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Knowing and understanding the culture of the one or more with whom you're communicating is the least one can do to be prepared to communicate on any level. From the most informal conversation to the most intricate business proposition or diplomatic negotiation, communication involves finding common ground and understanding. How can that happen without knowing or learning the culture of the parties involved.
It can affect it greatly, since all communication has been developed over time, in both written, spoken and non-verbal forms, through the cultures that use them. I'll give you one specific example I heard from a friend of mine who does international presentations in the business world.
This was in Argentina, and he was speaking to a group of about 100 businessmen and college students in a large meeting room. My friend is fluent in Spanish, but of course, is not Argentinian. He had broken them into groups and given them a task to share and complete, and he was doing like any good teacher would, and monitoring their progress from the front of the room. To one of the groups in the back, he asked if they were doing OK, but since they could not hear him over the noise in the room, he gave them the
"OK" sign with an inquisitive look. Well, that means something other than OK in most of Latin America. It's more or less the equivalent of the middle finger in the United States. So yes, cultural context and communication can be intimately related.
I think it is very important that before you launch a project that provides intercultural issues, should perform a minimal research on the cultural component, to guarantee minimum communication channels. Some examples will help you understand:
1. Several years ago I intend to develop a project with a Chinese partner. Being around Christmas, I sent an email to wish him all the best and Merry Christmas. He answered me politely thanking me but quietly drawing my attention that he, like other many Chinese people, not belong to any religion, and celebrate only the Chinese New Year.
2. At another international project bilaterally, I visited my Turkish partner. In the European spirit I had, bad inspiration, to address cheerful but respectfully to my partner wife. From that moment something has strained the communication between us. Being a religious man, he warned me that in Muslim countries the wife can not be directly approached by foreign men, but only through her husband. I apologized, explaining my intent and everything returned to normal.
3. In a visit in Italy, during another project, my Italian partner wait me and my wife at the airport. At the hotel i hand over our passports, to register as at the reception. Whole visit has something tense in communication. Only in the last days, my Italian partner, a perfect family man, dared to open the discussion by asking me if in my country there is no problems if I married with my sister. Answering him, that my wife is not my sister he ask me why we have the same name. In Italy the wife don't change her name after the marriage, keeping the original name. I explain him that in Romania after marriage the wife take husband name.
4. In Russia married women caring her ring on the right hand. In Romania the wife caring the wedding ring on the left hand. Both country are majority orthodox.
I think that was enough to see the importance of multicultural issues in project communication. The multicultural approaches are also involved in national projects when we have multicultural resources (foreign employees or foreign outsourcing).
In today’s business world the world is a global market and communication occurs among different cultural groups. Professionals must have an understanding of cultural communication in order to be able to wheel and deal effectively in the market. Cultural differences among different societies are known as high and low context. Author Edward Hall first used the phrase to discuss cultural understanding and communication.
Hall’s ideas indicate that human beings react to sensory cues in conversation without even being aware of them. When it comes to communicating with someone from a different culture one must learn to be aware of the communication cues that one is giving off as well as observing. Cultures have filters and in cultures that have low context communication the words have more literal meaning while cultures with high context communication may take words and determine their meaning by using the events surroundings them such as how the word is used in context.
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