Communicating Across Cultures

Category: Education

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By: sunliangxu (131 month(s) ago)

can you send a copy ppt to my email? [email protected]

By: sunliangxu (131 month(s) ago)

this is very good for learning foreign culture.

By: (131 month(s) ago)

It's great, Rajiv. I like the flow and content of this slides. Could you send it to [email protected] ? Thanks.

By: madhuri193 (132 month(s) ago)

hey such a nice ppt. will u plz send it on [email protected]

By: Palls (132 month(s) ago)

Hi Rajiv, the presentation is very good and simple to follow. I would appreciate if you send it to my email id - [email protected] Thanks a ton!!!

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Communicating Across Cultures A Presentation by Rajiv Bajaj

Need for Cross-Cultural Awareness:

Need for Cross-Cultural Awareness Business has become more global. Communicating across cultures effectively improves productivity and promotes harmonious work environments. It involves understanding cultural differences and overcoming language problems.

Problems of Cultural Differences:

Problems of Cultural Differences Two qualifying statements begin this study of culture: 1. It is improperly blamed for some miscommunication. It is often confused with the other human elements involved. 2. It is easy to over-generalise cultural practices.

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Defining Culture Culture is the shared ways in which groups of people understand and interpret or view the world. The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.

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Two major types of cultural differences affect communication – 1. Differences in body positions & movements; and 2. Differences in views & practices concerning various factors of human relationships (Time, Space, Intimacy etc)

Body Positions & Movements:

Body Positions & Movements Body positions and movements differ among cultures. E.g. Sit Vs. Squat. Manners of walking also differ. Communication with body parts – hands, arms, head etc – varies by culture. Hand gestures differ by culture. E.g. The V-Sign has different meanings in different cultures.

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Thumbs-up sign too has different meanings in different cultures. Eye movements too differ by culture. For example, in America, eye contact is considered important. In Indonesia, eye contact with elders or those in high positions is considered disrespectful.

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Touching & handshaking are important to understand in cross-cultural communication. Some cultures do not like much touching. Their handshake may be perceived as weak. Other cultures, that like touching, have greetings ranging from embraces to kisses to nose-rubbing.

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In some cultures, a smile is considered as a sign of weakness, particularly while negotiating. Receiving a gift or touching with the left hand is considered a serious breach of etiquette in some cultures.

Factors of Human Relationship:

Factors of Human Relationship Differing attitudes toward various factors of human relationship cause communication problems. Let us look at some major factors.


Time Views about time differ widely. Some cultures stress punctuality, others do not. Westerners tend to be monochronic. They like to stick to schedules and plan them meticulously. Asians tend to be polychronic, viewing time in a more relaxed way. They are unhurried, particularly in negotiation.


Space Space is viewed differently by different cultures. In some cultures, people want to be far apart – e.g. North Americans prefer at least two-feet distance while talking to someone. In other cultures they prefer to be close – e.g. Arab & Latin-American. Not doing so is considered impolite and a breach of etiquette.


Frankness Some cultures are more frank and explicit as compared to others. Westerners tend to be more frank and get to the point quickly, sometimes appearing blunt. Asians are not so frank or explicit, and may appear to be evasive, roundabout and indecisive to Westerners.

Intimacy of Relationship:

Intimacy of Relationship Intimacy among people varies in different cultures. How people view superior-subordinate relations also differs. So does the role of women. In some cultures women are viewed as equals. In others, they are not.


Values Values concerning such matters like attitude toward work, employee-employer relations and authority differ culturally. E.g. Americans expect to change several jobs in their career. For Japanese, employment tends to be for a lifetime.

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Westerners respect authority, but at the same time maintain the rights of an individual. In many third-world countries, workers accept a subservient role passively.

Expression of Emotions:

Expression of Emotions Social behaviour varies by culture, such as practices concerning affection, laughter and emotion. Some cultures frown upon public displays of affection. They consider them crude and offensive. Westerners, on the other hand, accept moderate display of affection.

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Also included is the degree of animation displayed. Even laughter or the expression of sorrow differs by culture. Many more such practices exist. Some cultures combine business with pleasure, some do not. We must recognise such differences, look for them and understand them.

Effects on Business Communication :

Effects on Business Communication Cultural differences affect communication. Communication techniques are not universally acceptable. People in Asian cultures prefer an indirect approach, Westerners prefer to be direct. One must modify one’s communications to fit the culture of the recipient.

Lack of Language Equivalency:

Lack of Language Equivalency Communication problems are caused by the existence of many languages. Differences among languages make equivalent transactions difficult. E.g., in the West, a florist denotes someone selling flowers and related items in a store. In India, a florist could be a street vendor.

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“Supermarket” has no equivalent in some languages. French language has no words to distinguish “home” from “house”; “mind” and “brain”; “man” and “gentleman”. Russians have no words for “efficiency”, “challenge” and “having fun”.

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Grammar differences in languages also add to the difficulty. So do multiple meanings of many words. Certain commonly used expressions don’t mean what their dictionary and grammatical structures say they mean. E.g.- “Business couldn’t be better”.

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Even words with same meanings can differ by usage in culture. Overcome such language problems by knowing languages well and by questioning. Use back translating for important communications !

Difficulties in using English:

Difficulties in using English English is the primary language of International Business, but many non-natives have problems using the language. Two-word verbs are especially hard for non-natives to understand. E.g. Give away, give up, cash in, clean out, blow up, cut back, break off, calm down, pass over, bring about etc.

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Use two-word verbs sparingly. Find substitutes wherever possible. Culturally derived words, e.g. slang, cause problems. Avoid slang. Words derived from sports, social activities etc cause problems. E.g. kickoff, touch base, below the belt, knockout, ballpark figure, get the ball rolling.

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Colloquialisms – expressions developed within cultures - also cause problems. E.g. Head for home, tearjerker, make heads or tail of, a fish out of water, shoot from the hip, priming the pump etc. We use such words in everyday communication. However, they should be avoided in cross-cultural communication.

General Suggestions :

General Suggestions Use simple, basic English. Word questions carefully to elicit the response intended. Continually check the accuracy of the communication. Continually checking for meaning and using written summaries can help ensure the accuracy of the communication process.

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Cultural Diversity at the Workplace

What Is Diversity?:

What Is Diversity? Diversity is defined as a difference or variety Without differences or variety among people in the world, the ability to grow and learn would be limited

Diversity at the Workplace:

Diversity at the Workplace Refers to differences we recognize in ourselves and others, such as: Gender, Culture, Race, Ethnicity, Age, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Family Structures, Physical and Mental Disabilities or Challenges.

Importance of Diversity:

Importance of Diversity It is necessary to: 1. Understand & embrace diversity, and also that each person’s contributions to the organisation are important for its growth; 2. Recognise & celebrate differences which exist in different cultures; and 3. Realise value of all people and what worthy contributions can be brought into the workplace.

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Investing in diversity creates a pool of talent - It can provide you with a competitive edge in your industry. People with different experiences & backgrounds are innovative. Creative ideas are a distinct result.

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People with varying life experiences and perspectives can come up with unique solutions to problems - Which may not arise from groups who think similarly. This is of great value to an organization.

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Business on the international level will present different philosophies and approaches. A diverse workforce reaches out better on a global level due to a better understanding of how other cultures do business. This is a vital component when doing business in today's global marketplace.

Adapting to Diversity:

Adapting to Diversity Creating Awareness Must start from the top. Management should acknowledge unique differences of the individuals working with them. Others will follow them by example. Differences will be appreciated rather than being scorned.

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Avoid Being Judgemental Cultures are deeply ingrained. Visible behaviour and words are only a small part of a person’s culture. Cultural and personal value systems dictate a person’s behaviour. Showing respect for it without being judgemental creates mutual trust.

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Communicate Effectively Following skills should be developed: Effective Listening Checking your Perceptions Gathering Information Avoiding Judgmental Reactions Cultivating Self-Awareness Communicating to Others Acceptance of differences

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Thank You. Questions ?