Cross-cultural Communication In International Business

What works well in your country may not work with people from other cultures. So let's look at the different communication styles worldwide to see what cross-cultural communication in international business is all about!
cross-cultural communication in international business
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In international business, you are likely to encounter clients or suppliers from many different cultures every day. And with the Internet and new technologies that connect us all, more workplaces than ever before have become a melting pot of colleagues from around the world. However, this new cross-cultural environment with all its benefits also creates more conflicts because of miscommunications and misinterpretations. Therefore, effective cross-cultural communication is a valuable skill in the international business world. But how do you become an effective cross-cultural communicator?

Being an effective communicator varies from country to country. Communication is direct, precise and straightforward in low-context countries like the USA or Germany. Here, business communication is always very explicit as opposed to high content countries like Japan, China, India or France, where good communication is rather complex, finely nuanced, and layered. Messages are often implicit and must be deciphered.

As a low context communicator, you may think that high-context speakers lack transparency and are cagey. Alternatively, if you’re from a high context culture, you might think that a low-context communicator is saying things that are pretty unnecessary.

All in all, what works in your culture may not work with people from other cultures. So let’s look at the different communication styles worldwide to see what cross-cultural communication in international business is all about:

Communication Style In the Arab Gulf States

The Gulf Arab way of communicating is indirect, since being together is aimed at harmony. One is always careful not to offend through harsh words or negative statements. The golden rule is to allow everyone to save face by expressing oneself diplomatically, skillfully and as positively as possible. Gulf Arabs speak circuitously, are very skilled with words, and have at times a very flowery way of expressing themselves. It can take a bit of time and patience to get down to business.

Foreigners used to a more straightforward communication style may feel that the Gulf Arabs’ unwillingness to come to the point is a pure waste of time. On the other hand, Gulf Arabs mostly equate a more direct communication style with a lack of politeness. Therefore, talking only about the business will be off-putting and inspire little confidence.

Communication Style In Argentina

Argentinians communicate indirectly and in a relationship-friendly way in business life. For them, simpatía, mutual esteem and cordial relations always come first. This is why points of criticism are generally not openly addressed, and conflicts are avoided as far as possible. Above all, this happens out of the need not to attack others and to preserve social harmony. Even in controversial matters, it is essential to protect your counterpart from losing face to not endanger the simpatía.

With this in mind, Argentineans will often avoid taking a firm stand on a particular issue. If you receive the answer “Maybe”, “I think so”, or “Don’t know” from an Argentinian, you can confidently translate it as “No”. They don’t like voicing their opposition directly as such a harsh refusal is perceived to be very rude.

Communication Style In Brazil

Brazilians are very expressive and emotional in their communication. At the same time, they are always positive and person-oriented. Although Brazilians talk very expressively, they tend to communicate in an indirect, diplomatic way.

They hardly use a clear “no” in a conversation as this would be perceived negatively. Instead, they will answer in a somewhat positive way, even if they have to reject an offer. So you have to listen very carefully and spot any signal that they mean rather “no” than “yes”,, e.g. a slow and vague response tends to be an indirect “no”. With these tactics, both conversation partners do not lose face and their personal relationship is not damaged at any point. Any conversation aims to please and to be perceived as likeable. Even in tough negotiations, one tends to allow everyone to win something.

Another aspect to consider is that Brazilians tend to communicate circularly, coming to the point through circles that develop ever-closer. To people who are used to talking in a targeted way, this circular communication style tends to appear time-consuming and, in some cases, even incompetent. For Brazilians, however, it is a relatively gentle approach to deal with difficult subjects. Circle by circle, level by level, they will reach an agreement.

Communication Style In Canada

The Canadian style of communication is clear, precise and direct. Although nobody objects to fair and constructive criticism, Canadians prefer a combination of reserve and harmony. Perhaps you are accustomed to fighting for your position at business meetings in the US; at any rate, this is best avoided in Canada. The direct approach is appreciated when doing business in Canada. Nonetheless, despite their candour, Canadians invariably endeavour to maintain a certain decorum regarding courtesy and reserve.

You will notice differences in the communication style between the anglophone and francophone parts of Canada. For example, French Canadians are wont to express themselves in a more eloquent, animated way, yet are a great deal more indirect than English Canadians.

Communication Style In China

The Chinese emphasis on relationships is evident in all other business communication as well. The conversation centres on people, not the deal itself. In China, communication is done indirectly and in deference to and for the protection of the relationship. You do not confront others with negative statements, and certainly not with criticism.

So much is to be read between the lines, and critical words are well packed and delivered in a roundabout way. If a dispute is looming, the Chinese will immediately give way even if it is not their inclination. The main goal is to preserve harmony and a good relationship.

The background to that type of communication is saving face. “Face” in China is related to an individual’s social position and determines the degree of respect and reputation a person enjoys. The basis of that outlook is that a society can function only if everyone tries for harmony at all times.

Respecting the face of others is just as important as saving your face. The face is lost if someone does something harmful to another person or even to the whole group in a relationship. Examples of that are refusing someone’s request, breaking a promise, doubting the competence of a superior, or simply having a different opinion from your colleagues. All of those things endanger the harmony among those involved, and that is valued more highly than the truth of the situation.

Communication Style In Denmark

Danes don’t beat about the bush and are quick to get down to brass tacks. Communication in Denmark is goal-oriented and direct, and their way of speaking is clear and precise. Please keep in mind that people in Denmark tend to use low context communication; there is no need to read between the lines. Things are spelt out.

Well-structured statements with figures and data to support what has been said is appreciated as being professional. When doing business in Denmark, it is importa
nt to be credible and authentic. Therefore, honesty and integrity are highly valued.

Danish communication is, therefore, more fact than relationship-driven. However, interpersonal relationships and a degree of “emotionalism” play a role in Danish communication.

Communication Style In France

The expressions context reference and relationship orientation best describe the French style of communication. However, this results in indirect communication, which is often tricky, especially for managers from countries with a more purpose-orientated, direct approach.

Context reference means that everything that is said must always be seen ›in connection with‹. This connection may be past history, the people present and their functions, any current major topics within or even outside the company or perhaps ongoing struggles for power etc. Another problem for those who are used to thinking and communicating more matter-of-factly is that these elements are not referred to directly but only by allusions. They are merely mentioned in passing. Most French people can only use language in this way in their mother tongue. This may be why it is a challenge for many French people to express themselves in a foreign language.

Nevertheless, the French can also be very direct, e.g. in technical discussions – French engineers think like engineers! – or in controversial debates. As soon as the same engineers start to talk about subjects that have a more social dimension, foreign partners have to listen really hard to understand the context.

Communication Style In Germany

A ›yes‹ means ›yes‹ and a ›no‹ means ›no‹. The communication style in Germany is perceived as direct and functional. This is because facts and emotions are often split up, resulting in two different levels of communication. At work, the fact-level dominates over the emotional level. A straightforward question deserves a clear answer. If you need support, it is assumed that you ask. Asking questions (based on facts) is generally seen as positive because you show interest. It is seen as being professional to talk directly, clearly and well structured.

Argue with facts and figures (and not with emotions). Be polite; use ›Danke‹ (Thank you) und ›Bitte‹ (Please). An example: ›Let’s have lunch sometime.‹ US translation: to support social interaction; US action: none. German translation: ›Let’s have lunch sometime.‹ (literally); German action: planning a concrete lunch appointment.

Communication Style In Great Britain

It is of vital importance to keep to the restraint of going toe-to-toe with others! The British like to feel comfortable even when disagreeing. They also want to meet at least in a neutral atmosphere in subsequent encounters. This is nothing different from keeping face, as it is found in Asian cultures though in far more distinct and varied ways.

They like for everything to go smoothly in terms of language without creating a stir or getting on the wrong side of someone. This is why inconveniences are ›wrapped up‹ in nice words. This way of communicating in Great Britain is called coded speech. In this respect, it is not enough to say ›please‹, ›thank you‹, ›you’re welcome‹ and ›sorry‹ as often as possible. The following example sentences in this chapter will give you an idea of all the facets of this indirect communication style.

Communication Style In Hungary

How something is said is often more important in Hungary than what is actually said. Polite phrases, which may seem almost subservient, are the rule here in the business environment. Rudeness, on the other hand, tends to be perceived as an insult.

Due to the high relationship orientation of the Hungarians, communication tends to be more indirect and implicit. Hungarians do not speak plainly, especially not in negative statements, but use clever innuendos and cautious hints to express their point of view harmoniously. Facial expressions, gestures and other non-verbal signals are also important information carriers that are used skillfully.

Therefore, you should always consider all verbal statements made by your Hungarian business partners in the overall context. Contextual factors, such as the nature and duration of the relationship between the interlocutors, background information, or previous meetings, are assumed to be known and reduce the proportion of explicitly spoken words in overall communication. As a result, you will need to put a lot of information together to form an overall picture. Feel free to ask for more information; Hungarians almost always have more background information!

Another characteristic of Hungary’s communication style is that Hungarians rarely go straight to the heart of the matter; a circular approach is far more common. Things are discussed, returned to later, and maybe even on the next day until the best possible result is reached.

This circular approach is often used for difficult topics as well. Sensitive issues are cut short, dropped quickly and picked up again later. In this way, the relationship-oriented Hungarians try to avoid too much disagreement between the interlocutors.

Listen patiently to each new communication loop, as new aspects may emerge that will help you move forward in your dealings.

Communication Style In India

Right from the start, relationship-based communication in India lays the foundation for a successful business. In India, it is inappropriate to speak in a factually focused, objectively distanced manner that characterises the Western business style. It seems cold, aggressive, insensitive, disinterested and dismissive.

In India, personal matters come first. Always. Business comes after that. What is regarded in many other countries as just a pleasant chat until you get to the point is extremely important in India.

Communication in India is indirect and includes many euphemisms and hints. Indians also read between the lines a lot. Learning to understand subtle hints is one of the things that Western businesspeople should do.

Spurred on by risk-taking, self-confidence, optimism and youthful dynamism, Indians also tend to exaggerate their achievements. As a result, any neutral and factual style seems distant and unappreciative to them.

Indians have no problem showing their emotions. For example, moaning about being ripped off by the deal and already having given all discounts is part of the Indian negotiation drama.

Communication Style In Indonesia

The importance of good personal relationships, a strong need for harmony and the fear of losing face are why Indonesians tend to communicate more indirectly. Therefore, the communication style in Indonesia is characterised by soft and implicit wording to avoid any form of confrontation or negative statements.

This is why you will rarely hear a direct “no” in Indonesia, but you will come across a huge amount of different ways of skillfully paraphrasing “no”. For example, if your Indonesian business partner responds rather vaguely and evasively, e.g. with “maybe” or “let’s see”, you can take that to mean “no”.

In Indonesia, “yes” does not always mean complete agreement either but can be meant as a non-binding concession not to offend the interlocutor.

To determine whether a statement is meant as consent or rejection, ask several questions, but vary the wording to avoid giving the impression of being a know-it-all as well as putting
pressure on your partner. As more concrete statements, agreements, dates and invitations are made by the Indonesian side, the more you will be able to rely on them.

Indonesians prefer a circular dialogue: topics are touched on, dropped and later taken up again. This is especially the case with important and difficult topics, which might lead to discord and a disturbance of harmony. However, as soon as things have been smoothed out, sensitive issues can be tackled again.

You should therefore not insist on sticking to your point of view. It is always better to either drop the sensitive subject quickly or change it. Indonesians will quickly feel cornered in a very open, heated, confrontational, and argumentative discussion based exclusively on facts. They will think that they have lost face and may break off the meeting.

Pay particular attention to repetitions. These have a special meaning in the indirect communication style that Indonesians favour. If a topic is of particular importance, it will be returned to several times during the discussion. This is also true for agreements, invitations and dates that have been agreed upon.

Communication Style In Italy

Italians communicate in a fast, lively and verbose fashion. They also gesture a lot. Their expressive nature always contains a certain amount of razzle and dazzle.

Executives from countries and cultures where people tend to speak in a more factual and reserved way often find it difficult to follow the flow of speech of their Italian counterparts. So if you wait for a break to say something, be assured that this break doesn’t come in Italy.

Italians are used to interrupting each other and speaking at the same time. They indicate their interest in what has been said by asking questions or making comments. The conversation is a lively back and forth.

And so, the discussion often ends up being a monologue by the Italian party, which both sides find unsatisfactory. This is why we recommend speaking up and taking the floor as well in Italy!

Although Italians use a lot of words, Italy is considered a high-context culture. This means that people tend to express themselves indirectly and diplomatically. Allusions and suggestions play an important role, and verbal statements should always be considered in their overall context. How something is said is often more important than what is said. Facial expressions, gestures and non-verbal cues are also crucial to understanding what is being said.

Communication Style In Japan

The Japanese communicate very indirectly and in a relationship-oriented way. In business conversations, the focus is not on the matter at hand but the relationship with the individual. For Japanese, it is more important how you say something than what you say.

As a general rule, the older or higher an interlocutor is in the company hierarchy, the more reserved, respectful and polite you should be when communicating with them. Never openly contradict them.

You should take special care not to cause your counterpart any loss of face. Loss of face means that a person loses their reputation or honour. This can happen if you inadvertently put someone in an uncomfortable or embarrassing position in front of others by, for example, directly criticising them or addressing some wrongdoing.

The indirect style of communication and the need for harmony of the Japanese often make it difficult for foreigners to recognise to what extent a Japanese interlocutor agrees or disagrees with a matter or a proposal.

Japanese rarely say “no” outright. Instead, they will either say “yes”, which just means that they are still “with you” and will listen to you politely. Or they will use evasive phraseology such as “We have to think about this.” and “We basically agree, BUT….”. They may also simply keep silent, ask counter-questions or change the subject.

Communication Style In Mexico

The Mexican communication style is expressive and emotional. It is accepted to show positive emotions in business. Mexicans will also interrupt each other or speak at the same time. It is also common to touch each other’s wrist or upper arm while talking and to pat someone on their shoulder. Long silences, however, are perceived as uncomfortable. People from other cultures sometimes feel that the Mexicans are very loud or even too loud. Furthermore, facial expressions and gestures reinforce the spoken word.

Since Mexicans communicate in such a lively manner, the objective restraint of some foreign businesspeople can quickly appear boring and monotonous. Therefore, do not wait for a break in the conversation to say something. There will not be one! On the other hand, if you remain silent for too long during a meeting or dinner, Mexicans may think that you are arrogant, disinterested or incompetent. So do not be afraid to interrupt. This is part of the communication in Mexico!

Communication Style In The Netherlands

For the Dutch, directness is the only way to communicate effectively. They even have a proverb that praises it: Dutch like to cut “straight through the sea” when speaking. Of course, this saying comes from their seafaring tradition. “Straight ahead” is the fastest way to reach your destination.

Moreover, most Dutch are unaware of how they come across to somebody not used to their level of directness. While many cultures paraphrase their words or like to use flowery language, for the Dutch, “yes” means “yes”, and “no” means “no”. The concept of “losing face”, a permanent threat in Asian cultures, is unknown in the Netherland.

Be prepared that your Dutch business partners will most likely scrutinise your actions or proposals, ask critical questions and then give their honest opinion or feedback or enter a discussion. So please remember for any business communication in the Netherlands: There is no need to obscure or disguise your words to sound polite.

Communication Style In Poland

If you aspire to be successful in business in Poland, be sure to bear in mind that a good rapport is much more important here than practical considerations. In other words, Poles place the greatest emphasis on harmonious relationships.

This highlights the highly people-oriented approach to communication in Poland. A constructive climate of discussion, where the participants feel comfortable at all times, is always a top priority for Poles. Under no circumstances will this be marred by uttering harsh words, offering criticism or awkward information. Business goals can only be attained in Poland in a pleasant atmosphere.

Above all, therefore, Poles communicate indirectly. Many things are not explicitly addressed or expressed in unambiguous words. Instead, they are hinted at with caution. Wherever possible, the discussion skirts around any topics that appear to be negative.

For example, requests may be agreed to even though it is clear from the outset that they are simply not feasible. But such commitments spare the participants from a negative response, leading to disappointment or perhaps even conflict. Poles view a direct refusal as the height of bad manners or disrespect and prefer to use diplomatic, evasive responses. So be prepared to listen carefully and read between the lines.

Communication In Romania

Communication in Romania, in a business environment, is deemed very formal. Politeness is important; superficial affectation, on the other hand, is not much appre
ciated. They will be pleased if you speak a little bit of Romanian: Say ›Vă rog frumos‹ (›Please‹) and ›Mulțumesc‹ (›Thank you‹)!

In addition, Romanians communicate in great detail and in a rather unstructured manner. Their statements are usually long and complex. The referenced facts are often hard to grasp for someone who is not used to it, especially when everyone is communicating in a foreign language (English or French).

Despite the number of words used, in Romania, you also have to read between the lines. This is due to the fact that Romania is a high-context culture and communication is extremely indirect.

Insinuations and hints are made, which the audience, under the consideration of various contextual factors – such as facial expressions, body language, place, time and circumstances etc. – has to join together to form a coherent overall picture. Those who are not used to this communication style often wait in vain for a clarifying summary. Foreigners lacking this ›vision‹ can easily experience difficulties in Romanian business life.

Communication In Russia

Russians focus on relationships when communicating. A personal rapport with their counterpart will always take precedence over whatever factual information is to be provided. Therefore, they adopt a diplomatic, cautious tone. Criticism, in particular, will only be expressed in a roundabout way. Take care to avoid an overly direct mode of expression, which Russians are liable to consider highly confrontational.

Consequently, in Russia, you will have to read between the lines and interpret the discussion in that particular context. You will be obliged to collect information wherever and whenever you can, bit by bit, piecing it together to form an overall picture. You should bear in mind that Russians will also read a great deal into your comments. Accordingly, choose your words carefully and wisely.

A Russian “yes” often means nothing more and nothing less than that your partner is listening. Sometimes, answers in the affirmative are only to preserve harmony. From the Russian point of view, there is a solution to every problem. There is no need, therefore, to offend others with negative comments.

Russians will avoid saying a direct no wherever possible. Maintaining an excellent personal relationship comes before making a potentially confrontational statement.

Communication In South Africa

South African communication styles will vary according to the cultural heritage of your business partner. For example, many white South Africans tend to express themselves very directly and get to the point quickly during business conversations. On the other hand, black Africans tend to use a more diplomatic, indirect style of communication.

What they share, though, as part of the typical South African business culture, is that a harmonious relationship with an interlocutor is a high priority. People strive for consensus and look for a win-win situation. Everyone should be made to feel like they have ‘won’.

That is why people are always friendly in conversations and tend to avoid topics that may cause conflict or even avoid negative answers. Instead of a negative response, they may provide euphemistic statements which may not necessarily correspond to the facts. Two typical South African phrases are “in two minutes” or “now now”. “I call you back in two minutes” or “I will come back to you now now” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s at the top of the agenda. Often it can even mean that they are not interested in the matter.

Therefore, it is important to read between the lines in South Africa, pay attention to the atmosphere of the conversation, and listen to non-verbal signals. In addition, the ability to interpret the facial expressions of the different ethnic groups correctly comes only after some practice.

Communication Style In South Korea

In South Korean communication, things are not addressed directly; instead, they are alluded to indirectly and cautiously. Allusions and suggestions play an important role, and facial expressions, intonation and pauses in speech are also important information carriers. Everything has to be seen in context.

Don’t expect a South Korean to spell it out in plain language. Instead, use your powers of deduction to put together the individual mosaic pieces to form an overall picture. Make sure to always tune in to the subtext. And keep in mind that South Koreans will also interpret a lot of what you say and how you behave. You should therefore also be very careful in how you express yourself.

In South Korea, Gibun is of the utmost importance. Gibun means that the interpersonal balance is correct. Therefore, harmony between discussion partners is the first commandment.

That is why you will never get an outright “no” in South Korea; it disturbs the harmony to confront or expose the other person with a negative attitude. It is better to agree initially and then let the matter fade away later. Ask questions that are as open as possible to obtain the most informative statements possible from the outset.

Pay attention to evasive phrases such as “We need to think about this”. Ask your Korean partner for a report by a specific date and you will receive” Tzs. ..  yeessss. I’ll do my best”. This can basically be interpreted as “Unfortunately, that doesn’t work”. It is usually accompanied by a drawing of air through the teeth, turning the head to the side and is said in a weak voice with extended accentuation. South Koreans are trained to give out and understand such relationship saving para- and non-verbal signals from an early age.

Communication Style In Spain

Spaniards speak fast and in a lively way. Depending on the topic, the discussions can also get emotional and heated. There are hardly any breaks during conversations because people talk over each other or even speak simultaneously. This is by no means interpreted as rudeness but as a sign of lively interest and activity. Long pauses in speech or even silence, on the other hand, are perceived as unpleasant and quickly interpreted as disinterest.

Spaniards use expressive facial expressions and gestures to communicate and reduce the distance between interlocutors. People want to involve everyone in the room in the discussion.

The Spanish communication always takes place in a manner that tends to strengthen the relationship, trying to avoid a loss of face. Critical points are therefore always “packaged” or even just hinted at between many positive aspects.

Therefore, make sure you avoid critical remarks, and especially accusations, in front of everyone. If you have to, try and express them within a diplomatic, friendly conversation, eye to eye. Also, it is better to talk in terms of “we” and “us” if you want to make recommendations or suggest improvements.

In the same way, Spaniards will often shy away from saying a direct ‘no’ because they do not want to alienate the interlocutor. Instead, people may express themselves indirectly and with caution: as a result, things may sound a lot more positive than their actual meaning. The absence of a reaction or an answer can also be meant as a rejection, which people prefer not to put into words.

Therefore, when discussing with your Spanish business partners or colleagues, you should always consider the overall context in which something is said. If necessary, you may want to combine different information from different sources into a comprehensive picture and pay attention to non-verbal signals.

Communication Style In Sweden

For your communication in  Sweden, you can assume that both written and spoken English is accepted as the language of business. Therefore, even in every supermarket and with (almost) every taxi driver, you will get good English answers to your questions in English.

Suppose, in addition, you have taken the Swedish basic assumptions and value systems to heart. In that case, you will already have an idea that you should – in whatever language – communicate matter-of-factly and soberly, without excessive verbiage. That is true of your personal and also written communication in Sweden.

The Swedish style of communication is regarded as one of the most indirect in the world. That means it is good advice if all of your antennae are sensitive and read between the lines.

Swedes are very modest and restrained in their communication; they will take every pain not to offend you or alienate you. Omtanke, which they have taken in with their mother’s milk, forbids them to do that. That means that criticism is often wrapped up in discreet (counter) suggestions or questions. And people from other countries often do not perceive that as criticism.

The same applies to the Swedish no. In negotiation with representatives of other countries, it can happen, for instance, that one side (the foreign) states that the suggestion is impossible. There is no way that there could be an agreement. Swedes think the same way, but they say, ›( J)aaa, not a bad idea. We can think about that.‹ That is the Swedish no, but foreigners often just don’t hear it.

So sharpen your ears for Swedish criticism and the Swedish no, and take pains to express yourself as diplomatically as possible so as not to be perceived as impolite or even aggressive.

Communication In Thailand

Buddhist values, the fear of losing face and a great need for harmony are one of the reasons why Thai people tend to communicate indirectly and diplomatically. This style is characterised by soft and implicit formulations. Hints and allusions are important. Much is said in a roundabout way and you must always read between the lines. At the same time, you should also choose your words carefully.

Repetitions are also typical of an indirect style of communication. For example, if a topic is of particular importance, it will be repeated several times in the discussion.

Thai people tend to have circular conversations: topics are touched on, dropped and later taken up again. This is especially the case with difficult topics, where disagreements and thus a disturbance of harmony may occur. Once an agreement has been reached on one issue, another sensitive issue will be raised again.

You will rarely hear a direct “no” in Thailand. This is because people do not want to offend others with a rejection.

Therefore, “no” is often expressed by evasive phrases, such as “perhaps…”, “later…” or “tomorrow perhaps…”.

In addition, your Thai interlocutor may say “yes” in a way that another Thai person would immediately hear the intended refusal, but you may not.

Also, strong nodding with many “yesses” can mean that your discussion partner actually understood quite little and is only trying to save face by agreeing.

Likewise, the Thai “khrap”, which is used very often, actually means no more than “I take note that you have just said something to me”.

To ensure that a statement is in fact an agreement, it is advisable to refrain from questions that can only be answered with yes or no. Also, ask several times, but vary the wording each time so that you don’t appear to be a know-all or that you are putting pressure on the other person. Use the circular conversation method!

The more concrete and detailed the Thai side finally formulates its statements, the sooner you can rate this as approval.

Communication Style In The USA

US-Americans usually don’t have time for long explanations or unnecessary details. Therefore, when communicating with the USA, follow the motto: KISS – “Keep it short and simple “or “Keep it short and straight “. Refrain from communicating too many details, instead limit yourself to the information you really need to make your content understandable. Come to the heart of the matter as soon as possible. The motto is: Time is money!

In general, US-Americans say pretty clearly what they think and usually mean what they say, so you don’t have to read between the lines and shouldn’t need to drop hints. The verbal statements of your US-American partners are clearly understandable and they expect the same from you.

Be polite and friendly, and don’t interrupt anyone, but don’t be silent for too long either, as US-Americans will tend to continue talking themselves. Silence could even be misinterpreted as not being interested.

Clear statements are appreciated; however, US-Americans won’t use the word “no” a lot. This is because a direct “no” could hurt the rapport, which must be avoided.

For example, if a US-American is likely to reject a proposal, they will only use some phrases that express uncertainty, e.g. “I’m not too sure about this “or “I’ll have to think about that”. Ask them some contextual questions to find out what exactly the problem is.

Why Is Cross-cultural Communication In International Business Important?

In a cross-cultural setting, communication and behaviour patterns may differ hugely, but often in a very subtle way. A poor cross-cultural understanding may reduce the clarity of your own communication as well as what is being said to you, leading to lost opportunities. There are many benefits for investing in cross-cultural communication in international business:

  • Prevent costly misunderstandings due to differences in communication and behaviour
  • Create strong relationships with customers and business partners
  • Build harmonious and successful multinational teams
  • Integrate new employees with different cultural backgrounds
  • Surpass competitors across international markets
  • Improve the success rate of international assignments

If you know how the people in your international business environment tick, you can develop tailored services and products, optimise your selling strategies, negotiate successfully and even provide suitable after-sale-services. You will also gain better access to local resources and be able to attract the best talent.

Key Takeaways

  • In international business, you are likely to encounter clients or suppliers from many different cultures every day.
  • This new cross-cultural environment with all its benefits also creates more conflicts because of miscommunications and misinterpretations.
  • Therefore, effective cross-cultural communication is a valuable skill in the international business world.
  • Being an effective communicator varies from country to country.
  • What works in your culture may not work with people from other cultures.
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