I’m sure it’s my fault. – It’s not my fault. – It was their fault.

Intercultural challenges in communicationIMG_3492

If you have ever worked with people from different cultures you will agree, that communication is not all about what words to use, what sentence structures to assemble, or how clear your message is. Communication is also about how direct I should be to get my message across but don’t offend anyone, how to say no when I mean no and how to use culturally appropriate gestures, body language and even eye contact.

There are many unwritten rules in every culture that can only be truly learned when living there, when experiencing it from day to day. What’s even more interesting is the unwritten script of dynamics that are expected between people. When I first moved to the US everyone was so kind and personal I thought I instantly had many friends. It took me some time to realize, that this sort of kindness and seeming attention is offered to and expected by everyone, and has nothing to do with real friendship. Just because people ask me how I am and inquire about my family and my cat doesn’t mean I can just drop by on a Friday afternoon when I feel lonely and want some company. I could do that with friends in Hungary, because here this is culturally accepted, even though we are often rude or impersonal with each other in our everyday behavior. In America I had to learn to make dates with friends ahead of time and not expect anyone to just drop in without warning, although once Americans find out you are OK with that they seem to adjust very quickly.

Philippe Rosinski is the master of intercultural coaching and has developed a Cultural Orientation Framework (COF), a system that allows you to review your own cultural characteristics and get a better understanding of your own orientations to some relevant factors such as time, space, authority to mention just a few. “A cultural orientation is an inclination to think, feel or act in a way that is culturally determined.” Being aware of your own orientations will help you understand and accept the difference you might experience with other cultures. 

Here is a great HBR article on the subject of cultural differences in communication. I believe the title says it all:

How to say this is crap in different cultures?  



Happy communicating!