An interaction scene is essentially reoccuring topics that are acceptable in social conversations. Now, you can imagine how these topics vary by culture. American culture finds it acceptable and common to ask about the family and work. At dinner parties it is expected that people will talk about their work. In France, on the other hand, you never talk about work at a dinner party. Kathy Kellerman explains normal social interaction scene between Americans.
Now, you can see that in number 2, we jump right to talking about health. This may only include, “How are you doing?” but in some cultures they might take this as asking too much about your personal life. Notice in number 3, we give a reason for our presence. While this may seem funny, most Americans can attest that when you run into someone at the store you might say, “Hi Jane, what are you doing here?” It seems almost silly since they are obviously shopping just like yourself, but we commonly say things like that.
The most accurate, and to me most comical section is 6 and 7. As we are trying to wrap up conversations, we always follow certain guidelines you may never have thought of. The evaluation of the encounter would be, “It was so great catching up with you!” Next, we try to make future plans such as, “Let’s grab coffee sometime.” We tend to want to compliment people they leave by giving them a positive evaluation like, “Well Sally, you look great.” I think the last ones can be interchanged because we tend to combine, until later and reason for terminating. “Well, I have to get to class but I’ll talk to you soon. Bye!”
Looking at this chart, it is quite funny to picture a normal conversation, and this is quite accurate. Americans tend follow this pattern in most of their social interaction scenes. Realizing our interaction patterns, and taking a step back to examine them, can shed light on some peculiar social rules Americans follow. It is easy to see how people from other cultures may think our interaction scenes are strange.
Thinking specifically about things that are okay to discuss with Americans, if you brought some of these subjects up in other countries it would be extremely offensive. In Arabic countries, you should never ask about relationship status or about another person’s family. Health may be a touchy topic for some. Making plans to meet at a later date is generally something we say out of niceties, not seriously. When you make plans in other cultures to meet, it means that you will meet with that person. It is important to take a step back and think about your own culture and how social actions might appear to others. Can you think of anything other topics or interaction scenes that might seem strange to different cultures?