Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 3, 2000

Kiira Maria Kirra

Finns in interaction with non-finns: problematic phenomena perceived as critical incidents


This study focuses on Finns' perceptions of problematic phenomena in their communication with non-Finns. The aim of the study is to examine intercultural face-to-face encounters experienced as critical incidents by the respondents.

Critical incidents are communicative events which have been experienced as embarrassing, irritating, funny, strange etc. and which are therefore remembered vividly.

People are often not aware of "the obvious" in their own communication. It only becomes visible to them when communicating with somebody whose "obvious" differs from it, as is the case in intercultural encounters. Therefore the study of critical incidents helps to identify "obvious" and therefore invisible features in one's own communication style.

The data consists of 202 critical incidents collected from lecture journals submitted by Finnish open university students in connection with introductory courses to Intercultural Communication. To identify such incidents in the journals, content analysis was used.

The study suggests that phenomena such as different orientations to time, degree of directness, role differences and differences in verbal and nonverbal communication were among those experienced as critical.

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