This study examined intercultural friendship development through analysis of in- depth interviews. While extant literature on friendship development has examined friends from the same cultural background, interviewees in the current study (N h 30) described relationships with friends from cultures different than their own.
Analysis revealed four factors that respondents felt influenced the development of heir intercultural friendship; targeted socializing, cultural similarities, cultural differences, and prior intercultural experience. Results also indicate several ways in which communication both enables and hinders the development of intercultural friendships, providing evidence of the uniqueness and complexity of communication in these relationships. Keywords: Intercultural friendship; Relationship development Scholars have paid scant attention to intercultural friendships despite their clear importance and frequency in the increasingly multicultural world.
Intercultural reindeer’s represent an intimate intersection between personal and cultural aspects of communication processes and the difficulty in teasing them out might be one reason why they receive so little research attention. Qualitative methods lend themselves particularly well to understanding the subjective experience and how it is shaped by personal and cultural factors. This study examined intercultural friendship development through an analysis of in-depth interviews. Patricia M. Slays (PhD, University of Texas, Austin, 1993) is a Professor in E. R. Morrow School of Communication at Washington State University.
Coolant A. Drawbacks (PhD, Arizona State University, 1999) is an Associate Professor in E. R. Morrow School of Communication at Washington State University. Mary Mares (PhD, University of New Mexico, 2002) is an Assistant Professor in E. R. Morrow School of Communication at Washington State University. Rhino Bent (MA, Washington State University, 2004), Yoke Kimono (MA, Washington State University, 2004), Maria Ortega (MA, Washington State University, 2004), and Colleen White (MA, Washington State University, 2004) were graduate students in the E. R. Morrow School of Communication at Washington State University.
Correspondence to: Patricia M. Asia, E. R. Morrow School of Communication, Washington State University, Box 642520, Pullman, WA 99164-2520, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Du SINS 0893-4215 (pant)/ills 1745-1043 (online) # 2008 western states communication Association DOE 10. 1080/08934210701643750 2 P. M. Slays teal. Literature Review Friendship is a unique and important type tot interpersonal relationship. It is distinguished from other types of relationships by its voluntary character and by a personalities focus in which individuals come to know and treat ACH other as whole persons, rather than simply role occupants (Wright, 1984).
Intercultural friendships are characterized by differences between individuals’ cultures that bring unique rewards as well as challenges. Individuals must negotiate differences in cultural values and?or languages, and overcome enduring stereotypes. However, they also gain unique cultural knowledge, broaden their perspectives, and break stereotypes. Further, various cultural groups have divergent meaning systems, making the exchange of information more challenging and increasing the potential or misunderstanding, uncertainty, frustration, and conflict (Barnett & Lee, 2002).
Such difficulties present substantial challenges to the development and maintenance of intercultural friendships. Despite these difficulties, however, people do create and maintain nurturing and enduring intercultural friendships. Most previous research on intercultural friendship has focused on differences between cultural or ethnic groups, either through cross-cultural analysis (e. G. , expectations of friendship or behavioral norms) or by using culture as one variable among many to predict differences in behavior. For example, Studying (1985) included cultural similarity (I. . , intercultural vs.. Intercultural relationship) as one of many variables influencing self-disclosure. Martin, Yecch, and Larker (1994) found African American and European Americans preferred different strategies to resolve problematic situations in their interstice friendships, with African American respondents preferring strategies requiring Joint action, while European American preferred action and responsibilities to be taken by others. Collier (1996) studied ethnic background and “emergent cultural competencies” (p. 4) and found different competencies were valued by members of different groups, consistent with core differences in understanding of the concept of friendship. Collier and Barman (1999) compared core values, norms, and symbols of friendship in five ethnic groups in South Africa, finding differences in friendship expectations. Yet, while these studies inform understanding of cultural differences in friendships, they do not focus on the development of friendships. This study identifies some elements that may play an important role in the formation and maintenance of intercultural friendships.
Friendship Development Extant literature provides various models of relational development and, in general, suggests relational development is influenced by both personal and contextual factors. Personal factors derive from the individuals involved in the friendship such as perceived similarity with respect to attitudes, values, and interests (e. G. , Bream, 1985; Asia & Cahill, 1998). Contextual factors are exerted by the context in which the friendship develops such as critical life events (Levering, 1983), physical Communication Reports 3 proximity (e. . , Gritting & Sparks, 1990), Trenton exposure (Cajon, 1 oracle factors (Asia & Cahill, 1998). All of the above studies, however, examined friendships between individuals of the same cultural background. The developmental process of intercultural friendships contains some unique elements (Chem., 2002). As noted above, for example, perceived similarity is a key factor in friendship initiation. In contrast, “difference” is a defining characteristic of an intercultural friendship. Although the partners likely share some similarities (e. G. With respect to musical taste, opinions, etc. ), they also most likely have to negotiate these similarities across cultural differences. Thus, the role of perceived similarity is likely unique in intercultural friendships. Recent studies have focused on the conditions necessary for intercultural friendships to develop. Kudos and Siskin (2003), in a small study (N h 6) based on perceptions of Japanese students in Australia, found one unique theme, “receptivity of other nationals” (p. 97), including interest in other cultures and empathy.
Lee (2006) focused on the development of relational identity in intercultural relationships, identifying activities (e. G. , providing help for a friend) that shaped shared identity. However, these studies did not address how these factors advance intercultural relationships toward closer levels of friendship. To examine the relationship between personal?individual and contextual factors and intercultural friendship development, we examined the following: RSI : What personal?individual and contextual factors impact the development of intercultural friendships?
Communication and Friendship Development We conceptualize relationships as socially constructed entities that are created, maintained and altered through communication (Sigma, 1995). Relationships do not exist outside the partners involved but are social phenomena constituted in partners’ interaction (Duck & Pitman, 1994). At the same time, partners’ perceptions of their relationship influence their communication with one another. This communicative conceptualization indicates that relationship development is a communicative process (Asia, Fix, Heath, Perry, & Silva, 2004).
Research indicates the ways communication impacts friendship development. Asia and Cahill (1998), for example, found communication between friends became increasingly broad, frequent, and intimate, and decreasingly cautious, as the friendships grew closer. This is consistent with models of allegations development that emphasize increased communication depth and breadth as relationships develop (Alton & Taylor, 1973; Knapp, 1978). Again, however, communication may function differently in the context of intercultural friendship development.
For example, different cultures are often grounded in different languages, and these language differences can provide barriers to the broad and intimate communication and shared understandings that characterize friendship. In addition, culture to some extent implies sharing a system of beliefs, feelings and practices that enable its members to makes sense of themselves and heir 4 existence. For example, various cultures may have different conceptualizations of friendship which can cause misunderstandings (Garages, 2000).
In recent years, scholars have rightly argued that cultures consist of conflicting patterns of beliefs that produce mixed, ambiguous, and contested messages (Chuan, 2003; Collier, 2000; Collier, Hedge, Lee, Nickname, & Yep, 2002), making attempts at categorizing cultural friendship patterns by culture highly problematic. Further, increasingly, if not always, individuals live within highly permeable cultural formations overrun by altercation’s flows and contested both within and without.
In fact, laminar and Space’s (2005) Identity Management Theory explains how “cultural identities are negotiated through development of an interpersonal relationship” (p. 196). Throughout the stages of a relationship, face needs and cultural identities are negotiated as relational identity is developed. This is similar to Scimitar’s (1999) articulation of a postmodern third-culture, I. E. , “the construction of a mutually beneficial interactive environment in which individuals from two different cultures can function in a way beneficial to all involved” (p. ). Consistent with these notions, and with this study focus on relationship development (rather than cultural comparison), our goal was not to attempt to categorize cultural patterns by culture, but rather to learn how communication impacts friendship development in diverse friendship dyads. Thus: ARQ: How does communication impact intercultural friendship development? Method Sample The sample was comprised of 30 individuals, including college students at a large Western university as well as residents from the surrounding community.
They represented different countries and ethnic backgrounds including he United States, Armenia, Chile, China, Colombia, England, India, Japan, Korea, Poland, Philippines, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Taiwan, Uruguay, and Uzbekistan. The sample included one respondent per country, with the exception of the United States (n h 6), Japan (n h 7), and Korea (n h 3). Respondents ranged from 18 to 75 years of age, with most participants in the 18-25 year old range. Ten respondents were male, 20 were female. Using a convenience and snowballing sampling method, researchers recruited participants identified via friends, acquaintances, and colleagues.
No searcher interviewed someone they knew personally. To qualify for participation: (a) the friendship had to be with someone the participant considered to be culturally different from him?herself; (b) the participant must have known his?her friend for at least 1 year; (c) the respondent must consider his?her friendship to be Nerdy close” or worthy of “best friend” status; and (d) the friendship must not be a romantic relationship. Data Collection Data were collected using the Retrospective Interview Technique (RITE), which has been used to examine developmental processes in romantic relationships e. . , Baxter & Bullies, 1986), mentoring relationships (Bullies & Bach, 1989), and workplace friendships (Asia & Cahill, 1998). The RITE is particularly useful in a study using multiple interviewers because its clearly structured interview protocol enhances comparability of data across interviews. During the RITE, respondents identify points at which their relationship changed by plotting these points on a graph whose x-axis represents time (the length of time from the initial meeting to the time of the interview) and whose y-axis reflects an index of relational development such as commitment or self-disclosure.
We used the Asia and Cahill (1998) index for the y-axis in this study because it allows respondents to interpret the concept of “friend” in their own way. The y-axis reflected the following grid markers in order: acquaintance, friend, close friend, best friend. Respondents were told they were not required to strictly follow the typology; they could mark areas between those categories if appropriate. The interviews began with individuals marking, at the end of the x-axis, the length of the relationship in question.
They then placed proportional grid marks long the x-axis line in years (or months for relationships shorter than 2 years in length). Respondents placed a dot on the graph corresponding to their current relationship level (y-axis) and the present time (x-axis). They then placed a mark at Time O on the x-axis (e. G. , time of first meeting their relationship partner) and the “acquaintance” level on the y-axis. With these two marks on the graph, respondents plotted points at which the friendship level changed.
As each point was plotted, interviewers asked questions regarding what they thought caused their relationship o change at that point, any particular events associated with this change, how their communication with their friend changed at that point, if at all, and any other information that might provide insight into what was going on at that stage in the relationship. Other studies using the RITE (e. G. , Baxter & Bullies, 1986; Bullies & Bach, 1989) examined turning points (I. E. , specific events) to examine romantic relationships and mentoring relationships.
Friendship development is marked less by significant events, and instead evolves in a more gradual, less intentional fashion (Asia & Cahill, 1998). Thus, we sought information about general factors rather than specific events that impacted relational development. Interviews were carried out at the time and place of the participant’s choice (e. G. , the participant’s home, place of work, or a local coffee house). All interviews were conducted in English and lasted from 60-90 minutes. All interviews were audiotape and transcribed. Theoretical saturation was reached with the 30 interviews.
Data Analysis Interviews transcripts were analyzed in a manner consistent with the grounded theory’= constant comparison approach (Glares & Strauss, 1967), which involves constantly comparing responses to determine connections to identified themes. For this study, transcripts were read, reread, and compared in order to identify categories that impacted friendship development and the role of communication in constructing these relationships. After comparing transcripts, categories and their properties were identified in an iterative process, and each transcript was reread in order to determine its fit with the coding scheme.
These categories were then examined to determine their connection to the three levels discussed in the interviews acquaintance, friend, close friend, best friend). These emergent categories are discussed below. Results RSI : Developmental Factors Analysis revealed three personal factors and one contextual factor that respondents felt influenced the development of their intercultural friendship: cultural similarities, cultural differences, prior intercultural experience, and targeted socializing. Table 1 summarizes these factors and the friendship phase(s) at which the factor was primarily relevant.
Although the interviews dealt with inter cultural relationships, 10 respondents noted that cultural similarities (I. E. , similarities between the partners’ national cultures) impacted their friendship development. One respondent explained, ‘We are both from Asian cultures and that is similar, the culture is similar so there are less difficulties. We are from different cultures though. ” This category also refers to the partners comparing their “non-American” cultures to “American” culture. In friendships in which no individual was U. S. American, participants perceived they were similar to one another because they were both “non-American. One respondent reported that facing the ewe “American” culture together spurred the development of her intercultural friendship. As she stated, “That we came here together, not this kind of together, but that time period, it’s together and we spent the first important periods like the first week we face a new culture and shared that feeling together. ” Cultural similarities were, therefore, particularly important for initiating friendships during the acquaintance-to-friend phase. Eleven respondents indicated that cultural differences also facilitated intercultural friendship development.
In particular, these individuals mound the cultural differences interesting and this interest drew individuals together. Thus cultural differences were particularly important for the initiation of friendships (I. E. , the acquaintance-different phase). As one respondent stated, Actually, the cultural differences helped to start the friendship because, at least on my side, I was attracted to her because she was unique. She came from another country, an entire different culture, different language. I have always been impressed by people who come to this country. English is not their first language and they succeed as students or whatever they do.
So I think the difference actually helped earlier and then as we got to know each other, we realized that we were fairly similar in a lot of ways. The differences also functioned as “conversation starters” that enabled the initiation of friendships. As one respondent explained, “It was like we came from different cultures so had to exchange all this information. ” Example Developmental and Communication Factors Primary friendship phase Category Description of category Developmental factors Cultural similarities (n h 1 1) Similarities between the partners’ national cultures; being “non-American”
Acquaintance-to-friend Cultural differences (n h 11) Differences between the partners’ national cultures 7 Prior intercultural experience (n h 13) Prior experience in another country or in relationships with people from a different culture Targeted socializing (n h 4) Socializing opportunities targeted toward either specific cultural groups or intercultural gatherings We are both from Asian cultures and that is similar, the culture is similar so there are less difficulties. ‘We spent the first important periods like the first week we face a new culture and shared that feeling together. “Actually, the cultural differences helped to start the friendship because, at least on my side, I was attracted to her because she was unique. ” You know, I had a much broader view of the world than my classmates did ….
When I changed schools my best friend was Mexican and when I went to school again, my best friend was Taiwanese and when I went to high school, my best friend was from Russia. ” Attending a Chinese student party All phases Acquaintance-to-trend (Continued) Table 1 Continued Example Primary friendship phase Communication factors Hindering communication Language barrier (n h 11) “He … Poke really broken English; it was hard communicating at first. Lack of fluency in a common language that made conversation difficult Enabling communication Language differences (n h 4) Language differences motivated respondent to talk more often with relationship partner Acquaintance-to-friend; Friend-to-close friend Humor and play (n % 4) 8 Language differences as a source of humor and play Friend-to-close friend; Close friend-to-best friend Unique language (n h 8) Creation of a vocabulary, grammar, and Jargon unique to the specific friendship “I really enjoy talking with people who don’t have English as a first language because t makes me think about the structure of English differently. “And he would always be walking around and go, what up, dog. ” And you know, in German dialect, and I was just dying laughing. ” “l think we developed our own little system of communication. It was, it was pretty unique too. ” Communication 9 Reports Many participants (n h 13) identified prior intercultural experience as important to friendship development. Such experience tended to increase the respondents’ willingness, in some cases eagerness, to develop a friendship with someone from another culture. Respondents explained that these experiences taught them the alee of experiencing other cultures.
One respondent explained, My teacher told me, ‘it’s [not experiencing other cultures] not good, your mind is blocked and it would be smaller than others,’ and I said, that’s true. ‘ I learned not to discriminate …. The opportunity to get to know so many people was good for me. Another explained how previous experience in another culture prepared her for an intercultural friendship, stating, You know, I had a much broader view of the world than my classmates did … When I changed schools my best friend was Mexican and school, my best friend was from Russia.
Thus, the data indicate prior intercultural experience was important both for initiating a friendship and continuing development of the relationship to closer levels. Finally, four respondents reported that targeted socializing, a contextual rather than personal factor, was important to their friendship development, particularly during the early phase of moving from acquaintance to friend. Targeted socializing refers to socializing opportunities targeted toward either specific cultural groups or intercultural gatherings such as a “Chinese student party’ or an orientation for international students on campus.
Another participant explained how his friendship began by socializing in a larger student-centered group: ‘We started hanging; I mean it wasn’t Just the two of us. But we Just started hanging out a lot, probably like, we ate dinner with a big group of people together everyday. ” This demonstrates the importance of structured interrupt activities to increasing the likelihood of friendships. ARQ: Communication in Intercultural Friendship Development ARQ asked how communication impacts intercultural friendship development.
Results indicate communication both hindered and enabled the development of intercultural reindeer’s. Hindering communication As expected, many participants (n h 1 1) noted that the lack of fluency in a common language made conversation difficult. These difficulties hindered, or slowed down, the increased breadth and depth of discussion necessary for relationship development. As one respondent noted, “he [his friend] … Spoke really broken English; it was hard communicating at first. Another complained that, initially, “l had to ask him [his friend] to repeat a lot of things and he wasn’t willing to talk to me. ” Language barriers were particularly important during the initial stage of placement . Nevertheless, these triennials succeeded, suggesting perhaps that 10 difficult mechanics of communication such as language proficiency and accent do not unduly hinder friendship development. Enabling communication Somewhat surprisingly, although language differences had to be worked through, they also enabled friendship development in a number of ways.
First, the language differences would often motivate the individuals (n h 4) to talk more often with one another. They found the language difference challenging, rather than forbidding. Furthermore, four exponents noted that the language differences became a source of humor and play for the partners. As one participant explained, He was so funny because he couldn’t pronounce, or he couldn’t enunciate most of the English words when he’s trying to express himself in English. And ah, we Just started laughing, and I’m like, ‘do you think you meant this? ND he’s like, that’s what I said! ‘ So, yeah, it was really funny. Another described the humor derived from her partner’s attempts at American slang, “And he would always be walking around and go, What up, dog. ‘ And you know, in German dialect, and I was Just dying laughing. Overall, once individuals worked through the difficulties posed by language differences, they became intrigued, rather than overwhelmed, by the language and communicated more often. This increase, as well as more playful communication, moved the friendship to closer levels.
For several respondents (n h 8), language differences led to the development of a unique language, consisting of a vocabulary, grammar, and Jargon unique to the specific friendship. This occurred primarily after the friendships had grown closer and moved to the friend, close friend, or best friend level. As one participant explained, “l hind we developed our own little system of communication. It was, it was pretty unique too. ” These unique vocabularies made conversation easier for the friends.
Another participant explained, It’s like when I am talking to him in Japanese and I will mix it with English, and he would talk to me in Japanese and English . . He knows how much stuff I know now, so he will talk to me in Japanese. It was kind of funny because we are studying in a study group and my American friends will Just laugh because me and Y will talk in Japanese. Discussion While previous studies have addressed cultural differences and the estimation of relational identity in intercultural friendships (e. G. Collier & Barman, 1999; laminar & Cup, 2005), our study examined the developmental factors and communication patterns that impact the development of such relationships as they evolve from “acquaintances” to Nerdy close?best friends. ” Similar to Intercultural friendships (e. G. , Griffin & Sparks, 1990; Asia & Cahill, 1998), both contextual and personal factors impacted intercultural friendship development. These factors were somewhat unique, however, in the intercultural friendships we studied. For example, similar to