Culture has been a pervasive part of humanity since the beginning of civilization. Wood (2010), professor of communications, defines culture as "the totality of beliefs, values, understandings, practices, and ways of interpreting experience that are shared by a number of people" (p 78). The way I see it, culture shapes an individual and creates their worldview. Each culture emphasizes an important aspect of the humans and displays the complexities of our species. Even though culture includes many elements, I will discuss one of Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions, Individualism, and explain how it creates a high or low context culture.
Hofstede claimed there are five important dimensions seen in each culture, which include Power Distance Index, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance Index, and Long-Term Orientation. The one I find most important is Individualism, which is the degree into which individuals are integrated in the group (http://www.geert-hofstede.com/). Individualism has an impact on whether a culture is high-context, or emphasizes the cultural context of a message, or low-context, emphasizes the explicit content (Rothwell, 2010). With individualism, you can either have a collectivistic or individualistic society.
Collectivism creates more of a "we-orientation" where the group discourages individual success and encourages the success of the entire group. I believe this makes it easier to create a cohesive group since competition will be automatically stifled. However, it will be naive to assume that competition does not exist within a collectivistic group. Because of an emphasis on building relationships, collectivistic groups will be more in tune with interpersonal communication. In fact, "children from collectivist cultures are expected to respond to nonverbal behaviors with warmth, attention, and respect" (Ballinger, Black, Mrasek, 2003, p 21). Because there is so much importance on reading nonverbal cues and a view of shared knowledge, it creates a high-context culture. Instead of having to specify every detail, most of it is understand as it is believed they share a collective body of knowledge.
Having implicit shared meanings is an interesting concept to me since I grew up in an individualistic society. If I were in a group, it is hard for me to imagine completing tasks when I do not have all the information from needed. I would have needed to learn from prior experience what is normally expected during group meetings in order to function this way. It seems that if I were to grow up in a collectivistic society, I would already know the norms and mores, which are the unsaid rules and customs in a society, for different situations, which will enable me to function in a high-context society. For instance, I recently learned about the Chinese concept of “mianzi” and “guanxi”, from my Chinese American friend, which means face and relationship. These are the ways you are supposed to carry yourself...