Lesson 1: Cross–Cultural Communication
You might have heard of the “melting pot” as a source of pride for America. The concept is that
people enter from foreign countries and through the process of
into general American
. Such a concept is based on
, the belief that one’s
culture is the best in the world. This view has prevailed throughout history, going back to ancient
Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and applying more recently to Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and the
Assimilation – Merging from one culture into another; taking on the behaviors and values
of the new culture.
Culture – a group of shared set of values.
Ethnocentrism – the belief that one’s culture is superior to all others.
In the 1960s, a movement in the opposite direction began with the concept of cultural diversity – the
celebration of the virtues of the customs of all cultures. Instead of merging one’s ethnic, racial or religious
background into another culture, people began to believe in celebrating those cultures, hence the
proliferation of hyphenated labels, such as African American, native American, etc.
Today, the movement has expanded beyond national boundaries and has become a feature of
. For your career in business, globalization and cultural diversity are concepts you will need
to embrace, because your company will undoubtedly deal with international business.
The Nature of Culture
Culture, then, defines itself as a shared set of values within a distinct group of people.
Culture is most frequently identified with national boundaries—China, France, Australia, the United
States, Mexico. Within the larger culture, subcultures, groups who share similar traits with others of a
similar background, often exist within the general culture, such as Hispanic-Americans or communities of
Muslims in European countries.
From a business perspective, you need to know the major divisions of culture. There are two particular
A high context culture relies on indirectness, non-verbal communication, oral agreements
and little attention to details. i.e. japan
A low context culture relies on directness, written communication, written agreements,
and attention to details. The U.S. is an example.
Clearly, if you are trying to do business with someone from a different cultural context, you will be
challenged. Americans have not always had a good reputation for respecting other cultures, leading to the
concept of “The Ugly American,” which is also a book that describes this lack of respect.