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.

WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING?

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 www.absolutely-intercultural.com 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…

Those of us who work in the field of cross-cultural relations and intercultural communication have witnessed too often the negative impact of an overseas assignment on family life. Now, a recent international survey provides evidence that a lack of spouse or partner employment opportunities adversely affects global mobility of highly skilled international employees, adding weight to the argument that more consideration should be given to these employees’ family concerns.

Undoubetedly, the spouses and partners of internationally assigned staff tend to be highly educated, with diverse professional backgrounds and nationalities. However, as part of a foreign assignment, they soon become a much under-utilised talent pool.

One employer cautions: “In my experience most employers prefer to ignore spousal employment issues. However, from my personal observation how well a spouse settles is key in determining how an employee will perform. If spousal employment is important to that couple, then companies ignore it at their peril.”

The study suggests that there appears to be a clear link between working and positive feelings about a foreign assignment:

  • Spouses who are working are more likely to report a positive impact on adjustment to the location than spouses who not working.
  • Spouses who are working are more likely to report a positive impact on family relationships than spouses who not working
  • Spouses who are working are more likely to report a positive impact on their willingness to complete the current assignment than spouses who are not working.
  • Spouses who are working are more likely to report a positive impact on their willingness to go on a new assignment than those who are not working.

Importantly, spouses who are working are more likely to report a positive impact on their health or well-being than spouses who are not working. One unfortunate respondent explained:

“The implications of not working on my health (especially mental health) are so vast that I will never consider relocating to such a country. I was unemployed for 1 year when I came here… and that was the most miserable year in my entire life. I will not repeat that, and my husband stands by my decision.”

The report concludes that a few focused and simple improvements on the part of employers and governments can make a triple win for families, employers and the countries in which they work. It seems, therefore, that supporting partner employment is part of supporting your own staff.

Footnote: The survey examined the views of 3300 expatriate spouses and partners of 122 nationalities, currently accompanying international employees working in 117 host countries for over 200 employers in both the private and public sector. It was undertaken by the Permits Foundation, based in The Hague and was sponsored by the Industrial Relations Counselors (IRC). Conducted during late 2008, it was published early 2009.

Just to add emphasis that India really is one of the BRIC counties, Forbes, the prestigeous business publication, is now launching in India having teamed up with Network18, a leading Indian media group. Forbes India is the first Indian edition of any foreign news or business publication and is set to become the most influential business brand. So much so that it is expected to redefine in India how wealth creation will be understood, how business leaders will choose to lead, and even how business will be done. As someone working in INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION and INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS PRACTICES, I would certainly be interested in reading it!
In the inaugural issue, Forbes India features Lakshmi Mittal, the man who changed the face of the steel industry, and became the fourth richest man in the world. But now, for the first time in three decades, he faces his sternest test. The global slowdown has made his company post quarterly losses for the first time ever last year, and then another negative balance sheet in the next quarter. He’s not alone; the steel industry worldwide is going through a crisis. Everyone is looking to Mittal to show the way out.  The inaugural issue of Forbes India gives the most comprehensive look yet at this driven, determined man.

To further leverage its brand, a new half-hour weekly program entitled the Forbes India show will be aired on TV.  This will discuss opinions on issues and policies that impact the economy, and will also broadcast a wide array of business content ranging from leadership, economy and finance to international business and entrepreneurship.