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Cross-cultural communication describes the
ability to successfully form, foster, and
improve relationships with members of a
culture different from one's own

It is based on knowledge of many factors,
such as the other culture's values,
perceptions, manners, social structure, and
decision-making practices, and an
understanding of how members of the group
communicate--verbally, non-verbally, in
person, in writing, and in various business
and social contexts

The fate of the Titanic, whose crew failed to
appreciate the true size of the unseen part of
the iceberg, adds another dimension in
illustrating to people within intercultural
training what can happen when this is

The Iceberg Model:
The iceberg graphically demonstrates the idea
of having both a visible and invisible structure.
The iceberg above has the visible tip. These
are the areas of culture that we can see
manifest in the physical sense

Visible" elements include things such as
music, dress, dance, architecture, language,
food, gestures, greetings, behaviours,
devotional practices, art and more.

It can also relate to behaviours such as seeing
people ignoring red traffic lights, spitting on
the floor, smoking in public or queuing for a

None of the visible elements make real sense
without understanding the drivers behind
These are hidden on the bottom side of the
iceberg, the invisible side.
It is these invisible elements that are the
underlying causes of what manifest on the
visible side

For example, why do the English queue for
This relates to their approach to fairness,
justice, order and rights

The rationale behind the queue is that those
that get there first should by rights be served
first or get on the bus first.
Many other cultures simply do not queue in
this manner as it is not part of their cultural


The culture of the organization can be tiered into 3
levels based on their visibility and how closely they
are adhered to in the organization.
1. The first level is Artifacts and Behaviors.
Artifacts and behavior are the most visible
components of organizational culture.
2. They include the physical layout of the workplace
and observable behavior of its employees

2. Values
Values are less visible than behavior but they
can be seen as they influence observable
behavior of the individuals working in the
3.The top tier of organizational culture may be
seen at the level of Assumptions and Beliefs.

They cannot be actually seen, but they are so
well ingrained in the employees that they
come out quite naturally because that is the
way the organization thinks.
These are the strongest held components of
culture as they are not influenced, but are
evolved and affect behaviors and values of
employees of an organization.


1. Culture Is An Adaptive Mechanism

The first humans evolved in tropical and subtropical regions of
Africa about 2.5 million years ago.
Man has successfully occupied all of the major geographic
regions of the world, but the bodies have remained
essentially those of warm climate animals.
What made it possible for our ancestors to begin living in
temperate and ultimately subarctic regions of the northern
hemisphere after half a million years ago was the invention of
efficient hunting skills, fire use, and, ultimately, clothing,
warm housing, agriculture, and commerce.

2. People Shape the Culture.
Personalities and experiences of employees
create the culture of an organization.
For example, if most of the people in an
organization are very outgoing, the culture is
likely to be open and sociable.

3. Culture is learned
The new cultural skills and knowledge are
added onto what was learned in previous
As a result, culture is cumulative.

Due to this cumulative effect, most high
school students today are now familiar with
mathematical insights and solutions that
ancient Greeks such as Archimedes and
Pythagoras struggled their lives to discover.

4. Cultures Change

All cultural knowledge does not perpetually
At the same time that new cultural traits are
added, some old ones are lost because they
are no longer useful.
For example, most city dwellers today do not
have or need the skills required for survival in
a wilderness.

5. Culture is Negotiated.
One person cannot create a culture alone.
Employees must try to change the direction,
the work environment, the way work is
performed, or the manner in which decisions
are made within the general norms of the

Culture change is a process of give and take by
all members of an organization.
Formalizing strategic direction, systems
development, and establishing measurements
must be owned by the group responsible for
Otherwise, employees will not own them.

6. Culture is Difficult to Change.
It is often difficult for people to unlearn their
old way of doing things, and to start
performing the new behaviors consistently.
Persistence, discipline, employee
involvement, kindness and understanding,
organization development work, and training
can assist you to change a culture.

Change can occur as a result of both invention
within a society as well as the diffusion of
cultural traits from one society to another.
The various aspects of a culture are closely
interwoven into a complex pattern.

Changing one trait will have an impact on
other traits because they are functionally
For example, many men resisted the increase
in economic and political opportunities for
women over the last century because of the
far ranging consequences.

7. We Do Not Know All of Our Own Culture
No one knows everything about his or her
own culture.
knowledge that is limited largely to particular
social classes, occupations, religious groups,
or other special purpose associations.

8. Culture Gives Us a Range of Permissible
Behavior Patterns

These rules of permissible behavior are usually
flexible to a degree.
For instance, the easy friendliness and casual,
somewhat revealing dress of young North
American women in the summertime is
sometimes interpreted by traditional Latin
American and Middle Eastern men as a sexual
9. Culture No Longer Exist in Isolation
It is highly unlikely that there are any societies
still existing in total isolation from the outside
Even small, out of the way tribal societies are
now being integrated to some extent into the
global economy.
They are developing a growing knowledge of
other cultures through schools, radios, and
even televisions and the Internet.

8. People Usually are not Aware of Their
The way that we interact and do things in our
everyday lives seems "natural" to us.
We are unaware of our culture because we
are so close to it and know it so well.
For most people, it is as if their learned
behavior was biologically inherited.

9. Culture may be strong or weak.
When your work culture is strong, most
people in the group agree on the culture.
When your work culture is weak, people do
not agree on the culture.

10. Ideally, organizational culture supports a
positive, productive, environment.
Happy employees are not necessarily
productive employees.
Productive employees are not necessarily
happy employees.

EPRG Model

The form and substance of a companys
response to global market opportunities
depend greatly on managements
assumptions or beliefs both conscious and
unconscious about the nature of the world.

The worldview of a companys personnel can
be described as ethnocentric, polycentric,
regiocentric and geocentric collectively known
as EPRG framework.

1. An ethnocentric company operates under
the assumption that tried and true
headquarters knowledge and organizational
capabilities can be applied in other parts of
the world.

The polycentric orientation is the opposite of
It is managements often unconscious belief
or assumption that each country in which a
company does business is unique.

This assumption lays the groundwork for each
subsidiary to develop its own unique business
and marketing strategies in order to succeed;
the term multinational company is often used
to describe such a structure.

In a company with a regiocentric orientation,
management views regions as unique and
seeks to develop an integrated regional
For example, A US company that focuses on
the countries included in the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the United
States, Canada and Mexico- has regiocentric

A company with a geocentric orientation
views the entire world as potential market and
strives to develop integrated world market

4. The geocentric orientation:
It represents a synthesis of ethnocentrism and
It is a worldview that sees similarities and
differences in markets and countries and
seeks to create a global strategy that is fully
responsive to local needs and wants.

Cultural competency is a term used to
describe the ability to work, communicate and
live across cultures and cultural boundaries.
One achieves this through an instilled
understanding of cultures on a general level as
well as an informed one about specific
cultures on a more detailed level.

In order for the native people and the
immigrant population to blend and create a
thriving and successful atmosphere both sides
need to develop some sort of intercultural
tolerance and understanding of the
differences that may exist between them.

Stereotypes are at their most basic level a set
of assumed characteristics about a certain
group of people whose actual beliefs, habits
and realities more often than not disagree
with the imposed assumptions.

Stereotypes are usually based on factors such
as exaggeration, distortion, ignorance, racism,
cultural factors or even historical experiences.

Stereotyping is therefore rightly seen as a
negative way of seeing people. This is even
true of what are called "positive stereotypes".
A positive stereotype is where we use a
blanket expression for a whole people, i.e. all
the Chinese are great at maths, all Germans
are well organised or all English people are
well mannered.
Although the intent behind the statement is
positive, it still does not reflect the truth.

Basic steps to cultural competence
1. Break Assumptions
Assumptions are beliefs rather than objective
truth and are usually influenced by a number
of subjective factors.
People need to assess their assumptions and
ask themselves why they hold those ideas or

2. Empathise
Through putting yourself in someone else's
shoes you come to see or appreciate their
point of view.
3. Involve
Involving others in your world and involving
yourself in other's empowers and educates.
Don't build walls between people but learn
from one another.

4. Avoid Herd Mentality
Herd mentality refers to a closed and one
dimensional approach.
Such a way of thinking curbs creativity, innovation
and advancement as people are restricted in how to
think, approach and engage with people or
Cultural competency can only develop if people are
encouraged to think as individuals, bring their
cultural influences to the table and share ideas that
may be outside the box.

5. Shun Insensitivity
People can and do behave in culturally
insensitive ways.
By attacking someone, you attack their culture
and therefore their dignity.
This can only be divisive.

6. Be Wise :
Cultural competency is essentially founded
upon wisdom, i.e. showing maturity of
thought and action in dealing with people.
Through thinking things out and have
background knowledge to intercultural
differences much of the communication
problems witnessed within business could be

7. Innovation and Risk Taking:
Risk and returns go hand in hand. Places
where you take a risk (calculated risk), the
chances of returns are higher.
Same goes for innovation. You could either be
a follower or a pioneer. Pioneering has its
share of risks, but at times it can also have a
breakthrough outcome for the organization.

8. Attention to Detail:
Attention to detail defines how much
importance a company allots to precision and
detail in the workplace.
This is also a universal value as the degree of
attention the employees are expected to give
is crucial to the success of any business.

9. Outcome Orientation:
Some organizations pay more attention to
results rather than processes.
It is really the business model of each
business that defines whether the focus
should be on the outcome or the processes.

10.People Orientation:
Some organizations are employee oriented as
they focus more on creating a better work
environment for its 'associates' to work in.
Others still are feudal in nature, treating
employees no better than work-machines.
11. Team Orientation:
It is a well established fact today that
synergistic teams help give better results as
compared to individual efforts.
Each organization makes its efforts to create
teams that will have complimentary skills and
will effectively work together.

Every organization also lays down the level of
aggressiveness with which their employees
Some businesses like Microsoft are known for
their aggression and market dominating

13. Stability:
While some organizations believe that
constant change and innovation is the key to
their growth, others are more focused on
making themselves and their operations

Culture Shock
International moving adds even more
pressure than a national or regional move.
Anyone who has lived or studied or even
traveled extensively in another country, has
tasted and lived through culture shock.

At the time it may feel more like
homesickness, but what most people who
haven't undergone any kind of pre-adaptation
program don't know is that there are several
stages one goes through when adjusting to a
new language and culture.

It is disorientation experienced when
suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or
way of life.
When you move to a new country, everything
is unfamiliar; weather, landscape, language,
food, dress, social roles, values, customs and
communication - basically, everything you're
used to is no longer.
Symptoms of Culture Shock
Signs and symptoms of culture shock are:
a feeling of sadness and loneliness,
an overconcern about your health,
headaches, pains, and allergies
insomnia or sleeping too much
feelings of anger, depression, vulnerability
idealizing your own culture
trying too hard to adapt by becoming obsessed with the new
the smallest problems seem overwhelming
feeling shy or insecure
become obsessed with cleanliness
overwhelming sense of homesickness
feeling lost or confused
questioning your decision to move to this place
Transition from the Re-integration Stage to the Autonomy Stage.

The Culture Shock Model
Step 1: The Honeymoon Stage
Like any new experience, there's a feeling of
euphoria when you first arrive to a new
country and you're in awe of the differences
you see and experience.
You feel excited, stimulated, enriched.

Step 2: The Distress Stage
Everything you're experiencing no longer feels
new; in fact, it's starting to feel like a thick wall
that's preventing you from experiencing
things. You feel confused, alone and realize
that the familiar support systems are not
easily accessible.

Step 3: Re-integration Stage
During this stage, you start refusing to accept
the differences you encounter. You're angry,
frustrated and even feel hostile to those
around you. You start to idealize life "back
home" and compare your current culture to
what is familiar

Step 4: Autonomy Stage
It is the emergence stage when you start to
rise above the clouds and finally begin to feel
like yourself again. You start to accept the
differences and feel like you can begin to live
with them.

Step 5: Independence Stage
You embrace the new culture and see
everything in a new, yet realistic light. You feel
comfortable, confident, able to make
decisions based on your own preferences.

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
Since it is no-one berates an Indonesian in
public, a mob of outraged workers chased the
supervisor with axes.

Pepsodent tried to sell its toothpaste in Southeast
Asia by emphasizing that it "whitens your teeth.
They found out that the local natives chew betel
nuts to blacken their teeth which they find
A company advertised eyeglasses in Thailand by
featuring a variety of cute animals wearing
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

The soft drink Fresca was being promoted by
a saleswoman in Mexico. She was surprised
that her sales pitch was greeted with laughter,
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, and directly made explicit and direct
demands on Japanese leaders, they violated
Japanese etiquette.
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 demands.
Some analysts believe it severely damaged the
negotiations and confirmed to the Japanese that
Americans are barbarians.

A soft drink was introduced into Arab
countries with an attractive label that had
stars on it--six-pointed stars.
The Arabs interpreted this as pro-Israeli and
refused to buy it.
Another label was printed in ten languages,
one of which was Hebrew--again the Arabs did
not buy it.

U.S. and British negotiators found themselves
at a standstill when the American company
proposed that they "table" particular key
In the U.S. "Tabling a motion" means to not
discuss it, while the same phrase in Great
Britain means to "bring it to the table for

Poor cross cultural awareness has many
consequences, some serious others comical. It
is imperative that in the global economy cross
cultural awareness is seen a necessary
investment to avoid such blunders