Letters to the Editor

When Arab Immigrants bring their non-verbal communication knowledge to the U.S.

Dear Editor:

Noble culturalists interested in bridging the gaps existing between people of different cultures have been working on decoding extra-linguistic features that are misinterpreted by outsiders. These extra-linguistic features are referred to as non-verbal communication skills that a native of a specific culture has acquired in the same way she or he has acquired verbal communication knowledge.

U.S. Arab immigrants, as all other cultural groups, succeed in integrating in their host country by learning the basic verbal-communication in a very short period of time. However, it is noticeable that it takes them a much longer time to appropriate their non-verbal skills in their new environment. This is due to the lack of awareness that the meanings of non-verbal communication practices are culture-specific. In this article, I will attempt to illustrate with practices you may see Moroccan immigrants do without necessarily carrying the mainstream American meanings.

Kinesics: Body


 Moroccan newcomers may be seen in supermarkets making gestures that mainstream Americans may interpret as loitering. For these immigrants, especially if they are from the working class in Morocco, spending hours at a store like Shaw’s or Stop & Shop is a normal daily activity that they may enjoy doing in their spare time without having the intention of doing business with those stores. Furthermore, they are maybe experiencing the cultural shock: Different products, different people, and different product displaying ways.

Oculesics: Eye


In the U.S., people tend to make more eye contact with people they like and agree with and less with those they dislike, disagree with, or are intimidated by. In her 2007 book, the American psychologist, Tonya Reiman, states that “when you look another person in the eyes, you’re saying that you feel good about yourself—you’re confident, you are trustworthy, and you know what you’re talking about. Most of all, it tells a person that you listen”. For most Moroccans, eye contact means a totally different thing. For instance, Moroccan students dare not look their teacher in the eyes when he/she is lecturing; instead, they look down as a sign of showing respect and paying attention. On the other hand, some conservative Moroccan Muslims would even think that, in any context, it is religiously inappropriate to make an eye contact with a person of the opposite gender who is not an immediate family member.

Proxemics: Use of

physical space:

Personal space which is also referred to as friendship zone is the one people use with their family and friends. For mainstream Americans leaving in New England, it can extend from two to four feet. On the contrary, this space can be a feet or less for Moroccans. A group of Moroccan co-workers of same or opposite gender may be seen sitting in a café shoulder to shoulder. Seeing it from the mainstream American perspective, this scene may be interpreted as a group of absolute closet friends or immediate family members hanging out together. In other words, what this group of Moroccans practice as personal space will be interpreted as intimate space in an American setting. This misinterpretation may, therefore, lead to more gaps between us and the other. Imagine a situation in which a mainstream American working close to a Moroccan colleague: Any act that involves the use of personal space from the Moroccan side maybe be interpreted by the American as an invasion of his or her own space. One can imagine the separation that this misunderstanding of one another can lead to.

Haptics: Touching:

Haptics are touching behaviors that involve certain parts of the body and include aspects such as duration, intensity, and frequency. They are an essential component in non-verbal communication that is culture-specific. Again, mainstream Americans and mainstream Moroccans have huge differences in these touching behaviors. Two Moroccan older men holding hands and walking in the beach may be seen as a gay couple. In often times, Moroccans do not differentiate between personal and intimate spaces; on the contrary, Americans do. A Moroccan may frequently touch someone- usually of the same sex- in the arm or shoulder while the former is talking and the latter is listening. In fact, this may take place even in the first time these people meet. I think if the latter is American, it could be very frustrating to him or her. By doing that, Moroccans may simply show their kindness.

To sum up, we are in urgent need of understanding our differences for a better future for humanity. It is true that the world is aware that people from different cultures may speak a different language. It is also true that people know that they need to learn the language of a cultural group in order to communicate, negotiate, or do business with them. Unfortunately, in this world that has become a small village, a lot of us lack the awareness of the fact that non-verbal communication varies from one cultural group to another. As a result, we fall in stereotypes that only separate us human beings.

Professor Abdelkrim Mouhib

Adult day health programs are important

Dear Editor:

Adult day health programs play a vital role in caring for seniors in a community-based setting.  Seniors arrive at our programs every morning to socialize, take part in engaging activities, enjoy a nutritious meal, and see a medical professional.  The daylong service also gives respite to their adult children, enabling these caregivers to work and lead their own lives knowing their loved ones are in good hands.

Yet providers of this important service are in a precarious financial situation.

The rates paid by MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program that covers seniors and individuals with disabilities who meet the program’s income requirements, are stagnant.  The daily rate of $58.83 is almost $5 per day less than the actual cost of providing that care according to the state’s own Center for Health Information and Analysis – and that is using cost data from 2013.  When using 2016 data, we believe the gap to be over $11.

Fundraising closes some of the gap for a nonprofit such as ours, but not all of it.  The reality is that providers will go out of business, reducing the capacity of the remaining programs to care for seniors, and more seniors will be forced into options that are far more costly for the state, including nursing facilities.  The median annual cost to states for adult day health is only $16,900 per person, less than a quarter of the $72,270 cost for nursing home care, according to a 2015 study by Genworth, a long-term care insurer.

Without fair funding from Medicaid, we will lose an option that effectively enables many seniors to continue living at home.  In fact, 10 programs have already closed in the last three years and 25 more programs report that they are now at imminent risk of closure.

 As the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services reviews adult day health rates, we hope that Everett residents will stand up for seniors and join The Community Family and other providers in taking a stand and demanding fairness.

 Anne M. Marchetta

Executive Director of The Community Family, an adult day health organization with centers in Everett, Medford and Lowell

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