Exploring Politeness in Saudi Hospital Settings: Insights from Nurses’ Intercultural Perceptions

30 May 2024
Room D1

Exploring Politeness in Saudi Hospital Settings: Insights from Nurses’ Intercultural Perceptions

Politeness comprises two levels: first-order politeness and second-order politeness. The primary focus of this paper is on first-order politeness, which pertains to how individuals of a specific socio-cultural group perceive and discuss politeness (Watts, Ide, and Ehlich, 2005). Studying individuals’ perceptions of language is essential for understanding their evaluations of the communication process (Culpeper, O’Driscoll, and Hardaker, 2019; Jaworski, Coupland, and Galasiński, 2004). Comprehending communication styles then helps raise people’s awareness and ensures effective communication in specific contexts. Because politeness is culture-specific (Culpeper, Haugh, and Kadar, 2017), it can be vital within multicultural environments, particularly those centred around (multicultural) medical settings, due to the potential impact that varying levels of politeness may have on healthcare outcomes. Although there is considerable literature on politeness within medical contexts, it is rarely examined in Saudi settings and has never been explored from an intercultural perspective (to the best of my knowledge). In response, this study focuses on nurses’ perceptions of politeness from various cultural backgrounds. I interviewed 12 nurses, including 3 Saudis, 3 Filipinos, and 3 Indians; I used thematic analysis to analyse the gathered data. The study identified two main themes in nurses’ perceptions of politeness in Saudi hospitals. First, the importance of clear and informative verbal communication to facilitate intercultural competence; second, the significance of respect as a politeness concept when interacting with nurses from diverse cultures. Consequently, it is crucial for nurses to enhance their awareness of these cultural differences to prevent potential relationship breakdowns and ensure a healthy workplace environment. Recommending a training course could be beneficial in facilitating intercultural healthcare communication among different groups.



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Culpeper, J., O’Driscoll, J., & Hardaker, C. (2019). Notions of politeness in Britain and North America. In E. Ogiermann & P.G. Blitvich (eds.) From Speech Acts to Lay Understandings of Politeness (pp. 176-200).  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jaworski, A., Coupland, N., & Galasiński, D. (2004). Metalanguage: Why now? In A. Jaworski, N. Coupland & D. Galasiński (eds.) Metalanguage: Social and Ideological Perspectives (pp. 3-8). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Watts, R.J., Ide, S., & Ehlich, K. (2005) Politeness in Language: Studies in Its History, Theory and Practice. 2nd ed. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.