Linear-active vs. Multi-active cultures: A Cinematic Case Study

Intercultural skills can help save you a lot of frustration, as I experienced last night. Me and my husband went to see 'The Walk' about wire walker Philippe Petit who made it a mission to walk between the two Twin Towers. 

Actually deciding to watch the movie meant 'walking the walk' for me, as I had shivered each time I watched the trailer, due to slight acrophobia. 

So there we were seated, munching on the Cadbury bars. About a third into the movie I noticed 3 people behind us, '4 o' clock', chatting. My guess was that they were of South Asian descent, due to accent. I tell myself it is only a few whispers, until one of their mobile phones starts flashing. As the movie gains intensity, so do their voices. My husband, in a typical English fashion, turns around and gives them a strict 'look'. 

Halfway into the movie, after constant chatting from the upper row, my husband decides to go and speak to the staff, to avoid 'causing a scene'. Again, very English. 

A member of staff enters the screen room and respectfully tells the speaking spectators to be quiet. As Petit takes his first steps on the wire, I am finally able to fully focus. 

In the above situation, anyone could easily have been frustrated. "Why can't they just be quiet?". "I've paid £10 to watch the movie, I'm going to enjoy it, d**n it". 

I don't believe the people chatting were 'naughty'; my guess is that they come from multi-active culture, e.g. India, where people often do several things at the same time (such as talking during a movie.) In linear-active cultures like the UK, people usually do one thing at a time. Just like Petit's walk, it is one step at a time on a straight line. Similarly, members of linear-active societies dislike jumping to other activities, before the former tasks have been finished. 

In multi-active cultures, many people believe that flexibility with tasks, and focus on relationships is the quicker way to reach the goal. As an example, one can look at how people queue for the bus. Queueing and not cutting in line is of very high importance in the UK, while in other places like India or Spain, people tend form a group in front of the bus entrance. 

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