Culture and Communication

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Culture and communication play an important role in our life, especially in International business. Due to the globalisation is developing rapidly worldwide, doing business effectively is the best way to ensure the economic’s growth as well as to gain more reputation for the organisation or a country. However, International business is a complicated issue that includes many different categories. Typically well-known issues are about culture and communication, which closely get along and have a huge impact on International Business. Culture and communication are familiar topics and has been discussed for a long time. Thus, this paper would provide some specific views of the relationship between culture, communication and international business. In addition, it might indicate the way they work effectively and suggest some good advices for the organisation to plan some suitable strategies in which supposed to have the best international business outcomes.

The first aspect that strongly influence on international business is culture. Culture is a difficult phenomenon to define as there are various definitions from studies. Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1985) state that 164 definitions of culture were found. From a social view, culture can be seen as a combined set of values, beliefs, and attitudes that are shared by the people in an initial society (Muzychenko, 2008, 369). In other words, Hofstede (1991) observed culture as the collective mind program, which each individual is different from another. In recent years, the world’s economy has developed dramatically. Hence, the firm’s international business should be emphasized to keep pace with the rapid growth. Expanding the scope of the company’s activities is the best contribution in development and earning profit. In the globalisation period, culture not only represents the features of that country, but also reflect the level of development in that country. Culture is an integral part of each country and has a strong influence on people’s activities. However, the cultural distance is hard to target. For instance, the culture in Western is absolutely different from the Eastern due to the location, traditional custom, climate and ancestors. Culture has been lasting for a long time and it is a representative of the people who live in that place. Likewise, it is extremely hard to change and there is no reason that everywhere need to have a similar culture. Thus, it would take a long time to adapt to a new culture. Moreover, another considerable thing in this case is the cross-cultural competence. Cross-cultural competence can be understood as an effective cross-cultural interaction. It supports people to learn both knowledge and skills by reducing misunderstandings and inappropriate behaviours. It can be either an opportunity or a challenge for the enterprise (Muzychenko, 2008). According to Johnson et al.(2006), it appears commonly in international business, workplace diversity and intercultural communication. Acknowledging the benefits of cross-cultural competence, many researchers developed a model that empowers the role of cross-cultural competence and apply it into reality more effectively. Depend on the user and their purposes, the model would have different approaches, but related to ‘effective cross-cultural interaction’ to improve international business more effectively.

Another factor which plays a vital role in doing business is the communication between parties. There are various aspects in this category, but it can be divided into two major issues which are language (verbal) and nonverbal communication barriers. As its direct influence on the way people work and people’s behavior, it is absolutely necessary to identify the causes and consequences of these issues. Moreover, having a deep acknowledge and analyse the problems will not only find out the best solution, but also improve the international business more effectively.

In language filed, according to Hansen (1967) ‘All languages fulfil the same functions: firstly, they serve human communication and secondly, they ensure a reference to reality’ and Deetz (1973) ‘Languages is the vehicle of meaning’, the role of language is indicated importantly in our life. It is obvious that different languages would cause a lot of problems. Although English is considered as an international language, not many people can be fluent and it would lead to the misunderstanding which might cause some serious problems. The misunderstanding between people or organisations through language is the common thing in doing business. The differences between language and the method of communicating is the main reason that makes the misunderstanding between parties occurs. Specifically, Charles (2006) had done the research about the Lingua Franca in business. This research had done by some multinational companies in Scandinavia, which find out the number of people work with shared languages. The result shows that the people who use English as the second language is much higher than the native speakers (estimated to be 90%). Thus, on one hand, it will affect directly the perception of people. With the people is not good at English, they will be responsible by improving English to cope with their work’s demand. It is a good idea to increase people’s self-esteem. On the other hand, it will cause some problems like pronunciation, spelling or grammar… which may influence their work negatively (Charles, 2006, 262-264).

Maude (2011) points out that nonverbal communication is essential and compulsory in international business. It is because verbal communication is often in a wrong and ineffective way. The differences between cultures or languages also contribute to the misleading. Otherwise, when using individually, it would be unreliable and misunderstood. On the contrary, nonverbal communication is quite hard to control and therefore, it often expresses the feelings and attitudes and react to the situation more accurately and reliably (Maude, 2011, 84). For example, in some international workplace like multinational companies or international corporations, the employer and staff might come from different countries or race. In some cases, if the verbal communication is used alone, it is easy to be misunderstood or even lead to less cooperative and commitments. Since applying nonverbal communication, the employer and employees would understand each other more clearly. Hence, the employment relationship has improved significantly and more positive outcomes will be produced (about 70%) (Noller, 1984 in Maude, 2011, 86-87).

Otherwise, the relationship between culture and communication still an interesting topic for the academic studies to do their research. Therefore, many assumptions and definitions appeared to provide a comprehensive view and support people’s knowledge on this topic, which is more abstract than the above categories. As Condon and Yousef (1975) state that ‘We cannot separate culture from communication, for as soon as we start to talk about one we are almost inevitably talking about the other too’, it is definitely that culture and communication have a strong correlation, which is very useful in society and globalisation. Indeed, the culture-communication relationship can be understood as the process that was determined internally and developed based on exchanging the mutual and related symbols (Chen and Starosta, 1998). There are many ways to demonstrate the culture-communication correlation such as: talking and listening, writing and reading, performing and witnessing. In other words, it can be defined as the process which doing something involves “messages” in every case (Craig, in Leonard et al., 2009). Indeed, some further researches indicate that culture has an influence on the way of people’s communication. Sanchez-Burks et al. (2003) recognized that Chinese people who live in America for a long time still maintain the way of communicating (verbal and nonverbal communication) like the East Asian, which is strongly different from the native American. They also have their own hobbies, daily routine, technology acceptances and individual preferences, which is more similar to their ancestors (Leonard et al., 2009, 866-869). In general, maintaining the ancestor’s culture is not a terrible thing, but sometimes, it might cause problems, especially living in a different culture. Therefore, having a balance between new and old cultures in the communication style would be the best way to meet the goals positively.

Image 1: The culture-language model

(Crozet & Liddicoat, 1999)

Generally, this paper has argued the relationship between culture, communication and international business as well as provide an overview about the benefits and limitations when doing international business. International business is necessary for the company to not only target more goals, but also integrate into the globalized world. Thus, in order to have better international business outcomes, we need to take seriously in culture and communication – the two most important factors in doing business. In cultural aspect, because the culture is variable and it depends on both internal and external factors, it is hard to know every culture clearly and steadily. Therefore, it is highly recommended that preparing vital skills and knowledge carefully is the best way to prevent the culture shock and adapt to the new environment faster. Many ways can support people to get knowledge about new cultures such as: Internet, books, brochures… or either ask the people already have some experiences about the place that you intend to come. The experiences from the people who used to live there would be the most valuable preparation. Otherwise, After knowing the culture, the communication style should also be considered carefully as it will be shown to society directly by our actions. When doing business overseas, the first meeting always plays an important role to decide whether you will be successful or not. Consequently, the more you prepare, the better result you get.


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