How do our cultural identities affect the way we communicate with others?

Case Study: Hiromi (Japanese, female, aged 20) and Matteo (Italian, male, aged 22)

As a Japanese female university student living in Kyoto, I was always fascinated by the cultural diversity of the city. So when I heard that a male Italian exchange student was coming to study at our university, I was thrilled at the prospect of making a new friend from a different culture.

When I first met Matteo, I was surprised by how expressive he was. Italians are known for their animated communication style, and Matteo was no exception. He gestured with his hands and spoke with a passionate tone that was a stark contrast to the reserved communication style of many Japanese people. I found myself laughing at his jokes and feeling more relaxed around him.

As we got to know each other better, I noticed that Matteo was always running late for our meetings. He would apologise profusely, but I couldn't help feeling a little frustrated. In Japan, punctuality is highly valued, and it's considered rude to keep others waiting. When I mentioned this to Matteo, he explained that in Italy, time is viewed more flexibly, and it's not uncommon for people to arrive a few minutes late. I found this cultural difference amusing, and we made a joke out of it, with Matteo dubbing himself "the late Italian."

One day, Matteo invited me to a pasta dinner at his apartment. I was excited to try some authentic Italian cuisine, but as soon as I stepped into his kitchen, I realised that our cooking styles were very different. Matteo was throwing ingredients together with abandon, while I carefully measured out every spice and seasoning. We both laughed as we tried to figure out how to cook together, and in the end, we managed to create a delicious meal that combined Italian and Japanese flavours.

Throughout our friendship, Matteo and I had to navigate several cultural differences. For example, I was surprised by how direct he was in his communication style, while he found my indirect communication style to be confusing at times. We had to learn to communicate effectively by being aware of our cultural backgrounds and adjusting our communication styles accordingly.

Despite the challenges, Matteo and I became good friends during his time in Kyoto. Our cultural differences brought a unique perspective to our conversations and allowed us to learn from each other. When it was time for Matteo to return to Italy, we exchanged tearful goodbyes but promised to keep in touch. I knew that even though we came from different cultures, our friendship would always be a special one.