Acknowledge from the outset that if you go abroad World_Hello_Day
there is a chance (or risk) that you might never return. If you eventually do go home you might experience that life has changed and it may never be like it was before.

I think the experience of working overseas allows you to see your own culture more clearly and put it into a larger context. It gets you away from local, immediate points of reference into more universal ones. You might be in the midst of explaining something about your home culture and all of a sudden it might strike you as a very odd custom because you are seeing it for the first time through the lens of your host culture. It affects who you are as a person, not just what you do!

Life may well feel more vivid, as if the sense of being alive is intensified. This is perhaps because you are having to pay attention to a lot of things you would normally take for granted in your home culture.

“Living life in technicolour, vividly ” is exactly why I love working cross-culturally. And I encourage people to be more open to that vividness, rather than just training them on “skills”.

Be mindful of the other culture; do not to go to the other country with any beliefs of superiority or inferiority. Be willing to learn. Suspend judgment. Instead of reacting negatively, ask WHY they are doing things that way?

The most important thing is to keep an open mind. This may sound banal, but it is not. When we keep an open mind, we also concomitantly accept that we are guests, and must do our best to identify, understand and, if possible, respect alternative, perhaps very different patterns of thinking and doing. Keeping an open mind does not mean we must tacitly accept all that we perceive. It does mean that we broaden our scope, that we learn about others (and ourselves), and, in some cases, adopt new behaviour patterns. When we keep an open mind, we let go to the power of inquiry, and we learn. Knowledge gained as such is unique, and, in the long run, extremely valuable.

Be ready to find out who you are, culturally, and to begin to understand where you are from. This is the first step to understanding where you are. 
This may sound trite, however living in a different cultural milieu brings out certain culturally influenced attitudes and behaviours that we don’t notice when we are “at home” because they fit into a norm.

Keep an open mind and develop a multi-perspective ability this will allow for the development of the necessary vision to develop your career and add value to any organisation. The experience of another culture is a boon for the international manager that adds immense value to the career and growth of the person so get ready to take their sight to the next level which can only happen with an open mind.

I would say foremost: develop and be mindful of the need to take in multiple perspectives before making decisions , making assumptions or taking actions in a multicultural environment.

Check out Edgar Schein’s definition of culture because it makes it clear that groups develop culture over a long period of time and that this is what helps them survive. Read more here.

For me, the most important part of any intercultural encounter is to go into it realising that a person’s or group’s culture meets certain needs for them (possibly consciously but in any case subconsciously) and therefore makes sense to them. “They” do things the way “they” do them because it works for “them”. If you want to get along with people from different cultures, you must work on that assumption and negotiate what might work for the two (or more) of you rather than imposing your ideas of what works. The disadvantages–lack of trust, de-motivation, and the absence of commitment–of not basing your actions on that assumption are otherwise too great.

In short :

  • Be enthusiastic, open and aware.
  • Do not assume anything and approach the new culture with respect; always to “ASK” if you don’t understand.
  • Keep a sense of humour and let down your guard go at times!
  • Be curious. Show you are really interested in finding out and understanding more about the other country/culture.
  • Expect the unexpected, and expect that the reasons behind the unexpected are different from any expectations you have ever had!

Watch this video to help you decode the mysteries of the complicated Indian head nods and bobs.

dice“A lot of people might find it strange,” says Paul Mathew. “But if you are born in India, as you grow up, it becomes a part of your character, your personality, that as you talk you tend to move your head in different ways.” Mathew, originally from south India but now working in the film industry in Mumbai, is the writer and director of Indian Headshakes – What Do They Mean? which has garnered more than a million views on YouTube since it was uploaded last week.

“If we had known that this video was going to get such awesome viewership we would have shot it better,” he says. Read more on the links… and in our latest book, The Diversity Dashboard here.

Today, three years have passed since the death of Edward T. Hall, an American anthologist and cultural researcher.

His work on nonverbal communication was groundbreaking at the time but today is accepted as normal in the world of anthropology. His legacy as an anthropologist is immense – however, his legacy to the ‘new comers’ – the interculturalists – is inspirational. Much of the work we do in the field of intercultural studies, cross-cultural communication and cultural diversity has its base firmly planted in the foundations of the understanding and insights he laid down.

Many congratulations to my Colleague from the Transcultural Business Group who has successfully accomplished climbing the seven peaks of the world. Ania Lichota, who was born in Poland, has just reached the summit of Mount Everest and sent intercultural greetings from the roof top of the world. See more spectacular photos…

In seven day’s time it will be “The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development” – giving us all an opportunity to link with others from different cultures and nations and learn something knew about them. Take the opportunity to link with someone across the other side of the world and ask them about their lives or work. Find similarities, find differences, but above all find a sense of community in this beautiful world of ours.


Here’s our chance to improve our cross-cultural understanding and become amateur interculturalists or anthropologists. Whether at home or work – why not find out about how other people do things, or how they think and feel about things?

UNESCO’s Diversity Day is an opportunity to help our communities to understand the value of cultural diversity and learn how to live together in harmony – one of the most pressing contemporary issues that we face as the human race.  The Day is intended to provide individuals and groups worldwide with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the values of Cultural Diversity and to learn to “live together” better, enhancing the potential of culture as a means of achieving prosperity, sustainable development and global peaceful coexistence.

Far from separating us, cultural diversity is a collective strength, which should benefit the entire world. In this sense, it should be recognized and affirmed as a ‘Common Heritage’ of Humanity.” UNESCO

Click here for the official website.

Why is it that serious attempts at sharing knowledge acrosscross-culture
cultures frequently end in frustration, disappointment and a sense of aggrievement on all sides?

The problem is that people from different cultures have fundamentally different beliefs about the proper roles of bosses and subordinates, teachers and students, and even about the nature of knowledge itself.

absolutely-interculturalI recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ann Fox of Absolutely Intercultural! And, being two interculturalists, we had LOTS to talk about. In this first part podcast Ann is asking me about intercultural communication and my speciality – how to shape your message when presenting to an international audience. Click on the link to find out more: how to present to international audiences.

Talking to Ann Fox about her award winning audio blog site was extremely interesting. Check out the site and see what a range of people and topics ther are on offer.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do!  “japan

That’s the way we say it in English. Originally from Chinese, this Japanese saying means: “In a village do as the village does.”  That’s my best advice for a successful foreign trip. Here are other tips on intercultural communication, cross-cultural differences and how to get the best out of your foreign visit.

  1. Remember -there is no right, no wrong – just different. Sometimes different can mean better!
  2. Try and learn a few words and phrases of the language, before you go.  Knowing common greetings is always a sign of courtesy.
  3. Be observant. Watch how others behave and adapt your style accordingly.
  4. Not all countries use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ the way we do in the English language. Saying thank you to a close friend can be a bit insulting in some cultures – indicating that you are not close at all. Not sure? Then ask.
  5. Learn something about the culture of the country you are visiting.  That will help you to ‘acclimatise’ more easily.
  6. Research the dress code of the county, especially when visiting the Middle East. Women should be modestly dressed in most cultures other than the ‘West’. Asians are more formal than Americans, but Japan is more formal than other Asian countries. Saudi Arabia is extremely strict on women’s clothing – you must wear a long black robe and have your face and head covered by av eil.
  7. Do be sensible if you are travelling between very different climates. The round trip from London to Dubai, via a few days in Helsinki, can play havoc with your health.
  8. Learn how you should address people before you go. Africans are very conscious of people’s status. You might want to treat everyone as an equal, but they might expect some respect from you (especially government officials).  Also, others may be humbled in your presence.
  9. Gift giving is notoriously difficult to judge; best phone the embassy at home to be sure or consult your own diplomats when abroad.
  10. Find out what the local speciality dishes are and decide whether you will try them – go on – have a go! We tried “Ants in the tree” when we were in Malawi: delicious! And, No! It wasn’t ants.
  11. An inquiring mind, patience, and the genuine wish to learn from other cultures will provide you with insights about yourself and everyone around.
  12. Finally, travel with a sense of wonder, enthusiasm and excitement and this will provide you with the attitude to enjoy your experiences.

The Finnish-British Chamber of Commerce organised a lecture together with the traditional Shrove Tuesday Lunch at Garbo’s Restaurant with over 30 participants.  Dr. Deborah Swallow,deb a cross culture specialist from 4C International Limited, gave us a presentation on how to present internationally.

According to Deborah Swallow presenting to international audiences has its own tricks. One should always keep in mind the expectations of the audience. Cultural differences in the audience affect greatly how people react to the presentation and whether or not the message of the presentation is received.

According to Dr. Swallow adapting your way of presenting according to the audience is the key in communicating the message properly. Understanding the differences is important because we need to meet the expectations of our listeners. Whether we want to sell a product or a service or introduce a change in working practices, we need to create rapport with our target audience.

The history of every culture shapes the way of communication for example; many of us can for example recognize the basic difference between the Finns and the Brits. Finns as Members of Nordic countries are concentrated on fact-based propositions while a British audience is instead eager to hear the benefits offered to them. In Nordic countries the communication is very informal when in the UK the titles are very important. A Finnish audience is also much quieter compared to a British one.

An audience is rarely an example of the two extremes, but rather somewhere between them. But one should be aware of whether your audience comes from an individualist or collectivist background, whether they think conceptually or associatively, and whether their language is expressed by doing, thinking or being.

According to Dr. Swallow Finnish people are seen to rely rather on logic with their attitudes and thinking than with emotional appeals. One should still keep in mind that emotions are an important part of communication in many cultures. For instance with Latinos you’ll have to win the hearts of the listeners instead appealing to their logic. Americans love giving powerful and emotional presentations. They aim to tell stories that appeal to the listener’s emotions. “Tell a story to your audience because it will last more than facts”- they believe.

Dr. Swallow also gave us few good tips of the usage of humour in international presentations. In the USA it is common to start a business presentation with a joke and it is a good way to break the ice. The French enjoy playing with language and admire those who can make linguistic jokes in French. In Britain humour is often used to connect with the listener and to create a rapport or to soften a conflict or a crisis. In contradiction, Germans dislike humour in serious business contexts and in Japan humour might be seen as a lack of respect for the situation.

However, Dr. Swallow advised us Finns to appeal to the minds and hearts of our international audiences and to keep in mind that being different does not mean being better or worse!

Finn-British Chamber of Commerce (published March 2009)

multicultural globe

When working internationally, there are certain principles that are good to remember when things just don’t seem to be going right. The principle one is:

Don’t take things personally! This comes from personal experience…