Cross- Cultural Communication

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"We didn't all come over on the same ship, but we're all in the same boat."- Bernard Baruch Cross-cultural communication is the process of exchanging meaningful and unambiguous information across cultural boundaries, in a way that preserves mutual respect and minimizes antagonism, that is, it looks at how people from differing cultural backgrounds endeavour to communicate. The study of cross-cultural communication was originally found within businesses and the government both seeking to expand globally. Communication is interactive, so an important influence on its effectiveness is our relationship with others. All communication is cultural -- it draws on ways we have learned to speak and give nonverbal messages. We do not always communicate the same way from day to day, since factors like context, individual personality, and mood interact with the variety of cultural influences we have internalized that influence our choices. The world today is characterized by an ever growing number of contacts resulting in communication between people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. This communication takes place because of contacts within the areas of business, military cooperation, science, education, mass media, entertainment, tourism but also because of immigration brought about by labor shortage or political conflicts. In all these contacts, there is communication which needs to be as constructive as possible, without misunderstandings and breakdowns. It is our belief that research on the nature of linguistic and cultural similarities and differences here can play a positive and constructive role. The two factors that have raised the importance of Cross-Cultural Communication can be stated as follows- • Improvements in communication and transportation technology have made it possible for previously stable cultures to meet in unstructured situations, e.g. the internet opens lines of communication without mediation, while budget airlines transplant ordinary citizens into unfamiliar milieux(the social and cultural environment in which a person or thing exists). Experience proves that merely crossing cultural boundaries can be considered threatening, while positive attempts to interact may provoke defensive responses. Misunderstanding may be compounded by either an exaggerated sensitivity to possible slights, or an exaggerated and over-protective fear of giving offence; • Some groups believe that the phenomenon of globalization has reduced cultural diversity and so reduced the opportunity for misunderstandings, but characterizing people as a homogeneous market is simplistic. One product or brand only appeals to the material aspirations of one self-selecting group of buyers, and its sales performance will not affect the vast multiplicity of factors that may separate the cultures.

Once the foundations of cross cultural understanding have been laid, the learner(s), either through continued training or experiences within the workplace, gradually attains a more acute appreciation of cultural differences. The different types of appreciation are cross cultural knowledge, cross cultural awareness, cross cultural sensitivity and cross cultural competence. Although all the terms may appear similar in meaning, subtle differences exist between them.

'Cross Cultural Knowledge' is critical to basic cross cultural understanding. Without it cross cultural appreciation cannot take place. It refers to a surface level familiarization with cultural characteristics, values, beliefs and behaviors. 'Cross Cultural Awareness' develops from cross cultural knowledge as the learner understands and appreciates a culture internally. This may also be accompanied by changes within the learner's behavior and attitudes such as a greater flexibility and openness. 'Cross Cultural Sensitivity' is a natural by-product of awareness and refers to an ability to read into situations, contexts and behaviors that are culturally rooted and be...
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