We all communicate with others all the time in our homes, workplaces, groups, and in the community. No matter how well we think we understand each other, communication is really hard.
Cross-cultural communication is a field of study that looks at how people from differing cultural backgrounds communicate, in similar and different ways among themselves, and how they endeavour to communicate across cultures.
Understanding Cultural Diversity
Different cultural contexts brings new communication challenges to the workplace. Even when employees located in different locations or offices speak the same language there are some cultural differences.
In such cases, an effective communication strategy begins with the understanding that the sender of the message and the receiver of the message are from different cultures and backgrounds.
Funda mental Patterns of Cultural Differencesâ€¦
Different Communication Styles
The way people communicate varies widely between, and even within, cultures. One aspect of communication style is usage of the language. Across cultures, some words and phrases are used in various different ways.
Another major aspect of communication style is the degree of importance given to non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication includes not only facial e
xpressions and gestures but it also involves seating arrangements, personal distance, and sense of time.
Different Attitudes Towards Conflict
Some cultures view conflict as a positive thing, while others view it as something to be avoided. In fact, face-to-face meetings are recommended as the way to work through whatever problems exist.
Different Approaches of Completing Tasks
From culture to culture, there are different ways that people move toward completing different tasks. Some reasons include different access to resources, different judgments of the rewards associated with task completion, different notions of time, and varied ideas about how relationship-building and task-oriented work should go together.
Different Decision-Making Styles
The roles individuals play in decision-making vary widely from culture to culture. Be aware that individuals’ expectations about their own roles in shaping a decision may be influenced by their cultural frame of reference.
Different Attitudes Toward Disclosure
In some cultures, it is not appropriate to be frank about emotions, about the reasons behind a conflict or a misunderstanding, or about personal information. Keeping this in mind when we are in a dialogue or when we are working with others. When we are dealing with a conflict, be mindful that people may differ in what they feel comfortable revealing. Questions that may seem natural to us may seem intrusive to others. The variation among cultures in attitudes toward disclosure is also something to consider before we conclude that we have an accurate reading of the views, experiences, and goals of the people with whom we are working.
Different Approaches to Knowing
Notable differences occur among cultural groups when it comes to the ways people come to know things. Recent popular works demonstrate that our own society is paying more attention to previously overlooked ways of knowing. Indeed, these different approaches to knowing could affect ways of analyzing a community problem or finding ways to resolve it.
The world is a colorful landscape of different languages, skin colors, and different cultures. It’s important to develop an appreciation for different cultures in order to become a well-rounded person who is sensitive to the unique qualities of others. One way to develop this appreciation is to try to learn about other cultures around the world.
As I work for a multinational IT company and have been transferred to Japan for five years on a project. I would find several ways to become knowledgeable about the culture of Japan. One way is to read books written by authors from a particular culture. Reading works by authors who have a close relationship with a particular culture allows people to gain an authentic glimpse into the food, music, language, religion, and way of a life of a particular group of people. Another way to learn about different cultures is to try to learn a foreign language (Japanese).
Knowing these key Japanese customs, I’ll get closer to the locals and see beneath the surface of Japan.
1. Addressing Someone, Respect
Bowing is nothing less than an art form in Japan, respect pounded into children’s heads from the moment they enter school. For tourists like me a simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist will usually suffice.
The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person I am addressing. For example, for a friend might get a lightning fast 30 degree bow, an office superior might get a slow, extended, 70 degree bow. It’s all about position and circumstance.
2. Table Manners
– If I am in a dinner party and receive drinks, I must wait before raising the glass to my lips. Everyone will be served, and someone will take the lead, make a speech, raise his drink, and yell “kampai!” (cheers).
– If I ever receive a small wet cloth at Japanese restaurants. Then I must use this to wash my hands before eating, then I must carefully fold it and set it aside on the table.( Do not use it as a napkin, or to touch any part of your face).
– Slurping noodles or making loud noises while eating is OK! It shows that a person is enjoying the food..
– Raise bowls to mouth to make it easier to eat with chopsticks, especially bowls of rice.
– Just before digging in, whether it be a seven-course dinner or a sample at a supermarket, it’s polite to say “itadakimasu” (I will receive).
3. No Tipping
There is no tipping in any situation in Japan – cabs, restaurants, personal care. To tip someone is actually a little insulting; the services you’ve asked for are covered by the price given, so why pay more?
Depending on the restaurant you decide upon for any evening, chopsticks are required.
If for some reason one is not too adept with chopsticks, try to learn before passing through immigration. It’s really not that hard.
Take off shoes at the entrance to all homes, and most businesses and hotels. Usually a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby; many Japanese bring a pair of indoor slippers just in case, though.
Sterilized masks, like the ones we have see in the emergency room, are commonly used by salarymen, office ladies, and municipal workers to protect other people from their germs.
Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no: don’t blow nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on cell phone in crowded public areas like trains or buses.
The main problem with this is that foreigners simply can’t avoid standing out; we stick out like sore thumbs no matter how long we’ve been here, or how much we know about Japanese culture and society.
Public bathhouses are alive and well in Japan. Unlike in western cultures, the Japanese bath is used after you have washed and rinsed, and feel like soaking in extra-hot water for 10, 20, 30 minutes. It’s an acquired taste to be sure, but can be very relaxing. The honor is given of using the bath first, usually before dinner. One must be extra careful so as to not dirty the water in any way; the sanctity of the ofuro (bath) is of utmost importance.
9. Speaking English
Japanese will generally assume you are a native English speaker until you prove otherwise. –
Although one may speak some or fluent Japanese, the default language of choice is English. Many Japanese will insist on using their own English language ability, however limited, to converse with foreigners, in spite of the fact that the person on the opposing end may have more knowledge of the local tongue.
Every Japanese person I have met warns me to be safe in my travels, to take care of my belongings. Every foreigner tells me not to worry, nothing can go wrong, nothing will be stolen.
However, Japan’s low crime rate is evident when I saw businessmen who have missed the last train sleeping outside on a park bench, or a group of 5-year-old boys walking by themselves for over a kilometer to make the starting bell at school.
International Business Dress and Appearance One must dress to impress.
International Business Dress and Appearance For men, they must wear dark conservative attire.
International Business Dress and Appearance Casual dress is never appropriate in a business setting.
International Business Dress and Appearance Shoes should be easy to remove, as you will do so often.
International Business Dress and Appearance Avoid using large hand gestures, unusual facial expressions and any
International Business Dress and Appearance Avoid the “OK” sign; in Japan it means money.
International Business Dress and Appearance Pointing in not acceptable.
International Business Dress and Appearance Do no blow your nose in public
International Business Dress and Appearance Personal space is valued
A smile can have double meaning. It can express either joy or displeasure
Use caution with your facial expressions. They can be easily misunderstood.
International Business Dress and Appearance The Japanese are not uncomfortable with silence.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Drinking is an important part of Japanese culture. It is a way to relieve business stress.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Never pour a drink yourself, allow someone else to do it.
Most business entertaining is done in restaurants or bars after business hours.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Let the host order the meal and pay.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Japanese rarely entertain in the home. If one is invited to the home of Japanese host, consider it a great honor and display a tremendous amount of appreciation.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif If you are invited to a social event, It is the custom to be “fashionably late.”
If you do take your host out insist upon paying. The Japanese will refuse but insist.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif It is perfectly acceptable to slurp your noodles. Doing so will exhibit enjoyment of food. To do otherwise, indicates that your meal was not a pleasant one.
Do not openly display money
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Number 14 is bad luck, because in Japanese it sounds like the word ‘shuh-shuh’, which sounds like the word for death.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Gift giving is very important both business and personal gifts..
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Always wrap gifts. The selection of the wrapping paper is also critical.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Give the gift with both hands and accept gifts with hands.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Do not give gifts in odd number or the number four.
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/images/international-business-etiquette.gif Gifts should be given at the end of a visit.
It is highly inappropriate to touch someone of the opposite sex in public.
THERE ARE 10 STRATEGIES THAT HELPS IN MAKING CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATIONAL EFFECTIVEâ€¦â€¦.
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