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  • This is Intercultural and International Business Communication, chapter 18 from the book Communication forBusiness Success (index.html) (v. 1.0).

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  • Chapter 18

    Intercultural and International Business Communication

    We should never denigrate any other culture but rather help people to understandthe relationship between their own culture and the dominant culture. When youunderstand another culture or language, it does not mean that you have to loseyour own culture.

    - Edward T. Hall

    Ive been traveling all over the world for 25 years, performing, talking to people,studying their cultures and musical instruments, and I always come away with morequestions in my head than can be answered.

    - Yo-Yo Ma

    Getting Started


    1. Find a film where one person overcomes all obstacles. Make notes ofyour observations on how he or she approaches the world, solvesproblems, and rises triumphant

    2. Find a film where a group of people overcomes obstacles through jointeffort. Make notes of your observations on how they approach theworld, solve problems, and rise triumphant.

    3. Consider a culture with which you have had little interaction. Writedown at least five terms to describe that culture.

    As a professional in the modern business community, you need to be aware that thevery concept of community is undergoing a fundamental transformation.Throughout the worlds historyuntil recentlya community was defined by itsgeographic boundaries. A merchant supplied salt and sugar, and people made whatthey needed. The products the merchant sold were often produced locally becausethe cost of transportation was significant. A transcontinental railroad brought


  • telegraph lines, shipping routes, and brought ports together from coast to coast.Shipping that once took months and years was now measured in days. A modernhighway system and cheap oil products allowed for that measurement unit to bereduced to days and minutes. Just in time product delivery reduced storage costs,from renting a warehouse at the port to spoilage in transit. As products sold, barcode and RDIF (radio frequency identification) tagged items instantly updatedinventories and initiated orders at factories all over the world.

    Communication, both oral and written, linked communities in ways that we failedto recognize until economic turmoil in one place led to job loss, in a matter of daysor minutes, thousands of miles away. A system of trade and the circulation ofcapital and goods that once flowed relatively seamlessly have been challenged bychange, misunderstanding, and conflict. People learn of political, economic, andmilitary turmoil that is instantly translated into multiple market impacts.Integrated markets and global networks bind us together in ways we are just nowlearning to appreciate, anticipate, and understand. Intercultural and internationalcommunication are critical areas of study with readily apparent, real-worldconsequences.

    Agrarian, industrial, and information ages gave way to global business and broughtthe importance of communication across cultures to the forefront. The PulitzerPrizewinning journalist Thomas Friedman calls this new world flat,Friedman, T.(2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York, NY: Farrar,Straus, and Giroux. noting how the integration of markets and community hadpenetrated the daily lives of nearly everyone on the planet, regardless of languageor culture. While the increasing ease of telecommunications and travel havetransformed the nature of doing business, Friedman argues that the dawning flatworld is a jungle pitting lions and gazelles, where economic stability is not goingto be a feature and the weak will fall farther behind.Publishers Weekly. (2009).The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century [Starred review].Retrieved from Halfof the worlds population that earn less than $2 (USD) a day felt the impact of areduction in trade and fluctuations in commodity prices even though they may nothave known any of the details. Rice, for example, became an even more valuablecommodity than ever; to the individuals who could not find it, grow it, or earnenough to buy it, the hunger felt was personal and global. International trade tookon a new level of importance.

    Intercultural and international business communication has taken on a new role forstudents as well as career professionals. Knowing when the European and Asianmarkets open has become mandatory; so has awareness of multiple time zones andtheir importance in relation to trade, shipping, and the production cycle. Managingproduction in China from an office in Chicago has become common. Receiving

    Chapter 18 Intercultural and International Business Communication


  • Figure 18.1

    With modern manufacturing,Made in X is more of a relativestatement.

    2010 JupiterimagesCorporation

    technical assistance for your computer often means connecting with a well-educated English speaker in New Delhi. We compete with each other via Elance.comor for contracts and projects, selecting the currency of choice for eachbid as we can be located anywhere on the planet. Communities are no longer linkedas simply brother and sister cities in symbolic partnerships. They are linked inthe daily trade of goods and services.

    In this chapter, we explore this dynamic aspect of communication. If the foundationof communication is important, its application in this context is critical. Just asEurope once formed intercontinental alliances for the trade of metalsleading tothe development of a common currency, trade zone, and new concept of nation-statenow North and South America are following with increased integration.Major corporations are no longer affiliated with only one country or one countrysinterests but instead perceive the integrated market as team members across globaltrade. Made in X is more of a relative statement as products, from cars toappliances to garments, now come with a list of where components were made andassembled and what percentage corresponds to each nation.

    Global business is more than trade between companieslocated in distinct countries; indeed, that concept isalready outdated. Intercultural and internationalbusiness focuses less on the borders that separatepeople and more on the communication that bringsthem together. Business communication values clear,concise interaction that promotes efficiency andeffectiveness. You may perceive your role as a businesscommunicator within a specific city, business, ororganization, but you need to be aware that your rolecrosses cultures, languages, value and legal systems, andborders.

    Chapter 18 Intercultural and International Business Communication


  • 18.1 Intercultural Communication


    1. Define and discuss how to facilitate intercultural communication.2. Define and discuss the effects of ethnocentrism.

    Communication is the sharing of understanding and meaning,Pearson, J., & Nelson,P. (2000). An introduction to human communication: Understanding and sharing. Boston,MA: McGraw-Hill. but what is intercultural communication? If you answered, Thesharing of understanding and meaning across cultures, youd be close, but thedefinition requires more attention. What is a culture? Where does one culture stopand another start? How are cultures created, maintained, and dissolved? DonaldKlopf described culture as that part of the environment made by humans.Klopf, D.(1991). Intercultural encounters: The fundamentals of intercultural communication (2nded.). Inglewood, CA: Morton Publishing Company. From the building we erect thatrepresents design values to the fences we install that delineate borders, ourenvironment is a representation of culture, but it is not all that is culture.

    Culture involves beliefs, attitudes, values, and traditions that are shared by a groupof people. Thus, we must consider more than the clothes we wear, the movies wewatch, or the video games we play, all representations of environment, as


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