Peach vs. Coconut: Cross-Cultural Communication is Difficult!
There is no doubt that moving to a new country and learning cross-cultural communication styles has challenges. To successfully acclimate into a new culture, you need to make friends. One of the biggest challenges to doing this is not being able to effectively communicate with those around you.
Each culture has a different communication method. There are nuances from country to country and sometimes even from particular regions within a country. These variances make up their own special way of talking to one another. One comparison that is often made regarding the different ways people in certain regions or countries communicate is whether the area is a “Peach” culture or a “Coconut” culture.
Knowing the cross-cultural communication differences between the Peach vs. Coconut cultures and knowing which type of culture you are from will help remove barriers and make you a competent communicator in your new country.
Communication Style of a Peach Culture
Examples: Americans, Japanese
People from Peach cultures are said to be “soft” on the outside: Friendly to people they have just met, frequently smile at strangers, chat, share information (not necessarily deep conversation), and even share pictures. They are very nice and helpful to strangers.
However, when you get past the initial friendliness, you see a very private self that they protect for a select few. That is the hard pit in the middle of the peach.
The complaint you often hear is that they are friendly when you first get to know them, but it is difficult to become real friends. In addition, this may lead people to assume individuals from a Peach culture are superficial, hypocritical, and fake.
Communication Style of a Coconut Culture
Examples: German, Switzerland, Russians, French
People from Coconut cultures are described as “hard” on the outside: Rarely smile at a stranger, do not engage in conversations easily, do not talk about personal information with strangers, and mostly keep to themselves or stay with their close friends and family.
These people may be neutral towards you for a long time. However, if you manage to break through their outer shell, they tend to become loyal friends who will accept you as family. Words associated to people from a Coconut culture may include standoffish, hostile, and unfriendly.
How to Handle Cross-Cultural Communication Differences
There is no universal right or wrong strategy for building relationships and approaching cross-cultural communication differences. It is about understanding what the different cultures are like and trying to adapt your own communication style to theirs. After all, you are moving to their country!
These tips will help your social and workplace relationships in your host country.
- Enjoy their friendliness and willingness to welcome you. Do not be offended if the conversation is not personal and deep the first few months.
- Learn to make small talk. In a Peach culture, small talk is a way to “break the ice”.
- Answer small talk questions in a general way and not in-depth.
- Ask questions that encourage easy conversation.
- Spend some time getting to know local trends so you can bring these topics up in a conversation. These may include local restaurants or a favourite football team.
- Be patient! Accept that it will take time before they open up just a little bit.
- Practise observing those around you to learn which questions and topics of conversation are considered appropriate.
- Observe at what social event or time of day it is appropriate to have small talk, such as at a work social event or coffee breaks.
- Wait to ask personal questions until others from the Coconut culture bring up the topic themselves.
- Adjust your expectations of how long it might take to establish a relationship and build trust.
Above all, be open to each other’s differences. Remember this is a cultural difference and is not against “you” as an individual. Taking time to utilise these tips will help you better explore friendships in your new city with an open mind!