Cross Cultural Communication Essay Paper

Cross Cultural Communication
Cross Cultural Communication

 Cross Cultural Communication Essay


Cross Cultural Communication

Cross cultural communication, according to Clarke et al. (2001), implies the interaction between people of varied ethnic, cultural, gender, racial, religious and sexual orientation, age, and backgrounds of class. This communication entails a process of negotiating, mediating and exchanging the varied cultural differences between the persons involved through space relationships, verbal and non-verbal cues and language in general. The prerequisite to its success relies on the readiness and willingness of the people to stay open to an experience involving various cultures.

Before getting to really understand the essence of this theme, there is need to get a clear understanding of the two terms: culture and communication. Culture may be defined as the shared behaviours, values, attitudes and communication techniques that are passed within a community from one generation to the next (Thompson, 2011). It is a very complicated subject that encompasses a several aspects of day to day life from music, philosophy, art, customs amongst others. Communication, on the other hand implies a context-bound and goal-directed the exchange of ideas or meaning amongst a group or just two people: it occurs for a specified reason between people, in a certain environment and by a specified medium (Sandberg, 2005).

The context in which the communication between people takes place may imply the same culture or different cultures. In a work context, the talk on cross-culture usually involves cultural discussions with regards to such issues as the belief systems of a group, their values and day to day behaviour (Weber et al., 2011). For instance, in a case whereby a Japanese and an American are negotiating a business deal, it is very obvious that the negotiation is across different cultures, and as such, the communication is culture-bound. In communication, there is the expression of the uniqueness of the cultural heritage of a person: it not only includes non-verbal and verbal peculiarities, but also the context and medium of communication.

Such a communication is usually very challenging as one’s cultures provides one with varied ways of hearing, interpreting, thinking and seeing the world, and as such, the same word would inevitably imply very different meanings to people from varied cultures, even in a case where the language is the same. The problem even worsens where there is the use of different languages as translation is needed, which, more often than not, leads to a very tremendous misinterpretation, thus, misunderstanding.

As outlined by Stella Ting-Toomey, there are three main ways by which culture gets to interfere with the effective understanding in a cross-cultural context. She calls the very first one ‘cognitive constraints’, which are the settings for references or perceptions which provide a backdrop upon which all the new information is inserted or compared to. The second are the ‘behaviour constraints’, which she argues that is very distinct upon cultures as each has a set of rules governing a proper behaviour that impact both the verbal and non-verbal communication (Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication). Whether a person looks at the other right in the eye, hits the nail on the head or beats about the bush, hoe close people stand when conversing, the facial expressions, as well as the gestures-all are rules governing politeness, and are very varied across cultures. The third and the last of Toomey’s factor is the ‘emotional constraints’, whereby she asserts that the emotional display is very varied across cultures. In some cultures, in the discussion of an issue, there is usually too much emotions involved and people yell, cry, exhibit anger, frustration and fears openly, whereas the other tend to keep emotions hidden and only sharing the factual or rational aspect of the involved situation. All the factors tend to bring about communication problems, and in case the involved people are not really aware of the problems potentials, there is more likeliness of them falling victim to them (Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication).

With regards to this, let us view the following two scenarios to assist in the complete discerning of the cross-cultural communication and the possible remedies in curbing or complete avoidance of the problems.

Scene 1. A manager on assignment in Japan

Firstly, this case involved a culture-bound communication as the manager is not of Japan origin, and between people of different hierarchical levels, since the manager is on a higher rank than the team members. The problem that arises may be described by a number of models which have been put forward to the difference in the value systems in countries. There are five key dimensions that explains the national culture (De Mooij & Hostede, 2010).


According to Hofstede, this is the ‘power distance’, which explains the extent of acceptance of unequal power distribution by people within a given culture. On one side of the continuum are the cultures that have value for hierarchy, while at the other end are those that do not give too much attention to authority and can easily question it. The case above displays a culture that values hierarchy (Hofstede, 1996). Due to this, the team members are so glued to culture that they feel a very open brainstorming session like the case is not acceptable. The team members therefore feel it unethical to openly talk to a person in authority. Instead, they feel that the manager should just pass the laws, which they then follow.


This dimension describes the degree to which people value self-determination. In a culture characterized by individualism, a lot of value is placed in personal success and the need to only look after personal self (Sandberg, 2005). The other case is collectivism, whereby people tend to place group loyalty at the forefront as well as serving the group interest. This case is of individualistic society, whereby the team members believe in keeping to themselves and not exchanging ideas.

The use of language

This encompasses the use of vocabulary that at some point may lead to too much confusion. This comes in the form of pronunciation, use of idioms and slang (DuPraw & Axner, 2007). There is the possibility that the manager may have used some slang, which to the team members, according to their culture, was not acceptable. The choice of words may also be very critical in the language. In the case above, the manager may have started off in a very hit on the head approach, whereby he pinpointed out directly the mistakes and the weaknesses of the team members. This may have turned off the team members as they may have recognized this as being too rude.

Scene 2. The banning of the U.S. TV airing in China

Firstly, this case uses two dragons and a Fung Fu master as being annihilated, which is very ironical as they stand out as very significant figures in China. Obviously, the citizens of China were bound to perceive this as a mockery of their culture, which would eventuate animosity and hatred towards the programme.

Possible remedies in the two cases

The following key principles may be used in curbing the problems that arise in the two cases.

Avoid making assumptions

It is very important that assumptions are not made about an individual in terms of their values and beliefs, and instead, there is the need to get to know a people very well in case you are to deal with them (Swann et al, 2009). This involves finding the precise information. Stereotypes influence our behaviours, however, we should never let them do it to an extent of tampering our habits. In the first case, the manager may have assumed the team members as collectivists. At the same time, the team members may themselves have had opinion of the manager, no wander the non-cooperativeness.

Check out if unsure

The manager may have been not very aware of the customs in the firm. In this case, there was the need for him to check out (DuPraw & Axner, 2007).  At the same time, the U.S. TV should have checked out properly to understand the values that are placed on the Kung Fu master and the dragons in the customs of China.

Share information

This principle is very vital for an effective cross-cultural communication as it gets people involved very aware of the other’s culture and values. In a system, there is the need to be willing to openly share information about your culture in order to avoid any future misunderstanding (Swann et al, 2009). In the case of the manager, there was the need for him to provide a session for sharing on the team members’ cultures before settling down in the brainstorming. The second scenario also require the same as this could have avoided the clash that occurred which led to the ban.


Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication (2014). Retrieved from: [Accessed on 5th May, 2014]

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Hofstede G (1996).  Cultures and organizations; software of the mind.  Intercultural co-operation and its importance for survival.  McGraw-Hill (Revised edition).

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Sandberg, J. (2005). Monitoring of Workers Is Boss’s Right but Why Not Include Top Brass? The Wall Street Journal, p. 1.

Swann, William B., Jr., Ángel Gómez, D. Conor Seyle, J. Francisco Morales, and Carmen Huici, (2009). “Identity Fusion: The Interplay of Personal and Social Identities in Extreme Group Behavior,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 96, No. 5, 2009, pp. 995–1011.

Thompson LL (2011). The Mind and Heart of the Negotiator (5th Ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Weber Y, Belkin T, Tarba SY (2011). Negotiation, Cultural Differences, and Planning in Mergers and Acquisitions. J. Transnatl. Manag., 16(2): 107-115.

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