Business Communication: Understanding Cultural Differences

Culture familiarization plays an integral part in studying English. In BPO companies, particularly call centers, newly-hired employees go through culture training apart from communication, accent and skills training to fully understand the way of life, behavior and expressions of their foreign customers (who are most of the time, native English speakers like the British, Americans and Australians).

There are also countries that are not being intimidated by their native English-speaking counterparts, and ironically, staying on top of their game despite sticking with their mother tongue to communicate with other people. Japan is one progressive nation with minimal English-speaking citizens and there’s also Venezuela, home to a long list of beauty titleholders who still require the services of an interpreter for the pageant’s Q&A segment. Culture is to blame yet however, they are just exceptions to the rule — there’s a limited possibility that what works for them as far as communication is concerned would work for other non-native English speaking countries.

Learning about culture is no longer limited to travelers. It is essential as well to people who won’t leave their hometown but will be exposed to opportunities that will connect them with foreigners. Working with expats and dealing with foreign schoolmates and neighbors become a lot easier when there’s sufficient knowledge on their cultural backgrounds. This will affect how certain people will communicate with them in English (e.g. greetings, appropriate usage of expressions, formulating opinions).

Building cultural synergy can only be truly accomplished through intentional cultural awareness training. But if you want to get started on the basics, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Learn About Different Cultures

The most effective way to build your cultural knowledge is to actually learn more about other cultures. The Internet is packed with a lot of useful resources so stocking up your knowledge bank should be relatively easy. You can also enroll in an international communications class to get a feel of how other nationalities converse and relate with each other.

Avoid Generalizing Individuals

The information you have right now about other cultures is often based on the world’s generalizations. While there may be some truth to these, it can be very unfair to judge people by what you think you know about their cultures. The best way to deal with different cultures is to put an end to cultural bias and treat everyone you come across as individuals.

Keep your Assumptions to Yourself

Part of building cultural awareness is to avoid jumping to conclusions about people. No matter what your experiences have been dealing with a certain culture, that doesn’t give you the license to share your assumptions with others. Instead of accepting these assumptions as truth, you can challenge them by immersing yourself into a culture that isn’t your own. who knows? You might just learn something new.

Don’t Play the Blame Game 

As much as it is tempting to play the blame game when things start to go wrong in your team,this habit simply isn’t constructive. Instead of trying to put the blame on someone, try being more culturally aware of the factors that could have led to the break down. This makes it easier for you to open up the lines of communication and really look at a situation for what it really is.

Listen Actively

Listening actively plays a crucial role in improving your cultural awareness. Instead of just paying attention to the words that were used, you should also look into how the words were said, and even the possible motivations behind it. Learn to pay attention to non verbal cues and you’ll see a whole world unfold before you.

In a multicultural team, cultural differences can manifest in many ways. A person’s cultural background will not only impact how he or she acts, but also how he or she communicates.

Some of our current course offerings would be of great help to those who want to master the kind of English that is acceptable in the country they want to live or work in, since culture training is involved in the curriculum we implement. Call American English today if you want to know more on how we can help you develop your multicultural team’s communication skills.


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