Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | November 24, 2010

Context and culture

I went to the graduation ceremony for the seniors (oldest class) at my school last week. It was an incredible event. Each student walked down the centre of the gymnasium (which had been especially decorated with flowers, ribbon,) with their parents or relatives on either side, to the sound of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (why?) and then stepped onto the stage to receive their certificates. They were dressed as if graduating from University with full on gowns and mortarboards.

I can’t even remember what happened when I finished sixth form at school. I’m sure we had an assembly of some kind and I do remember a leavers party, but last night was in a different league. At the end of the ceremony the parents went to the side of the stage and sang to their children whilst many of the students cried buckets.

A few years ago Roz and I went to a training event about culture which talked about high and low context cultures. Apparently the UK is a low context culture, this means that when communicating, the meaning is mainly made clear and very explicit whereas in a high context culture the context (maybe tone of voice, or setting etc) of what is being communicated gives much more of the meaning- it is implicit. We’re trying to relate this training to what we are seeing here in Bolivia.

In many schools children even graduate from nursery in gowns and mortarboards – we have been invited to the graduation of one of Chloe’s friends from Church this Friday. Some of the birthday parties we have been to have been amazing spectacles (one next door the other night had what sounded like a full brass band playing into the small hours. And then into the larger hours again. Mum and Dad’s earplugs proved very useful). Even the counselling course Roz is doing will have a graduation ceremony for those who pass. I suspect Bolivia may be a high context culture- the context of a special event (like a birthday or graduation) gives it its value and importance.

This means that as well as what we say, the context and how we say it is crucial. As we try to develop friendships, value and love people we need to think how we must show this as much as say it.



  1. Hi guys,last 2 blogs have been really really interesting,especially the one where you explained your evening,gave me a really good idea of what ‘a day in the life’ is like for you!!im seeing you on Monday wohoooo!!!

    • See you Monday Jua!! Chloe prayed for you the other night. She is very excited to be going on an aeroplane to see everyone.

Leave a reply, go on, you know you want to.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: