Understanding Culture

Home sharing is a great way to bring people from different cultures together. Understanding cultural differences is important to establish clear communicationexpectations, and to prevent conflicts.

There are many cultural traits that are visible, such as food, fashion, and language. However, there are many traits below the surface that should not be ignored. Misinterpreting cultural norms may lead to the person appearing to be ignorant or disrespectful. Talk about cultural norms with the people you are sharing your home with, do not make assumptions.

What are cultural norms?

Cultural norms refers to patterns or behaviours that are typical of a certain group. These norms are often invisible to those who grew up in the culture. Canada has its own set of cultural norms that are different from other countries.

Four basic types of norms:

  1. Folkway – This relates to conventions or customs, such as saying ‘hello’ when you see a friend on the street, or saying ‘excuse me’ after sneezing.
  2. Mores – These are norms which usually define a cultural moral standard. Examples of this include racism or sexism.
  3. Taboo –  These are very strong negative norms, these result in extreme disgust from the society. For example, in Muslim cultures it is taboo to eat pork because the pig is seen as unclean.
  4. Laws – These are inscribed by government and police. Laws differ around the world, for example in Canada pedestrians have the right-of-way, however in many countries they do not.

Important consideration – Time

Canadians are normally quite literal about time and schedules. Scheduling to meet at 6:00 PM means you should arrive at 6:00 PM or a few minutes early. Some cultures have very different norms, for example showing up at 8 PM for a dinner party scheduled for 6 PM may be the cultural norm.