My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin:  X. Intercultural Friendship

My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: X. Intercultural Friendship

The intercultural encounter is challenging on an emotional level, a cognitive level and a behavioral level (Ward et al., 2001). This seems true particularly when it comes to intercultural friendship. Nonetheless, if successful, intercultural friendship can play a beneficial social role. It was suggested that “nothing can be more helpful in changing misunderstandings and prejudices than building friendships with those viewed as ‘other’ ” (Peterson, 2007,  p. 81). Intercultural friendships were found to improve interracial and intercultural attitudes (Aberson et al., 2004). For immigrants, intercultural friendships may actually become a bridge to acculturation (Akhtar, 2009)

Development of intercultural friendship

For a friendship to develop, some level of trust is required. There are cultural differences as regarding trust. Within a given culture there may be agreement on what or whom to trust, but as a result of different value systems both the meaning of trust and what and whom to trust varies as a function of culture (Choi & Kim, 2004), social group (Devos et al., 2002), and between democracies and non-democracies (Jamal, 2007). As a result, in intercultural relations there may be diverging expectations concerning intentions and behaviors, which are likely to reduce mutual trust (cf. Gibson & Manuel, 2003). Likewise, in intercultural friendship, building and keeping trust may be difficult.
A study on Japanese students in Australia found four factors that influenced the development of intercultural friendship: 1) frequent contact, 2) similarity of personal characteristics and age, 3) self-disclosure, and 4) receptivity of other nationals (Kudo & Simkin, 2003). Another study found four factors that influence the development of intercultural friendship, namely 1) targeted socializing, 2) cultural similarities, 3) cultural differences, and 4) prior intercultural experience. Additionally, it was found that issues of communication can both enable and hinder the development of intercultural friendships (Sias et al., 2008). It looks as if the factors found in both studies are partially complementary and partially overlapping.


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About the Author

Daniel WeishutDaniel J.N. Weishut, born in the Netherlands but living in Jerusalem, is a professional with a diverse background. He holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and an MBA in Integrative Business Administration, both from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a PsyD in Clinical and Organizational Psychology from the Professional School of Psychology (Sacramento). He has about thirty years of experience in consultation and therapy with a wide variety of clients and issues, more than twenty years of practice in group facilitation, and over fifteen years of know-how in governance and management in various organizations. Daniel Weishut offers his services as a "Partner on the Way", while taking a world-view that people are diverse but equal. He works with a variety of clients, but his special interest is in work with those who have found themselves persecuted or otherwise in conflict with their social environment, because of their culture, identity or belief system. For example: migrants, expats, refugees, Holocaust survivors, soldiers, pacifists, and individuals from religious, cultural or sexual minorities. Daniel Weishut is a social activist and in this capacity he volunteers as Chairperson of the Israeli Association of Group Psychotherapy, as Member of the Membership Appeals Committee of Amnesty International and as forensic expert for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. He also is involved in raising awareness about the situation of Bedouins around Jerusalem; awareness which led among others to the writing of his dissertation "My friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: Challenges and opportunities in intercultural friendship".

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