Intercultural differences in business communication

Even during times of pandemic, the world is more connected than ever. Whether you walk on the multicultural streets of Barcelona, or attend networking events on Zoom, we are constantly exposed to and confronted with different cultures and subcultures.

Did you know that our brain is wired according to where we were raised and shaped by the environments we have lived in and interacted with? While some people might not identify with their home country’s culture, others identify strongly. There is so much to explore around and about culture, so we decided to give you some basic information to start with, in hope of sparking further curiosity!

Intercultural sensitivity

Differences between cultures are not only important in our personal lives. They are equally as essential when we’re working in a culturally diverse business environment. In fact, they can have such an immense impact that a miscommunication due to cultural misunderstandings can cost you losing business partnerships, investors or even clients!

On the flip side, if intercultural communication is done with a deeper understanding of the essence of another culture, it can boost business results and open many doors for you and your business! Put on a larger scale, if your business is entering a foreign market for example, even the smallest elements can make a tremendous impact. The colors, symbols and language you choose to communicate with the foreign audience are all factors which can contribute to the desired success.

In this regard, two main marketing strategies can be distinguished:

‘Localization’ – meant to fit the needs of the local culture; and ‘standardization’ – a one size fits all approach.

You should carefully research such aspects before communicating with new audiences to ensure mutual satisfaction and success!

Hofstede’s dimensions

We would like to present to you a cross-cultural communication framework based on 6 dimensions developed by Hofstede. Hofstede’s work involves major research in intercultural psychology and is often used in education and consultancy in international business communication. In his classification, countries are placed within a dimension on a scale in order to show where they rank in this dimension.

It should be noted that these classifications stereotypes each communication style of the analyzed cultures; this means that while certain traits might be true for some people, they might not be (fully) true for others. Still, it is a good starting point for understanding cultural differences and their impact on business interactions.

Check out how each country ranks in Hostede’s intercultural dimensions. This can be very useful when planning to communicate with cultures which you are not familiar with! You can also find out more about each of the dimensions.

The art of persuasion: the 3 types

Pitching and presenting is essential to any entrepreneur because very often you need to persuade potential investors, partners or sponsors. While there are many other frameworks based on culture in persuasion to work with, we decided to share with you 3 main types of persuasion based on broad cultural differences.

Depending on what your business goals are and whom you are trying to persuade – you should consider some key aspects of these following, in order to be more persuasive with what you’re presenting.

Western cultures:

The Western persuasion method is based on three main elements – logos (a logical appeal), pathos (an emotional appeal) and ethos (a credible appeal). Mixing these aspects is important because if one is missing, the other two are probably not going to be as appealing standing alone. Persuasion needs to be concrete and specific – the cause and effect principle.

East-Asian cultures:

To persuade within East-Asian cultures, you do not need to be grounded in bulletproof logic since the cultural understanding of the world is that change is constant and everything is interconnected. More specifically, if you think about the yin yang concept – nothing is absolute. Matters are not opposites, but rather complementary to each other. That is why you should not be disturbed if negatives are being discussed! They do not mean that the person is necessarily saying ‘no’, in fact they reinforce the ‘yes’!’

Moreover, everything is dependent on context, and reading between the lines is key. It is not always in the specific words you speak, but rather the space you leave for thought. So, do not rush your presentation!

Arabic cultures:

There are three distinguishable elements here – authority (repeating something multiple times, for example); storytelling and raising emotions. It is beyond important to give a strong emotional appeal, precisely through storytelling!

Thank you for reading and we hope this was useful! This is only a fraction of the science behind intercultural communication and its effect in our personal or professional lives, but we hope we at least sparked an interest for further exploration of cultures.

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