You are on page 1of 9

Importance of culture in

Intercultural Business Communication

International communication is one of the most crucial

factors that contribute to the growth of business more
importantly in today’s highly complex and fiercely
competitive global market. The unawareness regarding such
a crucial factor can lead to loss of business or even
dissolution of business.
A prerequisite of today’s business world is to have the ability to understand and communicate
effectively and efficiently (Yoon and Yang, 2012, p. 10). A lack of proper approach and
technique may cause difficulty in communicating with individuals of a different nation. The need
to have skills of communicating in international business can be understood from the difficulties
that are faced by cross cultural teams in coordinating with each other. For this reason there is a
need to understand the issues related to cross cultural communication and cross cultural business
execution so that effective measures can be formulated to remove these discrepancies.
International communication is one of the most crucial factors that contribute to the growth of
business more importantly in today’s highly complex and fiercely competitive global market.
The unawareness regarding such a crucial factor can lead to loss of business or even dissolution
of business. A very important criterion for successful international business is linguistic
communication and the ability to understand and comprehend it. A lot of theories have been
formulated to understand, analyse and solve the intercultural communicational problems such as
Hofstede’s theory, Halls theory, Haroll’s theory, Berlo’s theory and so on. Most of them
successfully defined intercultural business and international business communication but there is
a need of revaluations and up gradations of these theories under changed situations (Neale,

Analysis of Business English and Intercultural Problems

In the attached article, the author has demonstrated the cross cultural problems in communicating
in business English and executing business as well, the two cultures being British and Polish
culture. The author also suggested some significant ways to understand and analyse these
problems and to cope up with them eventually. The author, on joining a Polish organisation
suffered from horrible cross-cultural communication problems for a certain period of time and
then decided to study the sources of these problems to understand these problems and eventually
solve them. On referring to “Intercultural Communication -- a Discourse Approach” by Scollon
and Scollon it has been found out by the author that languages frequently get misinterpreted
when used in different cultures and there is a need to properly understand these problems so that
these problems can be solved effectively. The first step in this regard was to understand and
describe the communicative environment which includes the communicating parities

Page 2 of 9
expectations in context to location, communicational tone, status of participants, form of
communication and code of communication. The second step followed by the author was to
utilise the experiences gathered in a training session for business English Teachers led by Marie
Delaney to assess the aspirations of the communicating parties in regard to time, eye contact,
small talks, silence, working in teams and interruptions. On the basis of the above studies and
assessments, three arenas have been found out by the author where focus must be given to solve
cross cultural and cross communicational problems and these areas are cross cultural awareness
– eye contact and silence, Business English skills – language of socialising and business
communication and team development.

By recognising the parameters of assessment, the author was successful in understanding the
differences in British and Polish cultures in regard to communication and execution of business.
The author found out that as far as the Polish culture is concerned, it allows some flexibility on
time punctuality, prefer eye contact during communication, dislike small talk, regard silence as
disagreement or disapproval, try to avoid working in teams and prefer interrupting
communications harshly. On the other hand, the British culture prefers perfect punctuality, liked
only half a minute of continuous eye contact, regard small talk as productive, never see silence as
a means of disapproval, like working in teams and prefers interrupting politely.

On comparing the investigations and findings of the author with three important intercultural
business communication theories it has been found that the findings of the author are fairly in
lieu with the popular famous cross cultural business communication theories. For example, On
focussing on the communication theory formulated in 1948 by Harold Lasswell, a political
theorist, it has been found that communication has been stated by the theorist as a process that
focuses on who is saying, what has been said, to whom it has been said, through what channel it
has been said and what is the effect. According to him the above stated factors are the parameters
on which effective communication depends. The article under study too describes the authors
findings from his first study in accordance to the descriptions of Harold Laswell throgh a
different outlook but keeping the basics of the important parameters same.

Furthermore, in 1960, David Kenneth Berlo build the Sender – Message – Channel - Receiver
Model of Communication which states that communication is a regulated process in which
power and influence can be used for negotiation. On critical analysing the second assessment of

Page 3 of 9
the author under study in the present article, it can be easily found out that the parameters
depicted by the author can be used to regulate the intercultural communication process leading to
effective communication depicting the regulatory nature of effective communication as stated by
Berlo in his model.

Moreover, the parameters of effective cross cultural business communication that were described
by the author of this article are also in lieu with the Theory of disclosure created by James L
Kinneavy in the year 1971 which states that effective communication requires a formal and
explicit form of structure to be used by the participants of communication. This is because the
timing, eye contact, silent, team work, communications location, participant status, participant
expectation, team work and code of communication factors of the author’s study relates to the
formal and explicit nature of communication (Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971).

Thus, critical analysis and comparison of the author’s findings with the popular cross cultural
communication theories suggest reveals the fact that the ideas and concepts that were formulated
by the author after thoroughly studying the dynamics of the British and Polish communicational
cultures are relevant and valid. This is because of the reason that important cross cultural
business communication theories describes cross cultural communication in the same basic style
as that of the author though the stance may be different (Thomas and Inkson, 2004).

Importance of Cultural Awareness in Transnational Business

Intercultural dimensions can be effectively understood by a cultural dimensions theory
formulated by Geert Hofstede. This theory is known as Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory.
This theory helps in understanding the impact of the culture of a society on the members of the
society on the basis of certain cultural parameters (Pheng and Yuquan, 2002, pp. 7--16). This
theory aids in studying cross cultural communication and transnational business. Hofstede
developed this framework on the basis of his assessment using factor analysis through a survey
of IBM employee values throughout the world between 1960 to 1970.

Page 4 of 9
Hofstede’s first dimension of national culture Power Distance Index (PDI) which is the measure
of distribution of power in the organisation and institutions. Some countries have the culture high
power distance and some has low power distance. The second dimension is individualism vs.
Collectivism. This dimension relates to the degree to which group work persists in an
organisation or a firm. The societies which are individualistic, stresses more on individual
achievements and personal performances. On the other hand collectivists societies prefers that
the individuals work as members of an interconnected group for the organisation. The third
dimension is Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) which measures the extent to which a society
is ready to accept risk. The readiness to tolerate uncertainty is reflected through this index.
Societies that are high in uncertainty avoidance tends to reduce associated risks as carefully as
possible by following step by step planning and implementation of strategies and policies
(Hofstede and Pedersen et al., 2002). But a culture with low uncertainty avoidance do not worry
on the occurrence of a contingency and tries to face the risks and uncertainty by taking
immediate and bold steps. Hofstede’s fourth dimension is Masculinity vs. Femininity. A high
masculine culture fosters competitiveness, forcefulness, acquisitiveness, desire and power but on
the other hand a highly feminine culture fosters personal bonding and value of life. Masculine
cultures prefer high difference between the roles of gender whereas feminine culture prefers
equality in men and women and fosters the value of care and fondness among each other. The
fifth one is Long term Orientation vs. Short term Orientation. This dimension of Hofstede relates
to time horizon. Societies which are long term oriented, gives more importance to future by
encouraging practical values, reward orientation, diligence, savings and variation. In contrast,
short term oriented cultures encourage past and present related values, reliability, respect to
custom, safeguard of prestige, reciprocation and fulfilment of social duties. The sixth and the last
dimension is Indulgence vs. Restraint (IVR). An indulgent society encourage free expression of
natural human wishes, enjoyment of life and having fun where as a restrained society uses
stringent rules and regulations in keeping the outburst of natural human tendencies in control.

A critical analysis of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions reveals that Hofstede’s theory has been
successful in establishing important cultural dimensions and investigating their influence on
different cultures (Wu, 2006, p. 33). But today, the business, communication and cultural context
had changed a lot due to changes in political, social and economic climates. Thus there is a need
to evaluate and update Hofstede’s theory so that its relevancy to the changed situations can be

Page 5 of 9
kept intact (Hofstede and Pedersen et al., 2002). This is because changes in power distance have
caused changes in leadership styles. Moreover, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity and
femininity factors in many countries have changed drastically thereby causing alternations in all
the other related cultural and communicational factors. For example, nowadays work related
cultural values of United States and Taiwan has changed drastically there making Hofstede’s
theory irrelevant under current situations (Kang and Mastin, 2008, pp. 54--56).

According to Edward T. Hall, 1976, a culture can be described in terms of high context to low
context communication. The characteristics of high context communication are less explicit
communication, high internal communication, more communicational interactions, long term
relationships, strong communicational boundaries, high level of interpersonal relationships and
situational and relational knowledge. On the other hand the features of low context
communication are explicit mode of communication, codified knowledge and information,
segregation of time, space and relationships, short interpersonal communication and task
oriented decisions (Limaye and Victor, 1991, pp. 277--299).

Critical analysis of Hall’s theory unleashes the fact that Halls had been able to primary idea
regarding cross-cultural communication thereby enabling a comparatively deep understanding of
cultures (Goldkuhl, 1998). Furthermore, Halls theory contributed a lot in understanding
communication as a part of culture by providing a clear idea about time, place, body language
and way of speaking. However, Hall’s theory is not deprived of any drawbacks. Hall assumed
that human beings act in a particular way and variations are within the boundaries of that
particular way (Gupta and Ferguson, 1992, pp. 6--23). But circumstances may lead to breakage
of this boundary and lead human beings to act in a different way. Moreover, Hall said that
human beings are driven by certain evolutionary factors and this an universal truth. But evolution
and biological inclination can itself lead to changes in the universal truth depicted by Hall (Maes
and Weldy et al., 1997, pp. 67--80).

Page 6 of 9
In the article, the author has found out significant issues relating to cross cultural communication
and cross cultural business execution. The author realised their seriousness and tried to explain
these issues with the help of knowledge gathered by studying International Communication – a
Disclosure Approach by Scollon and Scollon and through experience gathered from a teachers
training session. It is not at all a surprise that the parameters depicted by the author that governs
cross cultural communication and business such as location, time, expectation, participants,
message form, communication code, eye contact, small talk, silence, team building and
interruption can be synchronised very well into the frameworks formulated by almost all of the
famous cross cultural business communication theorists. This is because of the fact that the basic
framework of communication and as well as the factors responsible for successful cross cultural
communication are very simple and the same all around the world and it is this basics of
communication that needs to be focussed upon to cope up with cross cultural communication
related problems (Clyne, 1994). However, it has to be kept in mind that the communicational
theories are age old theories and today’s changed business environment demands revaluation and
up gradation of these theories so that their relevancy and significance can be kept intact (Cheney,
2001, pp. 90--104).

Page 7 of 9
 Cheney, R. (2001). Intercultural Business Communication, International Students, and
Experiential Learning.. Business Communication Quarterly, 64 (4), pp. 90--104.

 Clyne, M. (1994). Inter-cultural communication at work. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

 Goldkuhl, G. (1998). The six phases of business processes--business communication and

the exchange of value.

 Gupta, A. and Ferguson, J. (1992). Beyond “culture”: Space, identity, and the politics of
difference. Cultural anthropology, 7 (1), pp. 6--23.

 Hofstede, G., Pedersen, P. and Hofstede, G. (2002). Exploring culture. Yarmouth, Me.:
Intercultural Press.

 Idrus, F. (2007). Incorporating inter-cultural awareness in the teaching of business

communication: The IIUM experience. Faculty of Communication and Modern
Languages, Universiti Utara Malaysia.

 Kang, D. and Mastin, T. (2008). How cultural difference affects international tourism
public relations websites: A comparative analysis using Hofstede's cultural dimensions.
Public Relations Review, 34 (1), pp. 54--56.

 Limaye, M. and Victor, D. (1991). Cross-cultural business communication research: State

of the art and hypotheses for the 1990s. Journal of Business Communication, 28 (3), pp.

 Maes, J., Weldy, T. and Icenogle, M. (1997). A managerial perspective: Oral

communication competency is most important for business students in the workplace.
Journal of Business Communication, 34 pp. 67--80.

 Neale, M. (1995). Business Week's guide to cross-cultural negotiating. New York:

Page 8 of 9

 Pheng, L. and Yuquan, S. (2002). An exploratory study of Hofstede’s cross-cultural

dimensions in construction projects. Management Decision, 40 (1), pp. 7--16.

 Rogers, E. and Shoemaker, F. (1971). Communication of Innovations; A Cross-Cultural

Approach.. ERIC.

 Thomas, D. and Inkson, K. (2004). Cultural intelligence. San Francisco, Calif.: Berrett-

 Wu, M. (2006). Hofstede's cultural dimensions 30 years later: a study of Taiwan and the
United States. Intercultural communication studies, 15 (1), p. 33.

 Yoon, Y. and Yang, K. (2012). An Inter-Cultural Communication Approach to Teaching

Business Korean: A Case Study of a Mock Negotiation between Korean and American
College Students. Global Business Languages, 17 (1), p. 10.

Page 9 of 9