Intercultural Communication

People who live in “Western” societies think red is the universal symbol for “stop” but no sign automatically translates across cultures.

The work I’ve done on intercultural communication in social policy unpacks symbols. For example, when peace keeping forces are stationed in another nation in a rural area, the first method through which they try to enforce law and order is through visual signs. They hand out pamphlets and put up posters that direct locals. They draw on their own cultural ideas which they presume will be shared in their new environment, including “stop” and the meaning of colours. Red has different connotations in different regions of the world. Translating meaning through visual cues is not straightforward.

[Video is a loop a pedestrian crossing button, with a sign showing red, amber and green symbols]

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