- List five words to describe your dominant culture. Now, list five words to describe a culture with which you are not a member, have little or no contact, or have limited knowledge. Now, compare and contrast the terms noting their inherent value statements.
- Reflect on the experience you have engaging with others who are culturally different from you in some way. Describe the differences but then what you have in common. What could you do in future interactions to come to shared understanding.
- Identify a country, other than the US and/or your home country, in which you would like to do business. Research the country and find three interesting business communication norms one would encounter there and share them with the class.
People sometimes assume that learning about other cultures is unnecessary if we simply treat others as we would like to be treated. To test this assumption, try answering the following questions.
- When receiving a gift from a friend, should you open it immediately, or wait to open it in private?
- When grocery shopping, should you touch fruits and vegetables to evaluate their freshness?
- In a conversation with your instructor or your supervisor at work, should you maintain direct eye contact?
Write down your answers before reading further. Now let us explore how these questions might be answered in various cultures.
- In Chile, it is good manners to open a gift immediately and express delight and thanks. But in Japan, it is a traditional custom to not open a gift in the giver’s presence.
- In the United States, shoppers typically touch, hold, and even smell fruits and vegetables before buying them. But in northern Europe, this is strongly frowned upon.
- In mainstream North American culture, people are expected to look directly at each other when having a conversation. But a cultural norm for many Native Americans involves keeping one’s eyes lowered as a sign of respect when speaking to an instructor or supervisor.
No one can be expected to learn all the “dos and don’ts” of the world’s myriad cultures; instead, the key is to keep an open mind, be sensitive to other cultures, and remember that the way you’d like to be treated is not necessarily the way others would appreciate.