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  • Writer's pictureLuiz Moura

Cross-Cultural Communication

How do you communicate with other cultures? Have you ever noticed the way people communicate abroad?

Some people might have already paid attention to specific aspects of the intercultural communication, however I am sure that others are not aware of the importance of this ability in a international context. I could not find the answer to these questions asked above only through theoretical concepts, but also through the contact with people during my trips throughout 4 continents. These empirical experiences around the globe contributed to my understanding of this subject. When it comes to the communication, it is necessary to consider other elements beyond the language itself, because the oral communication, in a foreign language mainly, can hide feelings and other special features of a culture. Nowadays, companies include people from different backgrounds in their staff and in several international projects, therefore a mutual comprehension is crucial for the achievement of the professional goals. The unawareness of this intercultural competence can lead to missunderstandings and impact negatively on work. In this approach, I would like to mention some important elements of cross-cultural communication, which must be taken into account while interacting with people from different backgrounds:

§ Small talk: it plays an important role in some cultures, where conversation about random or personal topics is used, in order to build trust. It is also a strategy to establish some contact (icebreaker).

§ Body Language: nonverbal communication can sometimes say more than many words, so they are a key element for the communication in some nations. In other ones, some behaviours related to it, such as gestures, can be annoying and confuse the interlocutor, when they are excessive.

§ Religion: religious beliefs are a meaningful and fundamental part of certain societies.This aspect extends to the vocabulary used by the people belonging to them based on religious words and expressions.

§ Body contact: the idea of distance is a complex and polemical subject in cross-cultural communication, because cultures deal differently with it. In some nations, a closer contact means affection and trust, however this behaviour is a no-go in other ones.

§ Directness and indirectness: people from different cultures tend to establish a clear and direct communication (known as low-context). Others communicate through an indirect way, in which information are not clear and must be ”read between the lines“. When people from cultures with both characteristics interact with each other, some conflicts can emerge, as direct communication can be seen as rude and the indirect one as dishonest.

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