Becoming Aware of Cultural Differences

I was giving a PowerPoint presentation on Positive and Negative Politeness Cultures at a conference where Mario Rinvolucri was one of the participants.   Following on from the seminar, he asked me to contribute an article for ‘Humanising Language Teaching’ on how I became interested in cultural differences, and here it is…


By the way, in this context the terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are not in any sense intended to convey approval or disapproval.  They simply refer to opposing ends of a continuum of accepted behaviour in a particular cultural context.

‘Positive’ could loosely be equated with directness, and ‘negative’ with indirectness.  In fact, I wish such terms had been the ones linguists had coined for discussion of these culturally sensitive matters!