Cross-cultural communication is a field of study that explores how different cultures communicate. Communication can be verbal or nonverbal but cross-cultural communication and deviance typically cross roads with nonverbal communication. The key to effective cross-cultural communication is knowledge.¹ It is vital that people understand the potential problems of cross-cultural communication, and therefore make a conscious effort to overcome them.¹
There are different gestures that are considered standard and polite in some regions while actually being considered deviant in others. This is especially relevant with nonverbal communication, but not necessarily.
For example, in parts of Asia, avoiding eye contact with someone is polite. If you are in a conversation with someone, looking them in the eyes in considered rude. By contrary, in the United States, if is considered rude to avoid eye contact when speaking to someone. The ‘okay’ hand symbol in North America represents approval but in Turkey or Greece it is actually very vulgar.
In an increasingly globalized world, understanding cross-cultural communication becomes more and more important everyday. Possible examples where someone would need to communicate effectively cross-culturally include sales, travelling, living in multicultural areas or teaching a student from another country. Making the wrong hand gesture could lose you a client, offend someone when travelling or make your students uncomfortable.
1. University of Colorado. Cross-Cultural Communication Strategies. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/xcolcomm.htm