In Cross-Cultural Relations – A Little Bit Can Go A Long Way

Earlier we pointed out that it was rarely the big gaffes and flubs that caused the most cultural friction, instead it was the “little things”. Much like many complain about in their romantic relationships, how “he/she” never does the little things”, likewise it’s the same with cross-cultural interactions. Thus, it makes sense that doing the “little things” would be helpful and beneficial. That would be correct! Even making the attempt, even if you don’t quite get it right, those from the culture you are interacting with will notice and most would appreciate that at least you are trying. As it is, most people are patient with foreigners, but at the same time, really appreciate when the foreigner takes the time to learn about their culture (and language), makes an attempt to practice. By doing even the small things, you demonstrate to your foreign counterparts that you are aware of the cultural differences, particularly those related to social interactions, that you are open minded and have the ability to adapt to your situation. All of these traits are essential when dealing with cross-cultural interactions. This is especially so if you are living in a foreign country, where you will be totally immersed in a foreign culture, and quite possibly one very different from yours. Learning little bits of the host country culture, and language, then practicing it will leave a good impression, and will help mitigate the effects of culture shock.

You don’t have to “go native”, indeed that would actually make you appear inauthentic. Furthermore, if you are a manager sent to a foreign country, it was probably because you are of a different culture than the country you were sent to, and the organization’s leadership wanted your different way of doing things to take care of operations. Should you totally become like your host nation, the edge you were thought to have would rapidly diminish. So, as the great Shakespeare once said, “to thine own self, be true”, just take a few small steps in the local culture instead. You won’t end up trying to radically change who you really are, and you will smooth cultural relations with your host country, which in turn will make your business and personal experiences in that country much better.

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