Understanding Professional Yet Multicultural Standards of Communication

Alexa Dysch- ENG, PWR ’15

business-culture1As we discussed on Monday, there are a number of cross-cultural factors to consider within visual rhetoric. This same theory can apply to professional communication, written or oral. Within modern business practices, all the more consideration must be lent towards cultural differences within communication. Assumptions about specific cultures, without extensive research and practice, can lead to discrimination and ineffective communication.

Standards across business cultures can differ greatly based upon the organizational members. Their particular backgrounds, ideologies and characteristics could be somewhat shaped by their surroundings, and likewise influential upon the organizational culture. Being aware of the key factors, especially those directly involved in business practices or communication, is of the utmost importance.bodylanguage

For starters, specific linguistic communication between cultures can vary extensively. Based on the roots and culture of their language, Americans and Germans tend to speak with a more open mouth, and a subsequent louder voice and prominent body language. By contrast, French and Japanese are detailed, selective conversationalists whose language lends to a more closed lip approach. Practicing certain gestures in the presence of another could subsequently come off as offensive or inconsiderate.

GlobalBusiness4Additionally, approaches to communication differ immensely between Eastern and Western cultures. Typically, Eastern business practices emphasize collaboration and relationship building, while Western approaches focus on individuality and goal setting. Each culture, and subcultures within those regions, should have a firm grasp of other practices in order to achieve the most effective and professional communication.

Even something as simple as the time of day, is an important factor to consider when doing business across the globe. For example, one of the considered factors regarding the shortened lunch break of French people had to do with their business communications. CNN reported about French professionals who would take a shorter lunch break, typically at their desk, in part because their American counterparts were often working and communicating at this time. Timeliness, while fundamentally important for American and German workplace settings, is much more lax for South American and African contexts.

Since it can be difficult to be prepared for any cultural audience that could come your way, whether in an internship or client project, try out this tactic. Close observation of the collaborative party can lend knowledge about their professional communication standards. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

This entry was posted in Outside the Classroom, Student Perspective. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    So SO true! In professional settings in Costa Rica, it is very common to give people a kiss on the cheek instead of a shake of the hand. This took some getting used to while working with Ticos and Ticas during my internship, but eventually I grew accustomed to it.

  2. Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I love the last line of your article. I think that listening and observation skills are invaluable for multicultural interaction in the professional world. Although English and American cultures are tightly knit, I experienced a linguistic faux pas when I was studying abroad in Oxford several years ago. Let’s just say, I learned that the word “pants” has more than one meaning in English. This caused an awkward class discussion and my professor was perplexed with me. If I had listened more closely and anticipated lingual and cultural differences, I would have been better equipped to avoid a gaffe like that in an academic setting. This certainly applies professionally as well.