Chapter 4 Intercultural Communication

In: Business and Management

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Practising intercultural communication
In this chapter we show that when practising intercultural communication to achieve our goals as students and as professionals we must consider a range of perspectives. We need to be sensitive to possible effects on communication of differences between cultures, explained by researchers as relating to: high-context and low-context cultures; power distance, individualism–collectivism and masculinity–femininity; and non-verbal cues such as tone of voice, appearance and use of space. Since culture can be defined to include attitudes, expectations, family roles, history, language, non-verbal communication, socialisation, traditions and world view, intercultural communication has a very broad meaning. To practise intercultural communication effectively requires us to be adequately informed about how to use verbal and non-verbal signals and to be open to checking our understanding with others in intercultural, and indeed any, communication contexts.

Introduction to intercultural communication
Here is a straightforward, everyday conversation between Hong Kong businessman Mr Lau, and his Australian counterpart Mr Clarke.

Mr Clarke: G’day mate. I’m Robert Clarke. My friends call me Bob. Here’s my card.
Mr Lau: Hello, Mr Clarke. I am William Lau. Very glad to meet you. How was your trip? (exchanges business cards)
Mr Clarke: Call me Bob. Good, thanks. (reading card: ‘Lau Wing-Leung’) Oh, it’s Wing-Leung! Nice to meet you. I’ll call you tomorrow, Wing-Leung, OK?
Mr Lau (smiling): Yes, I will expect your call. (both men depart) (Adapted from Scollon and Scollon 2001)
Meetings like this take place every day all over the world in offices, airports, restaurants and the street. But this ordinary exchange between members of different cultures has unforeseen problems that create tension and uneasiness, ultimately leading to…...

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