somewhat untended by those of us who rely so much on our vast bank of references to quicken understanding.
I find it somewhat humorous that we use such “fast tracks” without really considering the implications. Every time we use an expression such as, “jump the shark,” we rob ourselves of using our brains to create new froms of expression. Think how weird things would be if a poet were to create the perfect, lets say, three line poem that expresses all the angst of losed love. If we all immediately began to turn to this easily expressed cultural poem we would rob ourselves of the chance to craft our own words and thereby advance our intellect.
Personally, I feel that the opportunity to work with non-native speakers is rich with opportunity and formost amongst the benefits for the self, is the opportunity to be challenged to effectively communicate in a simple way without relying on our own bak of cultural references.