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Cross-cultural cues

Communication & Negotiation

Dorus Diana

on 19 October 2013

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Transcript of Cross-cultural cues

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli
Contextualization cues
United Kingdom
Body Language
2. Their comfortable distance is shorter then majority of Europeans, agreeing on visual and physical contact. They prefer to hug you instead of shaking hands; they love face-to-face contact thinking that, this way they get to know you better.
1.During conversation you need to have a sparkle in your eyes. You have to speak with passion and to accentuate the important aspects.
3.During meetings they hate sickness and watch checking .
4. Even though you might be late to the next meeting do not get nervous. It is better to postpone what you were doing afterwards because you must be totally relaxed.
5.During conversations do not check your phone or ipad because they have the tendency to take you as not interested in what they are telling. It is recommended to lose all indifference tendencies.
Body language
In British culture the language of gestures is not frequently used and only the most basic gestures are performed. Overdoing a gesture can sometimes come across as aggressive behavior.
A handshake is normal when meeting and saying goodbye to people, and it is used for both men and women. Men usually prefer a firm handshake but not so firm for women. Women can remain seated for a handshake but men should stand up as a matter of courtesy.
It is important to have eye contact but not for too long. If you look someone in the eyes for too long they will start to feel uncomfortable. Direct eye contact may be misinterpreted as hostility and aggressiveness. If you are talking to a group, then make eye contact with all people, and do not focus your attention on one person alone.
Stiff upper lip’ – This is a term often used to describe the traditionally British portrayal of reserve and restraint when faced with difficult situations.
In British culture, open displays of emotion, positive or negative are rare and should be avoided.
British culture avoids physical contact. Except for the handshake, other forms of touching behaviour are inappropriate in business relations. Men should not initiate physical contact with women.
The reserved nature of the British is also emphasized by their respect towards personal space. It is highly valued by them and keeping an acceptable distance is advised. During conversation they prefer to stand next to each other rather than opposite.
Sitting with folded arms during a business meeting is a sign of boredom and that you are uninterested.
Spoken language
When addressing people it is still customary to use their titles e.g. Mr, Mrs, Miss. First names are used almost immediately with all colleagues. Exceptions are very senior managers. However, you should always wait to be invited to use first names before doing so yourself.
Do not be over familiar when meeting people for the first time. This means not asking personal questions about their background, occupation or income and also not giving too much personal information about yourself. This will change in time and the people you are dealing with will open up but don’t try to rush it. It’s always safer to talk about the weather!
Humour is the cornerstone of the British society. It is used in numerous ways: to establish a positive atmosphere, to bridge differences, to introduce risky ideas, to criticise, to show appreciation or contempt of a person. Humour is often combined with understatement. Depending on the tone "Not bad" can actually mean "very good" and "not bad at all" might be the highest praise you ever get from a Brit.
It is not polite to interrupt anybody. For the British, when A stops, B starts.
They speak in low, measured tones, without raising the voice. Intonation conveys one has finished speaking and, in British English, the voice normally goes down at the end of an affirmative sentence.
On the other hand, they always attempt to prevent awkward pauses by keeping up the conversation and feel compelled to fill up the weighty silence with lively and entertaining chatter.
In addition to being diplomatic, the British also use language in a coded manner preferring to say unpleasant things using more acceptable, positive phrases. Thus, "I disagree" becomes "I think you have made several excellent points there but have you ever considered...." And a lack of interest in an idea is often greeted with: "Hmm, that's an interesting point."
Emails vary greatly in the level of formality depending on what is your status of relation with the receiver. Similarly, there are various levels of politeness depending on who are you writing to and what is the nature of your query.
Though emails are less formal and shorter than formal letters, yet you should not use very informal tone, exclamation marks, slangs, emoticons or incomplete sentences. Contracted verb forms are allowed but not advised.
Common words and the meaning of those words explained below:
1.Lift (elevator)
2.Fornight (2 weeks)
3.Tube (train/subway)
4.Trousers (pants)
5.Lorry (truck)
6.Flat (apartment)
7.Biscuit (cookie)
8.To Ring (Phone)
Although not all Britons are particularly articulate, you should make an effort to write in correct sentences. As has been indicated, eloquence is highly valued by British people, therefore they pay attention to the correctness of the language.
Spoken langugage
1.They have an excessive and eloquent verbal flow (Castillian word “ hablar ” comes from the Latin “fabulare” which means to enjoy the pleasure of a conversation ).
5.Do not bore them with technical details, reports or diagrams. They have a poetic vision and everything must be looked in from this perspective.
2.If u start a conversation by cherishing their history and purity of ancestry, all will go well. Also if you ask a couple of personal questions you are doing well. They like people who are interested of their character and traditions. When you relax along Spanish people, do not forget that they are sensitive and easy to upset. Do not say anything that might be interpreted as an offense to their honor or dignity.
4.When you have a meeting with a Spanish guy you should cancel your daily schedule because not having enough time is out of the question.Time, money and prudence have secondary importance. They are full of energy when they are involved in certain actions or in their moments of profound spiritualism. Spanish are not found of routine or banal chores such as coordination or consolidation.
3.You must not use extravagant words or expressions to prove you are smart or that you had various self developing methods, because in Spain, people with less possibilities are considered as noble as everyone else. Spanish think that dignity must be kept even though else is lost.
1. They send e-mails if absolutely necessary , they like face-to-face meetings. They think their habits have no link to modern era.
2. They hate long technical texts, they will never finish reading them. If you want to make them an offer, you better structure the main ideas in short sentences. You have to prove how your product will help them.
3. Do not send more messages than needed, they are very polite and won’t hesitate to give you an answer.
4. When you finish an e-mail or message try to find an expression to make them smile, in order to feel your words as warm.
5. They hate words with more than one meaning, you must be clear and concise in expressions and you must not try to manipulate them in writing.
Russian businessmen think, speak and act fast!
Lexical and syntactic choices
Presentations should be straightforward and comprehensible, present clearly and with a lot of factual/technical material.
Russians can be very direct during the first meeting and also can be very imposing.
DON'T as the Russian proverb states ‘hurry to reply', but ‘hurry to listen'.
DON'T praise or reward anyone in public as it may be viewed with suspicion or cause envy and jealousy. Remember the collective rules over the individual.
Opening and closing conventions
Firm handshake and the first name, father’s name and surname.
Russians may go from one item to another without logical order. They have a more holistic approach then most Westerners, who would work down the agenda point by point
partake in small talk, which normally involves talk of family and personal matters, before
dealing with business.
Turn Taking
Generally, when beginning a meeting, the head of the organisation will open the discussion and introductions should then be made in order of importance.
Russia is a hierarchical /control minded country and the senior person decides everything.

If you come with a team, you have to mirror this hierarchy.
If you come alone, be sure to have the mandate to make the needed decisions.
Intonation and voice tone
A warm relaxed tone and intonation is best
Spoken Language
Body Language
Body posture
Body language is minimal in meetings (unless being overly theatrical during an impasse in a negotiation situation) which can lead to mistaken impressions of disinterest.
DON'T show the bottoms of your feet. It's impolite.
DON'T stand around with your hands in your pockets.
Visual gestures
Shake hands firmly when greeting and leaving your Russian partners and make direct eye contact
Handshakes with women are not common.
DON'T point with your finger. Instead, point with your entire hand.
Facial expressions
DON'T smile unless you mean it.
In Russia, smiling a lot can be seen as insincere.
Dress code
The external appearance is very important.
A "serious" businessperson is expected to look formal and conservative.
Wearing very light or bright colors might make you appear lazy or unreliable to a Russian.
Rule number one is to never lose your cool, never get upset and to be patient.
Psychology and emotions play a big role.
Faxes and emails are the best way
to communicate in Russia,
as the post can often be unreliable.
Paperwork and putting pen to paper is
an essential part of all working practices in Russia.
In general, they have little faith in unsigned documents.

Opening and closing conventions:
Instead of Dear Mr./Mrs,./Ms., the used word is "Esteemed/Respected" Mr./Mrs./Ms.
The closing convention always should mention "Respectfully", "With great esteem/respect", etc.
The Russians attitude to time means that a few minutes delay on their part is of little importance. However, they will expect you to be punctual in all aspects of your communication with them.
In Russia a period once actually saved a man's
life. The czar had condemned the man to death
and sent this note to the jailer, who had been
instructed to wait for orders:
The czarina, who felt sympathetic toward the
prisoner, intercepted the note and changed the
punctuation as follows:
The jailer there upon released the prisoner,
who escaped from the country
before the Czar discovered what had happened.
In official e-communication, using abbreviations is considered impolite.
When IM-ing, leads to developing the personal side of the relationship, which Russians appreciate very much.
It is not accepted in Russia to hide emotions, to the contrary they are even intensified and a foreigner should distinguish by the intonation phrases uttered with irony, compassion, threat, praise, ignorance.
Using interjections when IM-ing is quite welcomed.
Body language

The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you’re addressing.

The lower and longer duration of the bow, the higher degree of respect displayed by the bowee.

The uncommited face of the Japanese is very common. It is considered rude to overtly express your emotions in public. The "Poker Face" is used to cover up negative emotions as well as used as a shield to protect your privacy.

The smile can often be an expression that conceals embarrassment, pain, or anguish.

In an uncomfortable situation it is not uncommon for the Japanese to give a nervous laugh or awkward smile to conceal the true emotion.
Spoken language
Japanese people

tend to express their feelings or thoughts in an indirect manner - being direct is considered to be impolite

are shy and easily embarrassed

will try not to say “No”
Misunderstandings between the cultures
Japanese language is very vast, and as their culture, it has many rules that people need to follow, in order to show respect when addressing to someone.

The first time you meet a person:
"Yo-ro-sh-ku o-neh-gai-shi-mus”
Which means:
“Please do your best and treat me well”.

Saying this phrase to any Japanese person in any situation, they will help you with anything and everything you need.
They trust the verbal messages more than the e-language, as words can have several meanings, and can be differently interpreted with the absence of non-verbal communication.
It's actually considered rude in Japan to continually tack a new message onto an older one, to the point an entire thread is created. Example: "Re:re:re:re:subject."

It's a better choice to simply create a new email and refer to the previous one in a sentence or two, to keep the email looking clean and professional.
Only 34% believe that they can express their opinions safely online.

It is said that Japan has the world's highest number of anonymous bloggers.

The traditional letter, and mail corespondence is still very popular, and is more used than e-mails.
Body Language
Nodding is used to greet somebody.

Avoid touching, as Chinese people dislike being touched by strangers.

Always acknowledge the most senior member in a group first.
There is not an emphasis on emotions in China, so be careful on how often you use them.

Do not spit. Spitting is unacceptable and a fineable offense.
Keep gestures and unusual facial expressions to a minimum. Chinese do not use their hands when speaking, and are annoyed by people who do.

Frowning while someone is speaking is interpreted as a sign of disagreement. Therefore, most Chinese maintain an impassive expression when speaking.
It is considered disrespectful to stare into another person's eyes. Thats why in crowded situations the Chinese avoid eye contact to give themselves privacy.
When presenting your business card, do it with both hands. Also make sure that the business card includes your title, and one side of the business card is printed in Chinese.

If you are handed a business card, make sure to look at it before you put it away.
Not looking at a business card before putting it away results in a breach of protocol.
Spoken Language
Meanings of Statements

I see. No.
Ah. No.
Ah-hah. No.
Yes. No.
That is difficult. That is completely impossible.
That is very interesting. That is the stupidest thing I ever heard.
We will study your proposal. We will feed your proposal to a goat.
An European person might be joining some Japanese friends for dinner. The plans were made to go to a certain restaurant that everyone likes.
Japanese often laugh when confronted unexpectedly by a different view or understanding of (a) situation.

The Japanese laughter can be translated as:

Polite laughter
- the person does not understand the English being spoken
-the laugh may indicate confusion or embarrassment, and even a hope that the speaker will clarify.
-the reluctance of the Japanese to give a direct
negative response to what the speaker said.
Example: instead of saying a direct "No" or "I disagree," the Japanese gives a polite laugh to send that message to the speaker.

Diplomatic laughter

Is not so much dependent on the content but more so on following the proper format.

The language has to be very polite, especially if it's a formal e-mail or letter.
Vaguely similar to how the firmness of the handshake determines the level of confidence and respect, one has for an individual.

Females maintain both arms to the front, with hands on top of legs. Males keep arms to their sides.
Eye Contact

Looking someone in the eye is considered a sign of confidence in the Western world.

To the Japanese, looking at someone straight in their eyes is considered rude and a means to a challenge.

The Japanese will look down to show respect to the other person.

Usually, the region of the Adam’s apple is where the Japanese tend to direct their sight.
Japanese people try to avoid showing their emotions in public.

They are also uncomfortable with any physical contact such as a hug.

It’s rude to have the soles of your feet pointing out towards other people

Shrugging shoulders and winking eyes mean nothing to the Japanese.
On the way there, they pass another restaurant and the European might comment that he likes that other restaurant a lot. The comment was meant as nothing but “small conversation”...
but the Japanese people would quite likely change the plans and go to that other restaurant because the European(in the Japanese people’s minds) was strongly wishing to eat there.Japanese people wouldn’t make such a comment…even in passing.
BETH: . . . and then we want to take a plane from Takahama to Tokyo.
TRAVEL AGENT: I see. You want to take a plane?
TRAVEL AGENT: From Takahama?
BETH: Yes.
TRAVEL AGENT: Perhaps you would prefer to take a train.
BETH: No, we would prefer to take a plane.
TRAVEL AGENT: Ah-hah. You would prefer to take a plane?
BETH: Yes. A plane.
TRAVEL AGENT: I see. From Point A?
BETH: Yes.
BETH: Yes.
In a country where the rule of law has all but broken down, the only thing that can be relied upon in a business context is the strength of the relationships upon which the business is based.
Do not underestimate the importance of relationship building - or the time taken in the process.
Dress code - conservative is the norm for both men and women in British business culture, where darker colours (black, dark blue,charcoal grey) and heavier fabrics (wool) predominate. Women may wear trousers (including trouser-suits).

Men should not wear striped ties, which represent many schools, and should not be worn unless you have attended that school .

Extremely informal clothing is not considered appropriate even during free time activities.
Chinese should be addressed with a title and their last name. Example: Mr., Miss, Madam, and then the last name.

Many Chinese adopt an English name to make it easier for North Americans to address them.

These names are usually odd-sounding because Chinese try hard to make their English name different from other common names.
Mr. Jones: It looks like we’re going to have to keep the production line running on Saturday.
Statement made by Chinese
I see.
That is difficult.
That is very interesting.
We will study your proposal.
Actual meaning

That is completely impossible.
That is the stupidest thing I ever heard.
We will feed your proposal to a goat.
Subject should be clear.
Use “Dear” + title and full name of the contact person : “Dear Mr. John Elijah”
Come straight to the point and provide supporting details. Abbreviations e.g. promo, asap are allowed in formal emails.
Use a formal, friendly ending. Close the email with “Regards”, your name and contact details.
When signing, always use full name especially in the first interaction, later you can just use last names.
Thank you!
BETH: Can we do that?
Business and tradition example
Mr. Wu: I see.
Mr. Jones: Can you come in on Saturday?
Mr. Wu: Yes. I think so. (with a hesitative tone )
Mr. Jones: That’ll be a great help.
Mr. Wu: Yes. Saturday’s a special day, did you know?
Mr. Jones: How do you mean?
Mr. Wu: It’s my son’s birthday.
Mr. Jones: How nice! I hope you all enjoy it very much.
Mr. Wu: Thank you. I appreciate your understanding.
Full transcript