There are visible and non visible culture differences; The visible culture differences are how people live (apartments, high-rise, huts, villas, terraced houses? in cities or villages), how they dress (warm, cold, covering, showing); What/who they love and celebrate (the heroes, the festivals, the food, the music, the books) and how they behave (greetings, managing time and the people around). Most of this differences you can get used to, in time, because it’s mostly behaviour; it’s about the way people show their culture and use their environment. You might prefer another behaviour but you will get used to it.
At the moment I live in Qatar, a small desert nation. The boys learn to ride a car in the desert. They can drive a car alright, but driving in traffic is something completely different. I would prefer if they would stick to traffic rules it would make my life much less dangerous but I got used to it and on the other side….. Not all the rules are very convenient at times and I must say I like those wild desert rides too.
A very important aspect of the visible culture differences is behaviour; the way people react on certain situations.
A reaction is often based on believes, it’s about expectations, it’s about assumptions, it’s about values, it’s about thoughts, it’s about feelings and emotions. And those are not visible but very important for behaviour, certainly in relation to cultures and it’s differences and how people deal with them.
People want to know (conscious and unconscious) what the right way is to react according to the judgement of the social group they (want to) belong to, so they don’t become an ‘outlaw’ or be alone. It can be quite scary and uncomfortable when you don’t know how to react in certain situations.
I do live a very international live and I’ve got friends from all over the world and every time I meet some of them I have to think. “Just shaking hands? hug? 1,2 or 3 kisses? on the cheek? (one cheek or two, where do you start your first kiss???) bow? or just a shoulder pat?
Knowing about these different ways of greetings helps to understand and accept how people say hello.
When my old Japanese neighbour bows deep, it’s for her to show her respect, she doesn’t want to be cold or distant while I rather want to hug her after 3 years but that would be very uncomfortable for her.
It helps a lot to know that I felt obstructed while her attentions would be that I feel respected. I can accept her ways and adapt mine, so we both feel good.
And in the end when I leave she will still got that hug, just because I know she can handle our differences too.