Becoming International Requires Competence in Intercultural Communication

‘Culture’ as a term or a concept is often perceived as something concrete rather than an abstract entity. The term can be defined in a thousand different ways –and they are all equally important as it is the individual perspective that matters the most. One can see it as national, regional, religious, ethnic, organizational, age, sex, or gender based; high culture, popular culture, linguistic culture; professional, occupational, hobby based? Perhaps continental, era based or social status based? Diet based, ethnic, moral, ethical, family based or political? I think you get the idea by now 😉

When working for a company that strives to be more or become international, intercultural communication as a perspective is essential in getting stuff done. Meeting the goals set. Keeping associates and customers content. You can start be having a think: what does ‘interculturality’ mean to you? Does it contain some sort of communication and (as it should) if it does; with whom, when, in which medium and why? What is your position in this process or process on intercultural communication? Are you a passive or an active agent? Why? Would you need to be something else?

There are also components that are worth a mention and a closer look, namely language skills, communication skills and cultural skills. We all have a different skill set in these topics, but the most important thing is to know that they are all present in each intercultural communication context, whether we want or not. Nonverbal communication and behavior are usually the things we see in parodies, stereotypes and jokes –sure, they are sometimes fun and funny, but no-one wants to make a fool of themselves in front of a customer or a business partner!

Here is a quick list for checking: how competent am I in the following?

  1. Ethnocentrism: It’s not about you
  2. Nonverbal behaviour: Touch, proxemics, concept of time…
  3. Linguistic communication: Oral, written, virtual, by phone…
  4. Different communication styles (high / low context)
  5. Cultural values: power distance, individualism vs. collectivism
  6. Cultural assumptions, taboos: How can you know if something is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’?
  7. Nonverbality overriding words

In our project we can also approach these issues, if they are the ones standing in your way to becoming a true master of international commerce.

Writer: Niina Kovalainen, Laurea UAS

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