Foreign to Familiar 

by Sarah A Lanier (McDougal Publishing Company, 2000)

Foreign to Familiar explores cultural differences one encounters between relationship-based and task-oriented cultures using the metaphor of “hot-climate” / “cold-climate”.  Enjoy these highlights compiled by Sally Hinzie, UBA Church Consultant.

 Relationship versus Task Orientation          

  • Task Oriented (Cold Climate)
    • Communication must provide accurate information
    • Efficiency and time are high priorities and taking them seriously is a statement of respect for the other person
  • Relationship Based (Hot Climate)
    • Communication must create a “feel-good” atmosphere.
    • Efficiency and time do not take priority over the person
    • It is inappropriate to “talk business” first

Direct versus Indirect Communication 

  • Direct Communication (Cold Climate)
    • Short, direct questions show respect for the person’s time
    • A “yes” is a “yes” and a “no” is a “no” – there are no hidden meanings
    • An honest, direct answer is information only.  It does not reflect on how the person feels about you.
    • You can say what you think (nicely) and it will usually not be taken personally
  • Indirect communication (Hot Climate)
    • It is all about being friendly
    • Every question must be phrased in such a way as to not offend by its directness.
    • Use a third party for accurate information.
    • A “yes” may not be an answer to your question.
    • Avoid embarrassing people.

Individualism versus Group Orientation 

  • Individualistic Culture (Cold Climate)
    • I am a self-standing person, with my own identity
    • Every individual should have an opinion and can speak for him or herself
    • Taking initiative within a group is good and expected
    • One must know how to make one’s own decisions.
    • My behavior reflects on me, not on the group.
  • Group-Oriented Culture (Hot Climate)
    • I belong, therefore I am.
    • My identity is tied to the group (family, tribe, etc.)
    • The group protects and provides for me.
    • Taking initiative within a group can be greatly determined by my role.
    • I do not expect to have to stand alone.
    • My behavior reflects on the whole group.
    • Team members expect direction from the leader.

Different Concepts of Time and Planning 

  • Time Oriented & Structure (Cold Climate)
    • Are time oriented.
    • Are structured in their approach to life.
    • Try to plan their day, and saving time is a value.
    • Expect the event to begin at the time announced.
  • Less Time Conscious & More Spontaneous (Hot Climate)
    • Are not as oriented toward the clock as cold-climate cultures.
    • Are spontaneous and flexible in their approach to life.
    • Respond to what life brings.

(download pdf version here)