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across cultural boundaries, in a way that preserves mutual respect and minimises antagonism. For these purposes, culture is a shared system of symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and norms of behaviour. People from different cultures encode and decode messages differently, increasing the chances of misunderstanding, so the safety-first consequence of recognizing cultural differences should be to assume that everyone's thoughts and actions are not just like ours. Such assumptions stem from potentially devastating ignorance and can lead to much frustration for members of both cultures. Why is it so required Intercultural communication is of importance to international businesses as it examines how people from different cultures, beliefs and religions come together to work and communicate with each other. Demands for intercultural communication skills are increasing as more and more businesses go global or international. They realize that there are barriers and limitations when entering a foreign territory. Without the help of intercultural communication they can unknowingly cause confusion and misunderstandings. For these intercultural businesses to breach the cultural barriers encountered when stepping into foreign grounds it is vital for them to fully understand the cultural differences that exist so as to prevent damaging business relations due to intercultural communication gaps. There are many theories that set principles to help interpret the basis of intercultural communication. These theories help to iron out possible ripples of misunderstanding by giving a basic guideline on how to address situations. These guidelines help prevent clashes between different cultures groups caused by misperceptions. The basic skills of intercultural communication are fundamentally general communication skills that can be used universally by all cultures and races. These skills are simply tweaked in a direction that takes the cultural limitation into consideration. An example of such communication skills in the intercultural environment is to listen without judging, repeat what you understand, confirm meanings, give suggestions and acknowledge a mutual understanding. In a nutshell the main purpose of following such theories is to earn respect from others. Respect in all cultures in the world is a common language and by earning it through respecting other peoples culture and religion; the favor is returned. Communication and Culture: All social units develop a culture. Even in two-person relationships, a culture develops over time. In friendship and romantic relationships, for example, partners develop their own history, shared experiences, language patterns, rituals, habits, and customs that give
all cultures share certain common functions. transmitting. First. 2 . This is true with any culture. Examples might include special dates. that culture is created. but rather that cultures are a natural by-product of social interaction. All institutions within society facilitate communication. and learned through communication. (2) providing the basis for a common identity. and sometimes large. communication is the means of human interaction through which cultural characteristics. and (3) creating a context for interaction and negotiation among members. duplicating. it would be impossible to preserve and pass along cultural characteristics from one place and time to another. songs. they also extend and amplify culture-building activities. customs. computers. or have been. Because media extend human capacities for creating. newspapers. cultures are the "residue" of social communication. spread. By means of such communication technology. As individuals start to engage in communication with the other members of this new group. ways as they become a part of it. communication media such as television. laws. or events that come to have a unique and important symbolic meaning for two individuals. radio. In a reciprocal fashion. and culture shapes communication. a set of distinguishing history. If the group continues to interact.whether customs. shaped. New members would in turn influence the group culture in small. when a three-person group first meets.that relationship a special character-a character that differentiates it in various ways from other relationships. organization. or other patterns-are created and shared. that is. it is necessary to think in terms of ongoing communication processes rather than a single communication event. Some of these cultural characteristics would be quite obvious and tangible. To understand the implications of this communication-culture relationship. or society-develops a culture over time. The reverse is also the case. transmitted. roles. film. communication shapes culture. and rituals will evolve. Thus. While the defining characteristics-or combination of characteristics-of each culture are unique. or societies. and evolution of culture. However. such that a new person joining the group would encounter ongoing cultural "rules" to which they would learn to conform through communication. cultures are created through communication. this reshaped culture shapes the communication practices of current and future group members. rituals. For example. communication practices are largely created. compact discs. places. Three such functions that are particularly important from a communication perspective are (1) linking individuals to one another. It is not so much that individuals set out to create a culture when they interact in relationships. and in that way. One can say. patterns. they all contribute to the creation. the members bring with them individual thought and behavioral patterns from previous communication experiences and from other cultures of which they are. and the Internet play a particularly important role. shaped. In a sense. therefore. any social unit-whether a relationship. Without communication and communication media. they begin to create a set of shared experiences and ways of talking about them. a part. magazines. that is. and storing messages. group. groups. The relationship between communication and culture is a very complex and intimate one. and transmitted by culture. rules. organizations.
When language skills are unequal. choosing words that will convey only the most specific denotative meaning. an intercultural researcher or trainer working and/or living in Kuwait is able to make a few accurate. Generalizations are different from and far more reliable than stereotypes. pinpoint commonalities and draw certain conclusions based on these. that if you have a good network of contacts this should be used. listen carefully and. and compact discs are created through human activity-and therefore reflect and further extend the cultural perspectives of their creators. 2. What intercultural training does is observe a people. For example. video games. In all important exchanges. but at the same time. It is also prudent to set a clear agenda so that everyone understands the nature and purpose of the interaction. 3. and that decision making can be a long slow process that ultimately always rests at the top of an organisation. respect the local communication formalities and styles. avoid using slang and idioms. This is done through "generalizations" not stereotypes. if in doubt. If it is not possible to learn the other's language. films.messages are transmitted across time and space. They may therefore be able to make the generalizations that one should be aware of gender roles. Cross cultural understanding simply refers to the basic ability of people within business to recognise. Improving Intercultural Communication It is essential that people research the cultures and communication conventions of those whom they propose to meet. websites. and later retrieved and used. and watch for any changes in body language. Television programs. incidences or situations that are open to misunderstanding due to cultural differences. clarifying one's meaning in five ways will improve communication: 1. that to do business building a personal relationship is crucial. recognise that accenting and intonation can cause meaning to vary significantly. They come to take on a life of their own. 3 . general statements about the Kuwaitis. interpret and correctly react to people. stored. and 4. ask for confirmation of understanding (particularly important if local accents and pronunciation are a problem). The fundamental intention of cross cultural training is to equip the learner(s) with the appropriate skills to attain cross cultural understanding. a translator can convey the message. This will minimise the risk of making the elementary mistakes. it is expedient to show some respect by learning a few words. quite distinct and separate from their creators. Intercultural training must therefore provide people with some sort of standard against which they can make reference. as they are transmitted and shared around the increasingly global community.
" said 21-year-old student Maryam al-Sayrafi. where contestants are kept under lock and key inside the same house until public voting leaves a winner. Targeting an audience comprising of mainly Muslims. Perhaps just as unsurprising was the decision to cancel the show after its second showing following intense media criticism accompanied by protests on the streets of Bahrain. justice. why do the English queue for everything? This relates to their approach to fairness. Many cross cultural experts focus on the application of cross cultural communication to business and related areas such as negotiation. "It is normal for males and females to mix. order and rights. In addition a prayer area. in Bahrain. advertising and marketing. Al-Ra'is (the Boss). In early 2004. The television show 'Big Brother'. in this case a TV show. music and TV are also areas where cross cultural awareness becomes relevant. but not to put them together in the same house for a long time. Many other cultures simply do not queue in this manner as it is not part of their cultural programming. Turkey and Australia. 4 . Others promote the idea that cross cultural awareness is necessary in most aspects of 21st century life due to the international nature of the world today. CASE-STUDY The breadth and scope of cross cultural understanding applies to many fields in the business and personal spheres. A recent example of poor cross cultural sensitivity occurred with the launching of a new TV show in the Middle East. The failure of Al-Ra'is points to two things: 1) the adverse consequences of a failure to incorporate cross cultural analysis into a business strategy. Therefore art. and 2) the importance of cross cultural understanding in transferring ideas and concepts across cultures. the Arab TV channel MBC surprisingly decided to produce their own version. who summed up most Muslims' feelings on the show. An understanding that the format and logistics of the show demanded some cross cultural modifications became manifest as the producers decided to segregate the sleeping quarters of the male and female contestants. It has gone on to see spin off versions in countries such as Russia.So for example. The rationale behind the queue is that those that get there first should by rights be served first or get on the bus first. The close quarter interaction between men and women was culturally unacceptable to the majority of viewers. One can only wonder how the MBC producers failed to see the cross cultural implications of Al-Ra'is. Al-Ra'is failed to read the cross cultural signs. was first launched in the UK on Channel 4 in 2001. women's lounge and mixed-sex communal area were introduced to better accommodate Islamic principles.
Secondly. Some cultures prefer a structured. Directors. Others expect speakers to remain calm and would find such behaviour over the top. it minimises the possibility of misunderstandings and/or the causing of offense through intercultural mishaps. whereas in the UK this would mean a million million. consultants and business personnel are regularly required to deliver presentations. when one is asked to give a presentation to an audience from a different culture there are intercultural factors that can hinder the success of a presentation. these tips to effective cross cultural presentations are offered: Language: The language you use in a cross cultural presentation is important. it is a means to maximising the potential of business relationships through the utilization of intercultural differences productively. Do your cross cultural homework before a presentation. Intercultural awareness is necessary for two reasons. when an American talks of a 'billion' he means a thousand million. More subtly. managers. timetabled approach to conducting business affairs. understanding and coping with intercultural differences between people is critical to ensuring that interpersonal communication is successful.The international flavour of many people's jobs naturally means that there is greater interaction between people from different cultures. In 5 . One area within the business environment in which intercultural awareness is a necessity is in the business presentation. However. Eye contact can also be a major intercultural difference. Body Language: Pay attention to your body language in a cross cultural presentation. Within the business environment. idioms or phrases. a speaker must be careful when it comes to slang. Similarly pay attention to the use of gestures. Firstly. The thumbs up may mean 'good' in the USA but it means something very different in Iran. others find it overbearing and an invasion of privacy. Some cultures consider strong eye contact a sign of sincerity. others are more casual. Some cultures are quite animated and will appreciate hand gestures and the expression of emotion through the body. If an Englishman were to talk of being "knocked for six" or "bowled over" he may very well be met with puzzled expressions. Although the majority of the language that is used in a cross cultural presentation will be understood by an English speaking foreign audience. salespeople. Try and keep language simple. By way of illustrating some of the intercultural differences in presentations. Time: Be aware of different approaches to time across cultures.
expect some negative feedback. One should always try and tailor their presentation style to meet the needs of the target culture.countries where a start time is considered a guide rather than a definite. Emotions: Some cross cultural presentations may be in front of a small number of people and deal with sensitive issues in a pressured environment. some cultures. A presenter needs to ask whether the target culture will appreciate factual. To do so will lead to a loss of credibility. In such a presentation the speaker should gradually lead the audience. like the US. Never lose patience.e. statistical information presented visually. prefer information to be presented in detail and in a way that sets down foundations that act as the support to a final argument or point. to a conclusion. Long term orientated cultures may be excited about future projections and figures. allow time for networking or engage in some chit chat until others arrive. If this happens bear in mind the positive intentions behind such actions. whether it be an Over Head Projector or blackboard. In such intercultural situations one should always keep their emotions in check. using a logical succession of points. Some cultures. but others would rather learn more about the presenter's credentials. Always show the appropriate stiffness or flexibility depending on the culture. Some cultures do not even like a visual element to presentations and find much more worth in words and personality. Oppositely. Style of Presentation: Different cultures learn and take in information in varying ways. show frustration or display anger. Content In a cross cultural presentation. not to undermine you. Some countries many not even have the technical capabilities to accommodate this so one would need to adapt to the resources at hand. accomplishments and experience. meaning the presenter speaks from a point rather towards a point. Use of Technology: Power Point is not the default method of giving a presentation across the world. In some cultures a certain amount of cross examination or scrutiny may occur. the questions are only being posed to establish facts. ensure you tailor the content of a presentation to the audience. Audience Participation: 6 . Different cultures expect different things from a business presentation. such as Europeans. or a more personal oratory approach. On the other hand. if you arrive late to a meeting in a punctual culture. i. prefer a much faster paced presentation that is bottom-line orientated.
To the Japanese (who use high context language) it is considered rude and a sign of ignorance or desperation to lower oneself to make direct 7 . norms and values can. To illustrate this we have provided a few examples of cross cultural blunders that could have been avoided with appropriate cross cultural awareness training: * An American oil rig supervisor in Indonesia shouted at an employee to take a boat to shore. The ad was a poor choice since animals are considered to be a form of low life and no self respecting Thai would wear anything worn by animals. non-verbal communication. and later embarrassed when she learned that fresca is slang for "lesbian." * When President George Bush went to Japan with Lee Iacocca and other American business magnates." They found out that the local natives chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth which they find attractive. * A company advertised eyeglasses in Thailand by featuring a variety of cute animals wearing glasses. Cross cultural differences in matters such as language. trade and internal company organisation. A Japanese audience may close their eyes while listening. Results of Poor Cross Cultural Awareness Having a poor understanding of the influence of cross cultural differences in areas such as management.Audiences react in different ways across cultures. they violated Japanese etiquette. PR. Audiences also show respect in many ways. and directly made explicit and direct demands on Japanese leaders. Since it is no-one berates an Indonesian in public. It is crucial for today's business personnel to understand the impact of cross cultural differences on business. * Pepsodent tried to sell its toothpaste in Southeast Asia by emphasizing that it "whitens your teeth. The need for greater cross cultural awareness is heightened in our global economies. offence and a break down in communication can occur. a US one may clap when a good point is made and a Saudi one may do nothing at all. advertising and negotiations can eventually lead to blunders that can have damaging consequences. Some are very engaging and are willing to participate in exercises and Q&A sessions. The success or failure of a company. * The soft drink Fresca was being promoted by a saleswoman in Mexico. others are the opposite. etiquette. merger or acquisition is essentially in the hands of people. a mob of outraged workers chased the supervisor with axes. venture. If these people are not cross culturally aware then misunderstandings. She was surprised that her sales pitch was greeted with laughter. do and will lead to cross cultural blunders.
" * American medical containers were distributed in Great Britain and caused quite a stir. while the same phrase in Great Britain means to "bring it to the table for discussion. In the U. had very strong sexual connotations to the British. some serious others comical." In conclusion." In addition to interpersonal cross cultural gaffes." * When Pepsico advertised Pepsi in Taiwan with the ad "Come Alive With Pepsi" they had no idea that it would be translated into Chinese as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.S. Another label was printed in ten languages. achieving mutual success with an overseas partner involves a lot more than a few quick meetings and a signature on the dotted line. The Arabs interpreted this as pro-Israeli and refused to buy it. * U. one of which was Hebrew--again the Arabs did not buy it.S. Cross-cultural awareness It may be konnichiwa in Japan. Some analysts believe it severely damaged the negotiations and confirmed to the Japanese that Americans are barbarians. "Tabling a motion" means to not discuss it. The instructions to "Take off top and push in bottom. 8 . poor cross cultural awareness has many consequences. brochures.saying hello is easy -. * In Italy. Many people are familiar with business in the West.demands. the translation of documents. where there is little time for establishing relationships and getting straight down to business is not considered rude. But in other parts of the world.but understanding cultural nuances for international business is far more challenging. advertisements and signs also offers us some comical cross cultural blunders: * Kellogg had to rename its Bran Buds cereal in Sweden when it discovered that the name roughly translated to "burned farmer. * A soft drink was introduced into Arab countries with an attractive label that had stars on it--six-pointed stars. It is imperative that in the global economy cross cultural awareness is seen a necessary investment to avoid such blunders as we have seen above. a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into "Schweppes Toilet Water. Guten Tag in Germany and Merhaba in Turkey -. and British negotiators found themselves at a standstill when the American company proposed that they "table" particular key points." innocuous to Americans.
Mediterranean. "It is important to build a relationship not only with the director or the manager or the head of the team but all those involved. furthest away from the door. avoiding jargon and writing everything down can also help out in a meeting. 9 . Asian and South American cultures is that many executives like to do business with people they know. in terms of rank."You could say that business is business in the West.then greeting the rest of the team in descending order.” For instance the consensual nature of Japanese society means that decision-making in a meeting can involve many members of a negotiating team." explains Payne. and business is personal everywhere else.due to a respect for hierarchy -. handed over as an afterthought. handing out business cards with both hands in a respectful manner will also be noticed. Speaking clearly and slowly. One should greet the most senior person first -. One common trait in Middle Eastern. trust and feel comfortable with. In North Asia. whereas in Asia they are tokens of value and esteem. One way of recognizing how the hierarchy works in a Tokyo boardroom is that the head of the team may normally sit in the middle of the table. For many in the West they are just bits of card.
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