What Is Intercultural Business Communication?

Esther Ejim

Intercultural business communication refers to the communication that arises during the course of business relationships with people from different cultures. Such an interaction is becoming more inevitable with the growth of globalization and the assurance that any sizable business can expect to encounter some form of intercultural business communication during its various transactions. This sort of business interaction can be viewed from several standpoints, including the influx of people from other cultures and the exportation of businesses to other cultures.

Certain cultures embrace different beliefs about handshake etiquette.
Certain cultures embrace different beliefs about handshake etiquette.

One of the major considerations in intercultural business communication is the application of sensitivity during such communications so as not to offend people of other cultures.The desire to be sensitive may be hampered by ignorance about other peoples’ cultures and a basic understanding of their norms and values. This is due to the fact that no culture can be described as the best or the right culture in exclusion to others. As such, what makes sense in one culture might not make much sense in another. In intercultural business communication, behaving as one would normally do in his or her own culture might lead to incidences of unintentional offenses.

The exchange of business cards has strict guidelines in certain cultures.
The exchange of business cards has strict guidelines in certain cultures.

An example of this phenomenon can be seen in the cultural practice of shaking hands. While most cultures adopt this sort of greeting in their businesses, some might actually consider it offensive in various circumstance, especially when very young people try to shake the hands of elderly business men. In some African cultures, such a behavior is often considered extremely disrespectful, especially when the younger person initiates the handshake. An understanding of cultural etiquette would lead to the understanding that an elder must initiate the handshake. Younger people would win more business points if they behave in a more deferential manner, especially when the company they represent is trying to obtain some kind of benefit from the other company.

The influx of immigrants into various countries across the world means that the typical company has a culturally diverse representation of employees. In this type of a situation, the company might institute a corporate culture where such people are integrated into the company, while still communicating with them in a knowledgeable and respectful manner about some salient aspects of their culture. The same applies during the process of intercultural business communication with people from other countries during the marketing process. A slogan that might be accepted in one country might be viewed differently in another. Also, an advert that might work in one country might be offensive in another, which is why a comprehensive market research regarding particular culture must be included in the list of top priority.

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