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Feeling like a fish out of water

In this video, the feelings of going across cultures are explained using the metaphor about fish out of water.

Metaphors often help elucidate the concepts in this course. We start with the idea of “being like a fish out of water” to explain the strange unfamiliarity that inter- or cross-cultural encounters can bring.

We are often as comfortable in our own culture as a fish is in water. To be “like a fish out of water” describes the cross-cultural condition, where we unexpectedly find ourselves out of our context or cultural comfort zone, confused by cues, misunderstanding meanings, and usually experiencing discomfort.

This metaphor was used as early as 1952 by Kalvero Oberg in his seminal article on culture shock, where he described the out of water feeling as a dis-ease, as uncomfortableness in a new culture context. It was also noted in Edward T. Hall’s book, The Silent Language (1959), one of the first publications to popularize the concepts of intercultural communication.

Reflect on some of those “out of water” challenges you’ve faced, or how you became aware of this metaphor and its helpfulness in dealing with past experiences. You might like to post such an encounter, or comment on those of others. Remember, we are all “swimming” in this intercultural process together!
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Intercultural Communication: Dynamics of cultural identities in global interaction

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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