In order to better understand ways in which globalization influences intercultural communication, this study examines ways in which foreign English teachers in Japan and Japanese co-workers manage privacy. Using Petronio's (2002) communication privacy management theory, as well as thematic (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002) and cultural discourse analysis (Carbaugh, 2005, 2007), this study analyzed interview transcripts from 77 participants (39 English language teachers, and 38 Japanese co-workers) regarding ways in which (a) privacy is conceptualized and managed, (b) cultural premises guide such negotiations, and (c) larger structures enable and constrain privacy management between foreign English teachers and Japanese co-workers.
English language teachers (ELTs) defined privacy as a multi-dimensional construct encompassing personal information, space, and actions. ELTs perceived their privacy boundaries to be breeched when asked about one's: (a) space and place, (b)bodies, (c) sexuality, and (d) dating/romantic relationships. ELTs employed the following management strategies: (a) withdrawal, (b) cognitive restructuring, (c) independent control, (d) lying, (e) omission, (f) avoidance, and (g) gaijin smashing. Japanese co-workers defined privacy as information that should be hidden and managed such information by: (a) drawing clear boundaries by not talking or changing contexts, and (b) being pre-emptive by demarcating privacy boundaries early on within a relationship.
In terms of cultural premises, ELTs revealed: (a) they should not be constructed as a "free space" for privacy inquisition by Japanese co-workers, (b) they expected voluntary reciprocity in (egalitarian) workplace relationships, and (c) they expected coworkers to be co-owners who would not share private disclosures. Japanese co-workers revealed: (a) privacy inquisitions are acts of kindness/caring, (b) time matters for privacy disclosure in Japan, (c) age matters for privacy disclosure in Japan, and (d) that ELTs should "Do as Japanese do"; or, in other words, accommodate Japanese cultural norms and regulations for privacy management.
Rooted in English hegemonic and xenophobic practices, I identified the ideological construction of ELTs as "not real teachers" which is heightened through the commodification of ELTs' culture. This construction negated opportunities for successful privacy management through co-owner relationships. Similarly, Japanese coworkers viewed ELTs as guests or special visitors which positioned ELTs as inadequate teachers. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.