My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XVIII. Uncertainty Avoidance, Language and Communication

My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XVIII. Uncertainty Avoidance, Language and Communication

Culturally ingrained variations in the use of language are sometimes subtle and may go almost unnoticed. For example, it took me years until I became aware that the understanding of what is called “working” is different for Bashar than for me. Bashar would essentially equate “working” with “making money”, whereas I would refer to “working” as something requiring a certain amount of effort. When I would be busy with volunteer work or reading a professional article, I would consider this “working”; Bashar would not consider it as such. Furthermore, if he would invest money in something, he would relate to it as if he or his money is “working”. In contrast, I would neither consider an ongoing investment as work nor consider that my money could be “working”. Until I realized the difference between us in the use of the term “working”, this caused confusion. The variation in the use of this term could be based on a difference between Arabic and English or Hebrew. However, I tend to think that it is related to a difference in the cultural attitude toward the term, something that would transcend a certain language.

Furthermore, since Bashar’s command of Hebrew and English is not as advanced as mine is, I needed to simplify my use of language so that he would understand. Over time, this became an automatism. Interestingly, I started saying things in his way. An example is that he would refer (in Hebrew) to a meal as “a meal of food”, thus adding the – in Hebrew, like in English, unnecessary – words “of food”. While talking with him, I would occasionally use this same expression – unintended.

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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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