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.