Cross-Cultural Relations Research Paper Starter

Cross-Cultural Relations

Above all else, cross-cultural relations foment understanding among varying groups and societies. As this paper will demonstrate, this comprehension can prove pivotal in the establishment of other forms of inter- and intrastate relationships, which can bring enormous benefits to both contributors.

Keywords Cold War; Cross-cultural; Engagement; Globalization; Intrastate

International Business: Cross-Cultural Relations


In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps, a program in which college graduates would be sent abroad to apply their professional skills in impoverished and undeveloped countries. The stated purpose of the Peace Corps was threefold. The first of these mission statements was to help countries develop their own workforces through training, infrastructure-building, and consultative services. The latter two focused on more intangible goals. One was the projection of American culture abroad so that the values and principles on which this country is based are truly understood by other nations. The other was that the other cultures can be better understood by American society (Peace Corps, 2007). Since that day, the Peace Corps has sent more than 200,000 American men and women to almost 140 countries around the globe, and is actively recruiting more at the invitation of newly established and stabilizing nations.

In a world comprised of a multitude of languages, religions, political ideologies, ethnicities and races, it is a critical necessity for nations to establish relations between one another in order to better understand each other. The exchange of ideas, knowledge, and value systems rest at the core of cross-cultural relations. Cultural relationships, however, are different in many ways from political and economic relations, but form the foundation of these two arenas.

Of course, cross-cultural relations are not entirely established on an interstate basis. After all, nations and states are developed from the beliefs that preceded them — the people that comprise the country. Many of these individuals and groups come from distinct cultures, the aggregate of which form the populace of that country. The histories and value systems that gave rise to these cultures permeate all levels of a country's society. Therefore, cross-cultural relations are often intrastate as well.

Above all else, cross-cultural relations foment understanding among varying groups and societies. As this paper will demonstrate, this comprehension can prove pivotal in the establishment of other forms of inter- and intrastate relationships, which can bring enormous benefits to both contributors.

The Culture

There is a common misconception that the term "cultural relations" refers to the interaction between two foreign countries. As suggested earlier in this paper, this view is not entirely accurate. While interstate relations do entail a bridging (or in some cases, a clash) of cultural gulfs, one does not necessarily need to move beyond borders in order to experience a cross-cultural situation.

The United States, for example, has sewn into the fabric of its society a myriad of subcultures. Many of them are carried over via immigration, others are based on religious tradition. While each of these subgroups of the American way of life are proud to be considered Americans, their cultural upbringing remains an important, if not unconscious and/or repressed, determinant of their beliefs, views, and actions.

In many ways, an individual's cultural heritage is a major contributor to the nation's identity. The Pilgrims, for example, sought freedom to express their religious heritage (which had both spiritual and mundane permutations), and sailed across the Atlantic. One of the most popular foods in Great Britain is of Indian origin, tracing its way back to the days of British rule in the subcontinent. In Japan, a country rich in its own historical development, one of the three forms of written language is not Japanese in origin, but Chinese. Meanwhile, in China, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of individual spoken dialects, each of which traces itself back to some cultural subgroup.

There are also countless indigenous cultural groups that, while often seen as a minority, play a significant role in a country's historical and modern society. In the United States, there are a multitude of Native American tribes. In Australia, the people to welcome the British Empire's exiled criminal element were the Aboriginal tribes. In South Africa, the indigenous people have long been the majority — millions of black South Africans, many of whom trace their lineage to Zulu and other indigenous tribes have, since the days of the British Empire's reign, lived under the rule of non-native, white-skinned Afrikaaners. As one observer puts it succinctly, "Without an indigenous modality we are in danger of losing a unified worldview of reality" (Marais, 2007).

While intrastate multiculturalism ideally works to the benefit of the state, it can also cause inadvertent tumult. There was a significant backlash against Irish immigrants in the US at the turn of the twentieth century, and throughout American history, African Americans have been treated with at best mixed levels of respect in integrated, white-dominated society. In twenty-first-century America, the rate of acceptance for various cultural groups has not completely changed.

The events of September 11, 2001, for example, represented a sea-change in the way Arab Americans were treated. The unexpected manner by which radical Islamic terrorists entered the country and surreptitiously enacted an elaborate scheme to kill thousands of Americans was only exacerbated in the public's eyes by the fact that they did so exploiting the country's stated heritage of serving as a "melting pot" of cultures. In the aftermath of that inhuman act, Americans began to show signs of distrust toward Arabs and Muslims (Mahajan, 2007).

This situation is not localized in the United States, either. As the European Union continues to gel, some questions have arisen regarding citizenship issues in an era in which state legitimacy is becoming somewhat clouded. The shroud of international terrorism in Europe, in light of this concern, adds intensified feelings of insecurity among residents and political leaders alike. Increased policing in areas particularly populated by those of Middle Eastern descent may be doing more to fan the flames of xenophobia than help it, as many in these areas of greater police scrutiny, according to one observer, "see themselves as mere objects or targets of propaganda. They do not feel like informed or active citizens. Muslim people especially feel the embrace of state authorities as menacing" (Hintjens, 2007).

Cultural relations, on both the intra- and interstate levels, have significant implications for society. Cultures, like the nations they comprise, are myriad in number and nature. As this paper will next illustrate, however, a greater understanding of culture can reap great rewards for all involved parties.

Laying the Groundwork for Political Accord

One cannot discount the significance of the Peace Corps, particularly when one considers the era in which it was introduced. After all, the late 1950s and early 1960s were years in which international mistrust abounded, with two dominant political forces (democracy and communism) building their assets in direct competition with each other. The development and strategic placement of nuclear weapons added fuel to the fire, as smaller, unaffiliated countries lived under an umbrella of fear of an impending third world war.

Then again, it was this ideological competition that gave rise to seemingly apolitical "missionary"-style cultural exchanges. Doctors, engineers, social workers, and others traveled to the developing world to help build roads, address public health issues, deliver food, reconstruct water supplies, train workers, and even foster political infrastructure-building. President Kennedy saw the Soviet Union implementing such philanthropic programs, and...

(The entire section is 3585 words.)