Culture is all the socially learned behaviors, values, beliefs, and customs transmitted down to each generation. The rules about the way in which to conduct communication vary because they arise from each culture’s specific social relationship patterns (Sheldon, 2008). Each culture has its own rules governing verbal and nonverbal communica-tion. For example, in Western cultures, the handshake is a nonverbal greeting used primarily by men often to size up or judge someone they just met. For women, a polite “hello” is an accepted form of greeting. In some Asian cul-tures, bowing is the accepted form of greeting and depart-ing and a method of designating social status.
Because of these differences, cultural assessment is nec-essary when establishing a therapeutic relationship. The nurse must assess the client’s emotional expression, beliefs, values, and behaviors; modes of emotional expression; and views about mental health and illness.
When caring for people who do not speak English, the services of a qualified translator who is skilled at obtaining accurate data are necessary. He or she should be able to translate technical words into another language while retaining the original intent of the message and not inject-ing his or her own biases. The nurse is responsible for knowing how to contact a translator, regardless of whether the setting is inpatient, outpatient, or in the community.
The nurse must understand the differences in how vari-ous cultures communicate. It helps to see how a person from another culture acts toward and speaks with others. U.S. and many European cultures are individualistic; they value self-reliance and independence and focus on individ-ual goals and achievements. Other cultures, such as Chinese and Korean, are collectivistic, valuing the group and observ-ing obligations that enhance the security of the group. Per-sons from these cultures are more private and guarded whenspeaking to members outside the group and sometimes may even ignore outsiders until they are formally introduced to the group.