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Intercultural communication
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After studying this chapter, you should be able to:
explain basic processes of acculturation
discuss Hofstede’s model of culture
evaluate the cultural intelligence (CQ) model of behaviour
apply the GLOBE model of culture to your own and other cultures
use the context model of culture to explain intercultural agreements and disagreements
assess the validity of the clash of civilisations model
understand the relationship between multiculturalism at the macro-
cultural level and diversity at the micro-cultural level
apply theories of intercultural communication to
encounters with people from other cultures
apply aspects of intercultural communication to explain
processes of negotiation and con ict resolution.
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Culture and cultures — some denitions
We saw in chapter 1 that it can be useful to visualise a continuum of communication using
a concentric circles model (gure 15.1).
But what is ‘culture’? How well do we understand communication processes generally,
let alone those between cultures? We also raised the question of whether communication is
always a good thing. Perhaps we should ask whether intercultural communication is always
a good thing. On balance, it is, but in order for it to work well, we need to understand the
pitfalls and limitations associated with intercultural communication, as well as the delights
and opportunities.
If we turn to the dictionary to dene culture, we see an almost bewildering array of
meanings, such as:
the cultivation of micro-organisms, as bacteria, or of tissues, for scientic study,
the action or practice of cultivating the soil; tillage (Macquarie dictionary)
the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as
excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc
a particular form or stage of civilisation, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek
the behaviours and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic or age group: the
youth culture; the drug culture (Random House unabridged dictionary 2006)
all the arts, beliefs, social institutions, etc. characteristic of a community, race etc. (Oxford
advanced learner’s dictionary of current English 1974)
advanced development of the human powers; development of the body, mind and spirit
by training and experience (Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary of current English 1974)
the predominating attitudes and behaviour that characterise the functioning of a group or
organisation (American heritage dictionary)
Let’s focus on two meanings — all the arts, beliefs, social institutions, etc. characteristic
of a community, race, etc. and the predominating attitudes and behaviour that characterise
1. Intrapersonal
FI GURE 15.1 A concentric
model of fields of
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 527
the functioning of a group or organisation, and categorise them as being either macro-culture
or micro-culture (gure 15.2).
We will look more closely at organisational culture in chapter 16, but we will also
consider it later in this chapter when we discuss workplace diversity. Indeed, one of the
most interesting aspects of intercultural communication is that, as nation-states become
more multicultural in ethnic makeup, the issues of communicating ‘over there’ or elsewhere
are also becoming the issues of ‘here’, and the dividing line between ‘communities’ and
‘groups or organisations’ becomes blurred. For example, Wiseman (2005) suggested that US
foreign policy in the Middle East in the 2000s was in
conict with the ‘culture’ of diplomacy, with diplomacy
understood as an international community.
Perhaps at no time in history has there been more
contact between peoples of different cultures, ranging
from refugees to asylum seekers to migrants to student
‘sojourners’ (Brown 2009; Sam & Berry 2006; Arnold
2011; Zimmerman and Never 2013; King 2014) to
businesspeople to professional diasporas (people working
in other countries on a semi-permanent basis) to tourists
(and, some would say, terrorists). Indeed, the movement
in and out of countries is now at a level where some
are suggesting that the concept of migration be replaced
with that of ‘people ow’ (Veenkamp, Bentley & Buonno
2003; Button 2006). Within cultures or nation-states,
there is an unparalleled degree of ethnic and cultural
change, and within workplaces, increases in the levels of diversity. Perhaps at no time in
history has there been a greater need for intercultural communication.
Let’s therefore now focus on the macro-cultural dynamics of communication.
Intercultural communication: an overview
Nothing could appear to be more obvious than the fact that people from different nations
communicate in different ways. Throughout history, one of the most fundamental ways in
which cultures have interacted with each other is in trade, or in conict situations over
resources such as hunting and shing rights. Today, tourists buy souvenirs or artefacts when
in foreign lands, and businesspeople from different countries reach agreements and do deals
to create products and services. All of these situations involved and involve what we would
now call negotiation techniques.
In negotiations, for example, there can be dramatic differences in the way people dene
their opening positions, use tactics, persuade and listen (see chapter 13). Even the practice
of ‘haggling’ over a price is an integral part of some cultures — which many revel in and
consider the very stuff of life — whereas it is alien in other cultures, where the price on the
tag is the price, and that’s all there is to it.
Another major difference between cultures occurs when payment of money or goods (or
the exchange of gifts) is considered a normal part of conducting a deal. Such payments would
Macro-culture: all the arts,
beliefs, social institutions, etc.
characteristic of a community,
race, etc.
Micro-culture: the
predominating attitudes and
behaviour that characterise
the functioning of a group or
Macro-culture Micro-culture
All the arts, beliefs, social institutions etc.
characteristic of a community, race etc. The predominating attitudes and behaviour
that characterise the functioning of a group or
FI GURE 15.2 Two meanings
of culture
People from different
cultural groups often interact
together in contemporary
business settings.
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be seen as ‘lubrication’, ‘dash’, ‘backhanders’, ‘favours’ or ‘baksheesh’ in some cultures, but
as ‘bribery’, ‘graft’ or ‘corruption’ in others. Similarly, gift-giving is a more honourable, but
not less complex, system of interaction (Narlikar 2011).
Differences also occur in the use of time in negotiations and other encounters. People
from culture A may think that they are using time effectively by sticking to schedules and
norms of punctuality and dispensing with meaningless socialising, despairing at what they
see as sloppy and procrastinating behaviour on the part of the culture B people they are
negotiating with; those culture B people, however, may feel that they are the ones who
are using the natural rhythms of time to build long-term relationships, and in turn see the
culture A people they are negotiating with as abrupt, rude and untrustworthy. For culture
B people, tasks are accomplished because of personal relationships, not in spite of them
(Martin & Nakayama 2013, p. 243).
What is perhaps less obvious is that similarities between nations sometimes outweigh
differences, and that ‘nationality’ or ‘culture’ is not always a helpful concept in trying to
understand what is going on in a negotiation or any type of communication process. In
fact, when talking about ‘national’ styles of negotiating and communicating, we have to be
careful not to lurch into racist stereotypes about ‘the Russian style of communicating’ or
‘the Australian style of negotiating’. It might be very difcult to generalise about what is a
national communication style. It might be more useful to understand a person’s behaviour in
terms of other allegiances — to a state or region; to a cultural, religious, ethnic or language
grouping; to a tribe; to a profession; to a sex; to a caste; to a class. For example, a French
farmer may have less in common with a French factory worker than he does with a German
farmer, where occupational and social statuses, rather than nationality, would here be the
key variables in understanding motivation and vested interests (Haviland et al. 2014, p. 231).
People from a particular country may use differing negotiation styles when engaged in
diplomacy or commerce, or simply when being tourists. Even then, a person may not behave
‘typically’ in the sense that one would expect. People tend to be themselves, and not t the
pigeonholes we would, for the sake of tidiness, prefer to keep them in.
Paradoxes of intercultural communication
When we are trying to generalise about the specic communication characteristics of a
culture, we may need to specify which generation of that culture we are talking about
(Yu&Miller 2003). This goes to the heart of the paradox inherent in the study of intercultural
communication: just as the study of intercultural communication is becoming a large-scale
and systematic endeavour, the very nature of cultures is changing before our eyes.
Some other paradoxes of intercultural communication include the following.
As one set of conicts seems to dissolve (e.g. the post-World War II battle between
communism and capitalism), another set of conicts seems to be on the rise (e.g. the
processes of globalisation, ethnicity and religion) (Fukuyma 1993; Barber 2001;
Brown2009; Sparke 2011; Ali 2010; Fukuyama 2015).
As processes of multiculturalism, ethnic diversity, immigration and tourism appear to
offer opportunities for greater understanding and harmony between cultures, new divisive
forces based on cultural differences seem to be emerging (e.g. among the United States,
China, a resurgent Russia and radical Islam [Buchanan 2009; Dodds 2015]).
As the plurality of cultures becomes more widely recognised, the apparent ascendance of
the English language continues (Thumboo 2003; Bennett 2007; Ho & Chen 2010; Hasanen,
Al-Kandari and Al-Sharou 2014).
As the growth of greater understanding and the shrinking of ignorance and xenophobia
promises the end of global conicts, the reality is that familiarity all too often breeds
contempt and violence — that the most violent wars are often not intercultural ones but
intracultural or civil ones, and that some cultures (e.g. in Ireland and the Middle East) may
know each other too well (Harries 2004; Neumayer and Plümper 2009).
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As market economies and democracy are foisted on some societies, the result is not so much
freedom and peace as the stirring of ethnic tensions (because some intranational ethnic
groups are more successful in business than others) and global instability (Chua2004;
Tormey 2013).
In this chapter, we will explore some aspects of this enormous eld of intercultural
communication. We will begin by looking at the general processes of acculturation, and
then at the specic approaches of ‘the four Hs’ — the cultural models proposed by Hofstede,
House, Hall and Huntington. We will consider the impact of greater cultural diversity within
organisations and within nations. We will then try to apply our knowledge of intercultural
communication by creating a checklist of communication strategies, and will go on to look
at a particular arena of applied communication — negotiation and conict resolution.
Acculturation: coming to terms
with ‘the other’
Throughout history, humans have experienced both fascination with and trepidation towards
the other— understood as ‘different nationalities, but also [as] any group of people perceived
as different — perhaps in terms of so-called ethnicity, religion, political alignment, class or
caste, or gender’ (Holliday, Hyde & Kullman 2004, p. 23).
The process by which we interact with ‘the other’ in modes of varying peacefulness,
aggression, understanding and confusion — is sometimes referred to as acculturation:
Acculturation concerns the psychological and behavioural changes that occur in people
because of contact with different cultures. Most often, it is used to describe the changes in
people who relocate from one culture to another...The gradual process of psychological
accultura tion that occurs during immigration results in changes in individual behaviour,
identity, values and attitudes...For example, in a study of Italian and Greek immigrants to
Canada, rst-generation immigrants exhibited a stronger ethnic identication than did their
children...However, some evidence suggests these changes might take generations...astudy
of two generations of Polish immigrants to Canada...found that after two generations,
participants’ values were still more closely allied to prototypical Polish than to Canadian value
proles. (Thomas and Peterson 2015:37)
Bennett (Hammer, Bennett & Wiseman 2003) suggests that when people interact with
others from other cultures, they may acquire intercultural sensitivity (the ability to
discriminate and experience relevant cultural differences), which may then allow them to
develop intercultural competence (the ability to think and act in interculturally appropriate
ways). This process can best be understood as a continuum of different phases (gure 15.3).
The phases identied by Bennett are denial, defence reversal and minimisation, which are
part of an ethnocentric worldview; and acceptance, adaptation and integration, which are
part of an ethnorelative worldview.
Denial is the default condition for most people, who are socialised into the one culture
with little experience of other cultures. In this condition, all those outside the home
culture are ‘the other’, and may be treated with indifference or aggression.
Defense reversal occurs when a person of one culture perceives another culture not to be
inferior, but superior, and pays tribute to that culture by ‘going native’ or ‘passing’. Like
Denial, however, it still involves an ‘us versus them’ outlook.
The other: any group of people
perceived as different in
terms of nationality, ethnicity,
religion, political alignment,
class or caste, or gender
Acculturation: the process of
the meeting of cultures and
the changes which result from
such meetings
Denial Defence reversal Minimisation Acceptance Adaptation Integration
FI GURE 15.3 Bennett’s
developmental model of
intercultural sensitivity
Source: Hammer, Bennett and
Wiseman (2003, p. 424).
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Minimisation occurs when a person moves beyond the fear of the Denial stage and instead
begins to perceive — or attempts to perceive — universals or similarities between ‘us and
them’, but only at a supercial level, and usually only in terms of ‘our’ values and norms.
Acceptance is the rst of the three ‘ethnorelative’ phases, with ethnorelativity meaning
that one’s own culture is now experienced in the context of other cultures. People in
this phase can experience others as different from themselves, but as equally human.
Acceptance, however, does not mean agreement.
Adaptation occurs when a person can experience empathy with another culture it is
the state in which the experience of another culture yields perception and behaviour
appropriate to that culture.
Integration occurs when an individual begins to dene their identity as being at the
margin of two or more cultures and central to none. This can either take a negative or
encapsulated form, where the separation from a culture is experienced as alienation; or
a positive or constructive form, where movements in and out of cultures are seen as a
necessary and positive part of one’s identity.
Deardorff (2006) has also developed a model of intercultural competence (gure 15.4).
t Move from personal level (attitude) to interpersonal/interactive level (outcomes).
t Degree of intercultural competence depends on acquired degree of underlying elements.
Behaving and communicating
effectively and appropriately (based
on one’s intercultural knowledge,
skills and attitudes) to achieve
one’s goals to some degree
Informed frame of reference/filter shift
behaviours; adjustment to new cultural environments)
Requisite attitudes
impact of culture and others’ world views)
Knowledge and comprehension
FI GURE 15.4 Deardorff’s pyramid model of intercultural competence
Source: Deardorff (2006, p. 254).
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This model builds on a number of specic abilities and behaviours, such as:
ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural situations based on
one’s intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes
ability to shift frame of reference appropriately and adapt behaviour to cultural context;
adaptability, expandability and exibility of one’s frame of reference/lter
behaving appropriately and effectively in intercultural situations based on one’s
knowledge, skills and motivation
good interpersonal skills exercised interculturally; the sending and receiving of messages
that are accurate and appropriate.
The model is hierarchical or pyramidal in structure, with attitudes forming a basis for
knowledge and comprehension, which in turn form a basis for internal outcomes, which
in turn form a basis for the desired external outcome of behaving to achieve maximum
intercultural competence.
The dynamic of Bennett’s and Deardorff’s models are considered in more detail later in
the chapter. Both models have an implicit optimism for better intercultural communication
within them (pyramid, arrow line dynamics). Brown (2009), however, is not quite so
optimistic. Working with a group of Asian and European postgraduate students in England,
she found that many Asian students naturally felt loneliness and homesickness. There were
host national friends who acted as cultural informants and were an important source of
host culture and learning. Other mono-national friendships were not so successful, and
paradoxically led back to the formation of ghetto patterns. With little cultural learning taking
place, they pointed to a tension between the desire to improve intercultural competence and
to maintain ethnic links. She concluded:
(My study) also challenges the oft-claimed automatic link between the international sojourn
and intercultural competence. Indeed, interaction across national and cultural boundaries was
not the norm; it was noted only among those individuals who were determined to realize
the universally stated aim of increasing intercultural knowledge. It is widely claimed that the
international sojourn carries the power to produce the intercultural mediator, but my study
found that this potential was fullled by only a handful of exceptionally motivated students.
This nding has important implications for the understanding of multicultural society.
(Brown2009, p. 255)
While the sample used by Brown is small, her contrarian views on cultures working
together automatically producing harmony is thought-provoking.
Berry suggests that there are different dimensions of cultural variation that help to
explain acculturation processes, such as diversity (how many different positions, roles,
and institutions are there?), equality (are differences horizontal [egalitarian] or vertical
[hierarchical]?), conformity (how much are individuals enmeshed in the social order?), wealth
(what is the average gross domestic product per person?), space (how does interpersonal space
help explain nonverbal communication between individuals?), and time (how concerned are
people with promptness and schedules?). Berry also suggests that religion is emerging as
another important dimension in cultural variation, so that the combination of afuence
and religion may help to explain some conicts: cultures which are furthest apart in these
characteristics (e.g. Afghanistan and the United States; Israel and Palestine) are often in
conict (Berry 2006, pp. 32–3).
The cultural intelligence (CQ) model
Another model of intercultural communication is that of cultural intelligence (CQ):
The number one predictor of your success in today’s borderless world is not your IQ, not your
resume, and not even your expertise. It’s your CQ, a powerful capability that is proven to
enhance your effectiveness working in culturally diverse situations. And CQ is something any
Cultural intelligence (CQ):
aheightened understanding
ofcultures, similar to
the model of emotional
intelligence (EI) and
intelligence quotient (IQ)
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can develop and learn. Research conducted in more than thirty countries over the last decade
has shown that people with high CQ are better able to adjust and adapt to the unpredictable,
complex situations of life and work in today’s globalized world.
CQ or cultural intelligence is the capability to function effectively in a variety of cultural
contexts — including national, ethnic, organizational, and generational. It’s a whole new way
of approaching the age-old topics of cultural sensitivity, racism, and cross-border effectiveness.
(Livermore, 2011, p. i).
Livermore’s model of CQ is a synthesis of four variables:
1. CQ drive (motivation) is your interest and condence in functioning effectively in
culturally diverse settings. This often gets overlooked. Without the ample drive to take on
the challenges that inevitably accompany multicultural situations, there’s little evidence
you’ll be successful.
2. CQ knowledge (cognition) is your knowledge about how cultures are similar and different.
The emphasis is not on being an expert about every culture you encounter that’s
overwhelming and impossible. Instead, to what extent do you understand some core
cultural differences and their impact on you and others?
3. CQ strategy (meta-cognition) is how you make sense of culturally diverse experiences. It
occurs when you make judgements about your own thought processes and those of others.
Can you plan effectively in light of cultural differences?
4. CQ action (behaviour) is your capability to adapt your behaviour appropriately for different
cultures. It involves having a exible repertoire of responses to suit various situations
while still remaining true to yourself. (Livermore 2011:5)
Middleton (2014) sees CQ as being the logical progression from the concepts of IQ and
emotional intelligence (EI) (see chapter 9 ‘Interpersonal skills 1’; gure 15.5).
The comments in Middleton’s model (see gure 15.5) are hypothetical remarks from people
who really don’t see the need for EI or CQ, have difculty in conceptualising either, and
do not see the blind spots in their own cognitive style. They are rock-solid in their (rather
narrow) comfort zone and — dinosaur-like — they see no need to move.
We saw that there were problems with EI (see chapter 9 ‘Interpersonal skills 1’) and similar
problems arise with CQ. Blasco, Feldt and Jakobsen (2014) point out that the CQ concept is
really very similar to the well-ploughed elds of cross-cultural competence, intercultural
competence, cultural literacy, global mindset, and much of the work done by Hofstede.
‘If we could
just take the
people issues
out of this’
‘I am happy
with people
like me’
‘I cant
imagine anyone
not like me’
‘I see no need
for people who
are not like me’
‘I have
CQ in one
FI GURE 15.5 Middleton’s
model of intelligences:
thoughts gone wrong about
IQ, EI and CQ
Source: Adapted from Middleton
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Theysee CQ as being a hypothesis rather than a well-proven construct, and deplore business
training courses on CQ being based on the assumption that it is the latter rather than
Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars (2006: 56, 61) are even more critical of the concept
and the eld:
Given the trouble that globalism is getting itself into and the accusation that this refers to the
spread of mainly American values across the globe, is cultural intelligence another cloak for
superpower hegemony?
What cross-cultural research does is tell us what we already know that the Japanese are
impassive and the French excitable. It is hardly useful to categorize cultures according to their
surface presentation. If this is cultural intelligence, then we had better think again.
What we observed earlier about emotional intelligence can be used to provide a tentative
defence of cultural intelligence as well. EI provides a context for soft skills — interpersonal,
transferable and communication skills — that are useful for succeeding in both professional
and personal situations (Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars 2006).
Despite its weaknesses, CQ, like EI, can be used as a bludgeon to get through to managers
and colleagues who see the world only in narrow, quantitative and impersonal terms: in
a meeting, a quietly put question ‘Yes, but have we properly factored in the EI and CQ
vectors here?’ — may make our dinosaur friends stop and consider before they continue to
blunder on.
Which comes rst? Culture or economics?
Thomas and Peterson (2015:3) point out that in our world today,
Although economics, politics, and technology can dene the playing eld of international
management, it is a game of cross-cultural interactions being played.
Thus culture on the one hand or economics on the other is not logically prior to the other,
but interconnected in a dynamic way (see gure 15.6).
We will shortly be considering various models of intercultural communication, but these
pertain to the world as it is now. What if there are signicant, even dramatic, changes in the
next few decades, or indeed, centuries? Will our cultural theories hold, or will they need to
be modied? Will the cultural models of a century hence be similar to what we have now,
or would they be unrecognisable to our eyes?
Consider gure 15.7, which looks at the Fortune Global 500 (the 500 largest rms as rated
by Fortune magazine) in times we know — 1980–2010 — to times we do not yet know —
2025. The authors (Dobbs et al. 2013) predict dramatic changes in balances in the world
economy. The United States and other developed nations have been dominant for centuries
as economic powers and have not only projected economic and military power over the
globe, but also ‘soft power’ (Nye et al. 2015; Piketty 2014). Soft power is projected through
the media, music, the internet, fashion and lifestyles — in other words, forms of culture.
If the quantitative economic changes predicted in gure 15.7 come to pass, then surely
cultural norms across the globe will change as well.
FI GURE 15.6 Culture and
economics: chicken and
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We now have a good general basis for considering how intercultural communication
might occur and how it might be affected by other factors. Let’s turn to four specic models
of culture, and see how they can be applied to intercultural communication.
Hofstede’s model of culture
Is ‘culture’ the same as ‘nationality’? Hofstede (2001, p. 9) denes culture as ‘the collective
programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of
people from another’ (see also Minkov, Blagoev and Hoftstede 2012). He describes cultures
in terms of ve dimensions.
1. Power distance refers to the different solutions to the basic problem of human inequality.
2. Uncertainty avoidance refers to the level of stress in a society in the face of an unknown
3. Individualism versus collectivism refers to the integration of individuals into primary
4. Masculinity versus femininity refers to the division of emotional roles between men and
5. Long-term versus short-term orientation refers to the choice of focus for people’s efforts:
the future or the present.
Exhibit E7
By 2025, emerging regions are expected to be home to almost
230 companies in the Fortune Global 500, up from 85 in 2010
Evolution of the Fortune Global 5001
Number of Fortune Global 500 companies
13 8
215 7
12 4
100% = 500 500 500 500 1500 - Other emerging regions2
Africa and Middle East
Southeast Asia
South Asia
Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Latin America
China region
477 477 476
1980 1990 2000 2010 20253
Total in emerging regions
Developed regions
23 23 24 85 229
1 The Fortune Global 500 is an annual ranking of the top 500 companies worldwide by gross
revenue in US dollars.
2 Shares of emerging regions excluding China and Latin America combined until 2000.
3 Fortune Global 500 share in 2025 projected from revenue shares of countries in 2025.
NOTE: Numbers may not sum due to rounding.
SOURCE: MGI CompanyScope; McKinsey Global Institute analysis
FI GURE 15.7 Predicted
global economic changes,
Source: Dobbs et al. (2013,
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Using survey methods, Hofstede was able to produce number scores for each of these
dimensions for many countries. The dimensions are continuums — that is, a particular culture
that is associated with a particular nation-state may score at the extremes of a particular
dimension or somewhere between those extremes. Similarly, the dimensions average-out
data, which means that a culture may score high on certain aspects of a particular dimension
but these particular scores may be masked by scores on other surveyed items and values.
Itmay also be that values and cultures change over time — a particular society in this current
year may not score the same in twenty or fty years into the future, or twenty or fty years
into the past (although it may if underlying values persist over very long time periods).
Power distance was a term originally used to describe organisational settings. Inhigh
power-distance settings, the organisation was quite hierarchical, employees feared
disagreeing with superiors, and superiors tended to have more authoritarian decision-
making styles. The concept was then broadened to look at cultures, examining attitudes
to power in education, society and the workplace. High power-distance cultures tend to
have a fair amount of inequality, and obedience and submissiveness are favoured. Typical
characteristics of low and high power-distance cultures are shown in gure 15.8.
Uncertainty avoidance helps explain how individuals, groups, organisations and cultures
respond to the uncertain nature of future events. Organisations respond to uncertain events
by creating rules, standard operating procedures, rituals and technology; and cultures, in
turn, respond to uncertainty by using technology, law and religion. Uncertainty avoidance
is not the same as risk avoidance — uncertainty avoidance is all about intolerance of
ambiguity, and the search for structure, security and predictability. A high uncertainty-
avoidance individual or culture may, for example, indulge in risky behaviour such as starting
a ght or war rather than sitting back and waiting to see what the future will bring. Typical
characteristics of low and high uncertainty-avoidance cultures are shown in gure 15.9.
Power distance: a measure
of the inequality and equality
within a culture
Uncertainty avoidance: a
concept that helps explain
how cultures respond to the
uncertain nature of future
Low power-distance culture High power-distance culture
Students put value on independence Students put value on conformity
Students initiate some communication in class Teachers initiate all communication in class
Freedom more important than equality Equality more important than freedom
Flat organisation pyramids Tall organisation pyramids
Stress on reward, legitimate and expert power Stress on coercive and referent power
Subordinates expect to be consulted Subordinates expect to be told
Consultative leadership leads to satisfaction,
performance and productivity
Authoritative leadership and close
supervisionlead to satisfaction, performance
and productivity
FI GURE 15.8 Power distance
and culture
Source: Adapted from Hofstede
(2001, pp. 96–108).
Low uncertainty-avoidance culture High uncertainty-avoidance culture
Facial expressions of sadness and fear easily
readable by others
Nature of emotions less accurately readable
Individual decisions, authoritative management
and competition among employees acceptable
Ideological preference for group decisions,
consultative management; against competition
among employees
Favourable attitude towards younger people;
smaller generation gap
Critical attitudes towards younger people;
larger generation gap
FI GURE 15.9 Uncertainty
avoidance and culture
Source: Adapted from Hofstede
(2001, pp. 160–70). (continued)
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Individualism versus collectivism refers to the extent to which a person denes his or her
identity according to group or separate and private values. Both concepts have positive
and negative connotations. For example, person A may enjoy living in a country town
because everyone knows everyone else and there is a lot of community support; the same
person may move to a city and nd it alienating and lonely. Person B, however, may
nd the same country town suffocating, full of busybodies and parochial hicks; this same
person may move to the city and revel in the freedom of anonymity and the ability to
make friends.
Collectivist sentiments may help bind a country together so that everyone feels part of
one big family, but equally such sentiments may be used by authoritarian governments to
impose conformity and stie dissent. Typical characteristics of individualist and collectivist
cultures are shown in gure 15.10.
Masculine and feminine are terms used by Hofstede to describe approaches to sex
roleswithin a culture. His use of the terms, however, suggests that by ‘feminine’ he
means ‘androgenous’ or non-traditional; whereas, by ‘masculine’ he means the traditional
valuesof sex role specialisation that have typied most societies until the twentieth
Traditional sex or gender roles have meant that males have been associated with
assertiveness and females with nurturance, with implications for family structure, leadership,
organisational design and social norms. Typical characteristics of masculine and feminine
cultures are shown in gure 15.11. Again, it needs to be stressed that Hofstede’s dimensions
are continuums — that is, a country may score at the extreme masculine end of the
continuum or at the extreme feminine end or somewhere in between, and the same country
might score as masculine on some characteristics and as feminine on other characteristics
Individualism: the extent to
which a culture tolerates
individual expression and
provides support
Masculine: describes a
culture in which traditional sex
roles are observed
Feminine: describes a culture
in which non-traditional sex
roles are observed
Low uncertainty-avoidance culture High uncertainty-avoidance culture
Independence for female students important Traditional role models for female students
Innovators feel independent of rules Innovators feel constrained by rules
Appeal of transformational leader role Appeal of hierarchical control role
Belief in generalists and common sense Belief in specialists and expertise
FI GURE 15.9 (continued)
Individualist culture Collectivist culture
Individual decisions are better Group decisions are better
‘Guilt’ cultures ‘Shame’ cultures
Hedonism Survival
Weak family ties, rare contacts Strong family ties, frequent contacts
Women express emotions more strongly
Women express emotions less strongly
Relationship with union calculative Potential emotional commitment to union
Incentives to be given to individuals Incentives to be given to work in groups
Media main source of information Social network main source of information
More invention patents granted Fewer invention patents granted
Moderate to cold climates Tropical and subtropical climates
FI GURE 15.10 Individualistic
and collectivist culture
Source: Adapted from Hofstede
(2001, pp. 226–45).
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 537
The fth dimension in Hofstede’s model of cultures is that of long-term orientation. Long-
term orientation refers to the time frames that a culture operates in, specically the time
frames of the near-to-distant future. Cultures that score low on this dimension typically tend
to operate on close time horizons and may be more xed in the ‘here and now’ than in the
‘there and then’. Hofstede notes that East Asian societies score high on long-term orientation
and suggests that this orientation or value set has been instrumental in the strong economic
growth of these societies in the past few decades. Typical characteristics of low and high
long-term orientation cultures are shown in gure 15.12.
Limitations of Hofstede’s model
Hofstede’s ve-dimensional model of culture has been very inuential since the rst
versions of it appeared in the 1980s (Kirkman, Lowe & Gibson 2006; Soares, Farhangmehr
& Shoham 2007). The insights it gives into culture are considerable, and it has substantial
potential not only for understanding individual cultures but also for comparing cultures.
For example, gure 15.13 shows data for all ve dimensions for selected countries, and the
trends revealed are an interesting starting point for discussion.
FI GURE 15.11 Masculine and
feminine cultures
Source: Adapted from Hofstede
(2001, pp. 298–318).
Masculine culture Feminine culture
Challenge and recognition in jobs important Cooperation at work and relationship with boss
Belief in individual decisions Belief in group decisions
Men should be tough and take care of
performance; women should be tender and take
care of relationships
Men should be tender and take care of both
performance and relationships; women should
be the same
Sympathy for the strong Sympathy for the weak
Live in order to work Work in order to live
Fewer women in management positions More women in management positions
Resolution of conflicts through denying them or
fighting until the best ‘man’ wins
Resolution of conflicts through problem solving,
compromise and negotiation
Less sickness absence More sickness absence
Competitive advantage in manufacturing
industries, price competition, heavy products
and bulk chemistry
Competitive advantage in service industries,
consulting, live products and biochemistry
Low long-term orientation culture High long-term orientation culture
Quick results expected Perseverance, persistence
Leisure time important Leisure time not so important
Small share of additional income saved Large share of additional income saved
In business, short-term results — ‘the
In business, building of relationships and a
strong market position
Lower performance in basic mathematics tasks Higher performance in basic mathematics tasks
Meritocracy — economic and social life to be
ordered by abilities
People should live more equally
Old age is seen as coming later Old age seen as coming sooner but as a
satisfying life period
FI GURE 15.12 Long-term
orientation and culture
Source: Adapted from Hofstede
(2001, pp. 360–7).
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Communicating in the 21st Century 538
There are limitations, however, in Hofstede’s approach. Most of his data is based on
surveys conducted from 1967 to 1973 of 116 000 employees of one US multinational (IBM),
the employees being situated in 72 countries; and from a 1985 survey of students from
23countries (50 males and females from each country). The questions to ask with this
approach are:
Is the data still relevant? Have things changed since the survey periods, or have value-sets
remained robust over time? (Although other studies have been done since using the same
Might the earlier organisational culture of IBM not be so relevant anymore?
Might IBM’s internal micro-culture overwhelm the truth about the macro-culture of
thecountries outside the IBM buildings)?
Do people respond truthfully to surveys? Do people describe the way things really are,
orthe way they would like them to be?
Would the organisational culture of the one employer swamp or mask the true broader
national cultural values of survey respondents? In other words, is the sample for the
survey too narrow?
What other variables might exist beyond Hofstede’s ve, and what individual
attributes(e.g. cognitions) might better explain employee feelings or actions
than culturalvalues? (Kirkman, Lowe & Gibson 2006; see also Minkov, Blagoev
andHoftstede2012 for analysis of whether sexual and/or dishonest behaviour ts the
Bearing these reservations in mind, it remains true that Hofstede’s work is a
considerableachievement and provides an insight into the things that separate and unite
cultures. Some implications of this work for intercultural communication include the
In intercultural encounters, such as negotiations, people from high power-distance
cultureswill prefer to work with high-status negotiators or principals rather than
People from high uncertainty-avoidance cultures may prefer the reassurance of structure
and ritual.
High power distance
Short-term thinking
Australia Netherlands
Low power distance
Low uncertainty-
Long-term thinking
New Zealand
Australia USA
High uncertainty-
FI GURE 15.13 How selected
countries compare on
Hofstede’s five dimensions
of culture
Source: Adapted from
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 539
People from collectivist cultures like to build relationships over a long period of time.
People from high masculine cultures may tend to try and resolve conicts by force,
whereas those from feminine cultures may be more likely to resolve conicts through
compromise and consensus.
People from long-term orientation cultures may persevere longer, and sacrice more, to
achieve desired ends.
Intercultural encounters demand language and communication skills to guarantee that the
messages sent to the other party or parties will be understood in the way they were meant
by the sender, both cognitively and emotionally.
Tourism represents the most supercial form of intercultural encounter, but may help raise
intercultural awareness and boost business opportunities.
Many people are threatened by the idea of cultural variation because it seems to
undermine their most fundamental beliefs, which they have presumed to be universal
and absolute.
The slogan ‘think globally, act locally’ is naïve and arrogant, because no-one can think
globally — we all think according to our own cultural programming or local mental
software. Intercultural encounters are all about recognising that we think differently
but resolve common problems anyway. The slogan should perhaps be ‘think locally, act
Perhaps his most important observation about cultures is that conicts can still occur
between people with similar values, and peaceful coexistence can prevail between people
with different values. In other words, similar proles between nations do not guarantee
peace, and dissimilar proles do not guarantee conict.
The same dynamic pertains at the interpersonal level — between individual and individual,
and among family and group members.
House’s model of cultures
A larger and more complex study than Hofstede’s is the global leadership and organisational
behaviour effectiveness (GLOBE) model developed by House and his associates (House 1998;
House et al. 2004; Ashkanasy, Trevor-Roberts & Earnshaw 2002; Gupta, Hanges & Dorfman
2002; Gupta et al. 2002; Javidan & House 2001, 2002; Kabasakal & Bodur 2002; Szabo
etal. 2002; Hofstede 2006; Javidan et al. 2006; Smith 2006; House, Quigley & Sully, 2010;
House 2014). The GLOBE survey draws on data from approximately 17 000 questionnaires
completed by middle managers from approximately 825 organisations in 62 societies. As with
the Hofstede model, the GLOBE approach draws more on management and leadership studies
rather than broader disciplines like sociology, anthropology, economics, history, geography
and psychology — an approach that creates strengths but may also induce weaknesses in the
search for the meaning of culture.
The GLOBE project broke up the 62 societies surveyed into ten clusters (or
groups)basedongeography, common language, religion and historical accounts
How would you rate yourself personally on each of Hofstede’s five dimensions?
Editor’s Note: 5 lines short
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Communicating in the 21st Century 540
Anglo Latin Europe Nordic Europe Germanic Europe Eastern Europe
South Africa
(white sample)
New Zealand
United States
Switzerland (French
The Netherlands
Germany (formerly
Germany (formerly
Latin America Sub-Saharan Africa Arab Southern Asia Confucian Asia
Costa Rica
El Salvador
South Africa (black
Hong Kong
South Korea
FI GURE 15.14 The ten GLOBE
Source: Adapted from Gupta,
Hanges and Dorfman (2002,
The GLOBE study builds on the work of Hofstede and others and examines cultures in
terms of nine cultural dimensions or attributes. These are shown in table 15.1.
TAB LE 15.1 GLOBE cultural dimensions
Globe dimension Definition Examples
1. Assertiveness The extent to which
a society encourages
people to be tough,
confrontational, assertive
and competitive versus
modest and tender
High-scoring countries (e.g.United States, Austria) tend to have a ‘can do’ attitude
and tend to value competition. They have sympathy for the strong and the winner.
Low-scoring countries (e.g. Sweden, New Zealand) tend to prefer warm and
cooperativerelations and harmony. They have sympathy for the weak and
emphasise loyalty and solidarity.
2. Future
orientation The extent to which a
society encourages and
rewards future-oriented
behaviours such as
planning, investing in
the future and delaying
High-scoring countries (e.g. Singapore, Switzerland, the Netherlands) tend to have
a higher propensity to save for the future and longer thinking and decision-making
time frames.
Low-scoring countries (e.g. Russia, Argentina, Italy) tend to have shorter thinking
and planning horizons and greater emphasis on instant gratification.
3. Gender
differentiation The extent to which a
society maximises gender
role differences
High-scoring countries (e.g. South Korea, Egypt, China) tend to have high degrees
of gender differentiation. They tend to accord men higher social status and have
relatively few women in positions of authority.
Low-scoring countries (e.g. Hungary, Poland, Denmark) tend to have the least
gender-differentiated practices. Such societies tend to accord women a higher
status and a stronger role in decision making.
4. Uncertainty
avoidance The society’s reliance
on social norms and
procedures to alleviate
the unpredictability of
future events
High-scoring countries (e.g. Switzerland, Sweden, Germany) tend towards
orderliness and consistency,structured lifestyles, clear specification of social
expectations, and rules and laws to cover situations.
Low-scoring countries (e.g. Russia, Greece, Venezuela) tend to have a strong
tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty. People are used to less structure in their
lives and are not as concerned about following rules and procedures.
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 541
Globe dimension Definition Examples
5. Power distance The degree to which
members of a society
expect power to be
unequally shared.
High-scoring countries (e.g. Russia, Thailand, Spain) tend to expect obedience
towards superiors, and clearly distinguish between thosewith status and power
and those withoutit.
Low-scoring countries (e.g. Denmark, the Netherlands) tend to be more egalitarian
and favour stronger participation in decision making.
6. Institutional
emphasis on
The degree to which
individuals are
encouraged by societal
institutions to be
integrated into groups
within organisations and
the society
High-individualism-scoring countries (e.g. Greece, Italy, Argentina) tend to value
autonomy and individual freedom. Rewards are based onindividual performance
because self-interestis more strongly valued than the collective good.
High-collectivism-scoring countries (e.g.Sweden, South Korea, Japan) tend
to prefer similarity to othersrather than distinctiveness.They are motivated by
othermembers’ satisfaction and cooperation rather than individual autonomy and
7. In-group
collectivism The extent to which
members of a society
take pride in membership
in small groups, such as
their family and circle
of close friends, and the
organisations in which
they are employed
High-scoring countries (e.g. Iran, India, China) tend to highly value being a member
of a familyand of a close group of friends – an in-group. It is not unusual to forgo
due diligence, orequal employment opportunity, and to favoura close friend or
family member in recruiting or in allocating rewards and promotions.
Low-scoring countries (e.g. Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand) tend not to favour in-
groups; people do not feel an obligation to ignore rules or procedures to take care
of close friends or relatives.
8. Performance
orientation The degree to which
a society encourages
and rewards group
members for performance
improvement and
High-scoring countries (e.g. Singapore, HongKong, United States) tend to have a
‘can-do’ attitude and believe in taking initiative. They prefer a direct and explicit
style of communication and tend to have a sense of urgency.
Low-scoring countries (e.g. Russia, Italy, Argentina) tend to emphasise loyalty
and belonging, view feedback as discomforting, emphasise tradition and paying
attention to one’s family and background rather than performance. They associate
competition with defeat and value sympathy.
9. Humane
orientation The degree to which
a society encourages
and rewards individuals
for being fair, altruistic,
generous, caring and kind
to others
High-scoring countries (e.g. Malaysia, Ireland, the Philippines) tend to value
humanrelations,sympathy, and support for others – especially the weak and the
Low-scoring countries (e.g. former West Germany, France, Singapore) tend to
see power and material possessions as motivators. Assertive styles of conflict
resolution are preferred. People are expected to solve their own problems, and
children are expected to be independent.
Source: Adapted from Javidan and House (2001, pp. 293–302).
GLOBE and communication
There are numerous implications for intercultural communication owing from these
Effective communication requires the ability to listen, to frame the message in a way that
is understandable to the receiver, and to accept and use feedback. Effective cross-cultural
communication involves nding integrated solutions, or at least compromises, that allow
decisions to be implemented by members of diverse cultures. While this sounds simple, it can
be quite complicated in cross-cultural situations.
The United States is among the high performance-oriented countries. To a typical North
American manager, effective communication means direct and explicit language. Facts and
gures and rational thinking are important pillars of communication. Economic rationale and
expected outcomes are the key criteria in decision making. To a North American manager,
communication is a means to an end. The end is the deliverable results.
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But people from other cultures do not necessarily share these attributes. People from lower
performance-oriented cultures like Russia or Greece tend to prefer indirect and vague language.
They are not too comfortable with strong results-driven and explicit communication. Hard facts
and gures are hard to come by and not taken as seriously even when they are available. To a
typical Greek manager, effective communication does not necessarily mean a clear agreement
on facts and expectations. It may mean a discussion and exploration of issues without any
commitments and explicit results.
Others from less assertive countries such as Sweden may nd it too aggressive, impolite,
and unfriendly to speak of explicit and ambitious expectations. They would prefer a
communication process that is two-way rather than one-way from the manager. They
prefer a highly involved dialogue with much discussion about the subject. The end of the
communication process to people from such countries is not just deliverable results but better
relations among the parties. . .
A culture’s level of uncertainty avoidance also inuences the communication process. In
countries with high levels of uncertainty avoidance, such as Switzerland and Austria, the
communication needs to be clear and explicit, based on facts. The message needs to contain
rules and procedures about how to get things done. The process of communication is highly
structured and formal. Meetings are planned in advance, with a clear agenda. In contrast, in
low uncertainty-avoidance countries like Greece or Russia, people are not used to structured or
organized communication. Meetings are not planned in advance. They tend to have no agenda
or a set time. They can gos for hours and nish the meeting without any clear conclusions.
(Javidan & House 2001, pp. 302–3)
Thus far, not all countries have been sampled in the GLOBE model, and there will always
be controversies about classifying countries into clusters. (Do America and Britain really
belong in the same cluster? Or in terms of the Anglosphere’ idea, are the similar curves of
Britain, the United States and Australia pure chance? Does Israel really belong in the Latin
Europe cluster? Does Iran t comfortably into the Southern Asia cluster? Does Turkey t
comfortably into the Arab cluster? How valid is it to split South Africa on racial lines, or
Switzerland on language lines? How ‘Confucian’ is Japan?) Is GLOBE, in fact, insufciently
‘global’? That is, is it too focused on North American values and approaches (Hofstede
2006)? In spite of these limitations, GLOBE is a systematic and solid project that provides
new perspectives on culture, conict and communication.
Hoftstede came rst, with House building on that model. The researchers have had
intellectual disagreements, at times, since the appearance of GLOBE. For example, Hofstede
(2010, p. 1342) quotes another intercultural researcher: ‘As an experienced cross-cultural
researcher, he (Peter Smith) wondered about GLOBE’s way of aggregating data from the
individual to the nation level. Finally, he pointed to the dilemma of whether or not to control
for differences in national wealth: GLOBE does not, I do.
House has criticised Hofstede for arguing that GLOBE was too US-centred, pointing out that
the original research work was commissioned by IBM, a US-centric company that would be
interested primarily in a US-based model. Hofstede’s fth dimension, long-term orientation
versus short-term orientation, was only added later, based on the work of others, and does
not t perfectly with the original four-dimension research design: ‘Such an incremental
approach of adding to the list of dimensions is due to the limitations of his original design
and begs the question: what other dimensions are missing because IBM was not interested
in them?’ (Javidan et al. 2006, p. 898)
Finally, McSweeney (2013) and Venaik and Brewer (2013) argue that both the Hofstede
and GLOBE models are examples of the ‘ecological fallacy’ that is, using data gathered
at a national level and then inappropriately applying it to other levels and areas, such as
an individual, a group of individuals, an organisation, a sector, a segment, a class or other
social categorisation.
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 543
Hall’s context model
One of the most interesting schemas to classify cultures has been that developed by
anthropologist Edward T Hall. Hall (1977) argues that communication and culture are about
not only words and what is immediately tangible and visible, but also the context in which
these things occur — not just text, but context. If context is real, then it can be measured,
and it will vary from situation to situation and from culture to culture. Therefore, it is
possible to argue that cultures can be understood in terms of two extreme types of context:
low and high (table 15.2).
High context Low context
Association How things get done depends on
relationships with people and attention
to group processes.
Things get done by following
procedures and paying attention to a
Interaction High use of nonverbal elements; voice,
tone, facial expression, gestures and
eye movements carry significant parts
of conversation.
Low use of nonverbal elements.
Message is carried more by words than
by nonverbal means.
Territoriality Space is communal; people stand close
to each other, share the same space. Space is compartmentalised and
privately owned; privacy is important, so
people are further apart.
Temporality Everything has its own time. Time is not
easily scheduled; needs of people may
interfere with keeping to a set time.
What is important is that activity gets
Things are scheduled to be done at
particular times, one thing at a time.
What is important is that activity is done
Learning Knowledge is embedded in situation;
things are connected, synthesised and
global. Multiple sources of information
are used. Thinking is deductive,
proceeds from general to specific.
Reality is fragmented and
compartmentalised. One source
of information is used to develop
knowledge. Thinking is inductive,
proceeds from specific to general.
Focusis on detail.
Source: Adapted from Halverson(1993); Usunier (2010); Livermore (2010); Hammami, etal. (2014).
High context cultures, for example, tend to be polychromic — that is, they embody the view
that there are multiple time frames and experiences, that time is not necessarily a linear and
measurable thing, that things proceed at their own pace, and multitasking is possible and
even desirable. Low context cultures, by contrast, tend to be monochromic that is, they
embody the view that there is only one experience of time, and norms like punctuality,
scheduling and doing one thing at a time are important. Thus considered, time use can
even be seen as a form of nonverbal communication. Cultures that are now monochronic
may have been polychronic in the past: for example, westernised industrial cultures one
or two centuries ago were controlled more by agricultural rhythms than machine pacing.
Even today, small towns or country regions may be more polychronic than big towns and
Polychronic: literally, many
times; an approach or
cultural mindset that sees
time as having multiple
dimensions and experiences,
with the practical upshot of
emphasising slow pacing and
Monochronic: literally, one
time; an approach or cultural
mindset that sees time as
linear and measurable,
with the practical upshot
of emphasising punctuality,
detailed scheduling of
activities, and doing only one
task at a time
Using the GLOBE model, consider a cultural cluster you are familiar with. Do the similarities of the
cluster members outweigh the differences? Why or why not?
TAB LE 15.2 High-context
and low-context cultures
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Communicating in the 21st Century 544
industrial regions. Even within the one culture, dominantly monochronic, females may be
more polychronic than males in approaches to time scheduling and shopping behaviours
(Lindquist & Kaufman-Scarborough 2004). People within polychronic cultures, however,
can acquire monochronic behaviours such as time management practices (scheduling,
goalsetting) and even be more effective than monochronic individuals (Nonis, Teng &
In terms of Hofstede’s model, high-context societies tend to be more collectivist than
individual, tend to have higher rather than lower power distances, and tend to have long-
term rather than short-term orientation. The correlations with masculine–feminine and
uncertainty avoidance are not so clear.
The two extremes of low context and high context make it possible to establish a
continuumofcontext and classify cultures according to where they fall on the continuum
(gure 15.15).
Context, understanding and misunderstanding
The context idea, though fascinating and suggestive, is still relatively undeveloped from
a research point of view, and there are many exceptions to the rules. For example, the
initiating of touching behaviour is a feature of some cultures that can be classied as high
context (e.g. in Arab countries), but it is not a feature of some other cultures classied as
high context (e.g. Japan). Context also depends on what generation within a culture we
are talking about a younger generation from a non-western culture may be taking on
behaviour from western cultures, and western cultures, particularly the Anglo-American
ones, tend to be low context. It also depends on the gender of the persons involved: the rules
of same-sex touching are quite different from those for different-sex touching in virtually
all cultures, regardless of context.
Nevertheless, the context idea can perhaps suggest why communication works and
does not work when people from different cultures get together (Pekerti 2005; Hallenbeck
2006; Würtz2005). The differing unspoken rules of cultures might lead to communication
breakdowns, and therefore it may make sense for us to at least try to analyse intercultural
situations to see whether the low context — high context model has something to offer. For
example, table 15.3 shows some of the ‘rules’ operating for people from differing cultures.
Low context (British, North
High context (Arab)
Interpersonal distance –
Fingertips: I am most comfortable
talking to someone at 80–100
cm distance, the distance of my
arm to my fingertips touching the
other person’s shoulder. People
who get closer are pushy, and
need to be retreated from.
Elbows: I am most comfortable
talking to someone at 20–40 cm
distance, the distance from my
elbow to my fingertips touching
the other person’s body. People
who move away are cold or are
getting away, and need to be
advanced upon.
Low context: describes a
culture in which the context
of communicated messages
is not as important as the
communicated message itself
High context: describes a
culture in which the context
of communicated messages
is as important as the
communicated message
North Americans
Latin Americans
Low context High context
FI GURE 15.15 Cultural
context continuum
Sources: Adapted from Hall
(1977); Halverson (1993).
TAB LE 15.3 Context rules of
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 545
Low context (British, North
High context (Arab)
Touching Touching another person’s body
for emphasis of points when
talking is not likely, especially
when I do not know the other
person well.
Touching another person’s body
for emphasis of points when
talking is likely, irrespective
ofwhether I know the person
or not.
Breath, smell Body odours, especially breath
odours, are taboo. Sometimes I need to be able
to breathe on someone when
talking to them, and smell their
Voice If another person lowers the
volume of their voice when
talking, then I will increase the
volume of mine to try to get them
to do likewise.
I will sometimes lower my voice
when talking to show respect; if
a person talking to me increases
the volume of their speech,
perhaps they are angry, so I will
need to make my voice even
Time sense, chronicity Punctuality, scheduling and
sequence are all important. Time
is to be managed.
Things happen at their own
pace. Time is to be experienced.
Status roles Informality (especially with
North Americans) is desirable;
hierarchy is a problem.
Formality is desirable; hierarchy
is a solution.
Sources: Adapted from Morris (2002); Hall (1977).
Some high-context and low-context cultures are compared in the next gure.
Foster (2002b) has used the context concept to analyse different cultures, although he admits his analysis will inevitably be
caught up in ‘the anthropologist’s dilemma’ — that is, the impossibility of describing a culture objectively, due to the fact that the
‘describer’ is always viewing the culture being observed in reference to his or her own culture (in his case, the United States).
See what you think of his analysis of these five cultures.
Saudi Arabia
Arabs are very context-driven communicators. They will speak in metaphors, and use stories or codified phrases; they
will employanalogies, Islamic precedent, and much nonverbal behaviour to convey true meaning. They generally avoid
confrontation,and are honour-bound to do everything possible to make strangers like and honour them (they are lavish
hosts). They will avoid unpleasant discussions as long as possible, and it is precisely because they shun unpleasantness in
discussionsthat anger, oftenexpressed as an insult to pride, can blow fast and hard when disagreements can no longer be
The German language and methodical, detail-oriented aspects of German culture combine to create a form of speech that is often
very direct and low context. Words are used to mean exactly what they are meant to say (it is therefore very important not to
interrupt German speakers, and particularly not to end their statements for them). This blunt, precise way of speaking can sound
harsh and too controlling to the North American ear; it is usually not meant in this way, but results from the preoccupation with
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Communicating in the 21st Century 546
Mintu-Wimsatt (2002), after analysing negotiations between people from a low-context
culture (North Americans) and a high-context culture (the Philippines), suggests that
persons from high-context and collectivist cultures may be less confrontational, and
tendto placegreater emphasis on interpersonal interactions compared to those from low-
context and individualist countries; whereas the persons from low-context individualist
countries may tend to be more (self-defeatingly) aggressive, hurried and win–lose in
Cultural context may also help to explain communication styles. Du-Babcock (1999)
analysed the structure of discussions in a high-context language (Cantonese) and a low-
context language (English) and found that the structure of topic management and turn
taking was more spiral in pattern in the high-context language and more linear in pattern
in the low-context language. This may be evidence that members of high-context cultures
view the world in synthetic, spiral logical terms (a circular pattern), and members from
low-context cultures may view the world in analytical, logical terms (a linear pattern).
Editor’s Note: 4 lines short
limiting oneself to statements of fact. This is especially the case in business, while in social situations, Germans can be more
subtle and playful in their communication styles.
Indonesians are very high-context communicators. They avoid confrontation, and will speak in terms that maintain harmony
at all costs, even if this results in speech that is indirect, evasive or contradictory. Because circumstances rather than
universaltruths or laws determine action, sensitivity to the context is critical if you want accurate information on what
is reallybeing meant or done. The use of the word yes, even though no is meant; the avoidance of explanations and
statementsthat even gently criticise or make someone look bad; the eternal smile, even when things are not going very well;
the failure to provide bad news or important negative information; all of these are common characteristics in Indonesia,
whichcan be ultimately understood and precluded if one develops the ability to read between the lines. Read the context, not
the words.
Most Brazilians are high-context communicators; depending upon the situation at the moment in which the communication
takes place, Brazilians can alternately be careful about what they say and how they say it, and very direct and honest. Of course,
Brazilians, like most Latinos, want smooth interpersonal working relationships, especially with outsiders, and will go the distance
to reassure you that everything is okay and that all is in order — even when it may not be. This is not based on a desire to deceive
but rather a need to appear capable and competent, and not to lose face in the eyes of others, particularly when it may be in
one’s interests to cultivate a relationship. It is critical, therefore, to always confirm information; to have multiple and independent
sources ‘on the ground’ to confirm for you what you are being told; and to be able to read between the lines without directly
challenging the veracity of what the Brazilian is saying. There is a strong tolerance for, in fact a dependence on, the subjective
interpretation of events and reality.
Nothing will get Australians to tell you what’s on their minds faster than if you try to tell them what’s on your mind first. Australians
are usually very direct, and have no problem telling you what they think of just about anything, including you and your country.
They do not shy away from confrontation, but react to these things with positive good humour, acknowledging that this stuff can
make some people pretty uncomfortable. In fact, a common Australian complaint about North Americans is that they don’t tell
you what’s on their mind. Most of the time, Australian directness will take the form of good-natured ribbing or kidding around
over a ‘shout’ (that’s a round of beers) or two. If you don’t get the point that way, however, Australians can also tell you more
Sources: Saudi Arabia — Foster (2002b, p. 16); Germany — Foster (2000a, pp. 74–5); Brazil — Foster (2002a, p. 142); Indonesia — Foster (2000b, p. 136);
Australia — Foster (2000b, p. 190).
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 547
Huntington’s clash of civilisations model
Huntington (Huntington 1996; Berger & Huntington 2002; Huntington 2004) looks at
culturalchange and communication both within nations and between nations, and the
pictures he paints are not necessarily rosy. He argues that the post–World War II situation of
a polarised world — balanced in a battle primarily between the superpowers, the SovietUnion
and the United States — has changed, particularly with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Under that system, nation-states were superpowers, allies, satellites, clients, neutrals or non-
aligned. Now, in a post-Cold War world, countries relate to civilisations (Huntington 1996,
pp. 21, 26):
In the post–Cold War world, the most important distinctions among peoples are not ideological,
political or economic. They are cultural. People and nations are attempting to answer the most
basic question humans can face: Who are we? And they are answering that question . . . by
reference to the things that mean most to them. People dene themselves in terms of ancestry,
religion, language, history, values, customs and institutions. They identify with cultural groups:
tribes, ethnic groups, religious communities, nations, and, at the broadest levels, civilizations.
People use politics not just to advance their interests but also to dene their identity. We know
who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we
Nation-states remain the principal actors in world affairs. Their behavior is shaped as in
the past by the pursuit of power and wealth, but it is also shaped by cultural preferences,
commonalities and differences. The most important groupings of states are no longer
thethreeblocs of the Cold War . . . but rather the world’s seven or eight [sic] major
civilizations[Western, Latin American, African, Orthodox, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Buddhist
and Japanese].
This alignment of people in terms of civilisations has, he suggests, considerable potential
for conict, particularly conict between the western and Islamic civilisations, and western
and Sinic (primarily Chinese) civilisations. This is, then, the clash of civilisations that might
become more prominent in the next few decades.
In this world, Huntington suggests, nation-states can be classied in different ways
Clash of civilisations: the idea
(developed by North American
political scientists) that
cultures now may be the basis
of conflicts between nations
Consider the context continuum that follows. Where on the continuum would you place:
a. yourself?
b. your home culture?
c. a friend or acquaintance from another culture?
Give reasons for your choices.
Low context High context
State type Example Analysis
Italy A country fully identified with European–western civilisation
Egypt A country fully identified with Arab–Islamic civilisation
TAB LE 15.4 Huntington’s
model of states within
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Communicating in the 21st Century 548
Torn countries are a particularly interesting part of the Huntington model. Turkey,
for example, is an Islamic country seeking entry into the European Union, but there is
ambivalence (secular versus religious) within the country about this historical path. There
appears to be considerable debate within the European Union about granting full membership
rightssuch as free movement of citizens between European Union countriesto an
Islamic country, and also an ambivalence based on cultural, security and migration concerns.
Thus,Turkeyis a member of a military alliance with the west (North Atlantic Treaty Alliance
[NATO]) but is kept out of the European Union.
Huntington also sees Australia as a torn country — torn between its history of European
afliation and its geography in the Asian area. He argues that the attempt to integrate
Australia into Asian cultures under Prime Minister Paul Keating in the 1990s might be
regarded by future historians as a major marker in the ‘decline of the West’.
Intercultural and intracultural clashes
Huntington also investigated changes within nations, particularly the rise of multiculturalism,
diversity and large-scale ethnic or racial change. For example, he notes that white North
Americans will be in a minority in parts of the United States within a few decades, with
a combination of Black, Asian, Native American and Hispanic subpopulations comprising
a majority. He postulates that this may make the United States a cleft country, riven
with internal dissensions and tensions. Some demographic projections bear this contention
out(gure 15.16).
State type Example Analysis
Core state China Most powerful and central state of Sinic civilisation, with
influence over a large diaspora of overseas Chinese
United States and
Franco-German core of
Most powerful and central states of western civilisation, with
Britain an additional power adrift between them
Japan Lacks cultural commonality with other Asian societies
Ethiopia Lacks cultural commonality with other African societies
Haiti Lacks cultural commonality with other Caribbean societies
Sudan, Nigeria Different regions with different religious affiliations
(Christian, Muslim) are in conflict
Czechoslovakia Different cultures lead to split of nation-state
Canada Different cultures threaten to lead to split of nation-state
Turkey Has a single predominant culture (Islamic) but its leaders
want it to shift to another culture (western)
Russia Has a single predominant culture (Orthodox) but its leaders
want it to shift to another culture (western)
Mexico Has a single predominant culture (Latin) but its leaders want
it to shift to another culture (western)
Australia Has a single predominant culture (western) but its leaders
want it to shift to another culture (Asian)
Source: Adapted from Huntington (1996).
FI GURE 15.12 (continued)
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 549
Browne ( 2000 ) observes:
Not every one likes the new face of America. White far-right extremists predict the break-up of
the union. Thomas W. Chittum, a New Jersey-based Vietnam War veteran, declared in his book
Civil War Two, that the US, like Yugoslavia, will shatter into new, ethnically-based nations.
‘America was born in blood, America suckled on blood, America gorged on blood and grew into
a giant, and America will drown in blood,’ Chittum warned.
Huntington ( 1996 , p. 318) links the cleft-US scenario to the global level by stating
opposition to the forces of globalisation and westernisation leading to the imposition of a
homogeneous US-style civilisation across the planet:
Multiculturalism at home threatens the United States and the West; universalism abroad
threatens the West and the world. Both deny the uniqueness of Western culture. The global
monoculturalists want to make the world like America. The domestic multiculturalists want to
make America like the world. A multicultural America is impossible because a non-Western
America is not American. A multicultural world is unavoidable because global empire is
impossible. The preservation of the United States and the West requires the renewal of Western
identity. The security of the world requires acceptance of global multiculturality.
Huntington argues that the way to maintain global peace is for civilisations not to interfere
in the running of other civilisations.
His work has, predictably, evoked strong reactions, especially after the terrorist attacks
on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 (Neumayer and Plümper 2009 ).
Abrahamian( 2003 ) argues that the ‘clash of civilisations’ idea is in fact quite weak, and
the waves of emotion unleashed by the horrors of 9/11 have given a awed idea a spurious
authenticity, and have also made it all but impossible to mention ‘the P word’ — Palestine
or the ongoing con ict between Israel and Islamic forces in the Middle East, the real
source of so much acrimony between the western and Islamic civilisations. Aysha ( 2003 )
suggests that Huntington’s real concern is not with the clash between cultures but the clash
within the US culture itself — a concern with multiculturalism, immigration, the threat
of ethnic separatism and ‘American/white declinism’, re ected by commentators such as
Schlesinger( 1998 ), Steyn ( 2007 ), Blankley ( 2006 ), Buchanan ( 2002 , 2006 , 2009 , 2012 ),
Ferguson ( 2006 , 2012 ), Phillips ( 2007 ), Fallows ( 2010 ), Joffe ( 2014 ) and Stein ( 2015 ).
1970 1980
Changing Face of United States
Percent of total US population by race and ethnicity, 1960–2060
1960 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050 2060
16% 31%
All other Asian Hispanic Black White
All other : 0%
Asian: 1%
Hispanic: 4%
Black: 10%
White: 85%
FIGU RE 15.16 Changing
United States demographic
Source: Taylor ( 2014 ).
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Communicating in the 21st Century 550
Others, however, either accept or modify the basic clash thesis. For example, Inglehart &
Norris (2003) contend that the real clash between Islam and the West is not about democracy,
but about sex. Fundamental differences in attitudes towards divorce, abortion, gender
equality and gay rights seem to exist between Islamic and western countries, and this may
prove to be another source of crisis and conict. Still others contend that such clashes might
be about economics, energy and oil, neocolonialism, and the emotions of fear, humiliation
and hope (Imai 2006; Marsh 2007; Jan & Winter 2007; Moïsi 2007; see also Capetillo-
Ponce2007; Bottici & Challend 2006). Goldman argues, contrarian-wise, that Islamic
populations are declining faster than those of the west, with consequences all the more
disastrous for Islamic states (Goldman 2012).
Diverse planet, diverse nation, diverse
We have now considered aspects of communication within macro- or large-scale cultures.
Now let’s turn our attention to micro-cultures, or organisations. Many countries have
become much more multicultural in composition in the past few decades, which in effect
means that much of what we are learning about intercultural communication can also be
applied to intracultural communication.
Ethnic diversity has been one of the main drivers behind diversity in the workplace.
Diversity means different things to different people, but it usually means greater
representation within organisations of people from differing ethnic or racial background,
sex, age, disability, national origin, religion and sexual orientation (gay/lesbian) (Edelman,
Fuller & Riggs 2001). Socioeconomic class may also be a factor that needs to be taken into
account (Valdata 2005).
‘Inclusion’ is now also emerging as a term to encompass a broader base for organisational
composition. Robertson (2006, p. 230), for example, gives instances of denitions of these
terms used by some organisations.
Diversity: ‘Diversity encompasses the many ways people may differ, including gender,
race, nationality, education, sexual orientation, style, functional expertise, and a wide
array of other characteristics and backgrounds that make a person unique.
Inclusion: ‘A competitive business advantage that we build and maintain by leveraging
the awareness, understanding and appreciation of differences in the workplace to enable
individuals, teams and businesses to perform at their full potential.
The case for greater diversity is primarily based upon the assumption that organisations
should directly reect the make-up of the broader community. This is an equity argument,
but also an efciency argument. Joshi (2006), for example, has merged macro- and micro-
cultural concepts so that organisations can be understood in terms of ‘organisational
demography’, (gure 15.17). He argues that multicultural organisations may be more effective
than organisations with lower or non-existent levels of diversity because multicultural teams
will have more external networks and personal connections, allowing for greater ow of
information and opportunities (see chapter 16 for a discussion of networking).
Discuss the idea of a ‘clash of civilisations’ with a person from another culture. What insights
Diversity: greater
representation within
organisations of people
from differing ethnic or
racial background, sex, age,
disability, national origin,
religion and sexual orientation
Editor’s Note: 3 lines short
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 551
There are, then, powerful arguments in favour of organisations becoming more diverse,
just as there are for societies becoming more multicultural (Miller & Katz 2003; Cox 2001;
Etzioni 2003; Jupp 1997, 2000–2001; Härtel 2004).
Multiculturalism as a concept, however, has sometimes been the subject of critique in the
past decade, and to a certain extent, that critique has owed on to the concepts of diversity
and inclusion. Multiculturalism has come to be seen by some as a source of divisiveness
in society, with individuals and groups from different cultural backgrounds sometimes
perceived to be either opting out of participating in the mainstream culture, or in fact
as being actively hostile towards the mainstream culture, sometimes apparently linked to
terrorist activities (Auster 2004; BBC news 2004; Schmidt 1997; Fukuyama 2005; Okin 1999;
Farrar2006; Sniderman 2007; Beck 2011; Horvat 2010). At the organisational level, it has
been found that diversity does not always correlate with efciency and effectiveness (Kochan
et al. 2003; Knight Ridder Tribune Business News 2003), while others (Lasch-Quinn 2003;
Wood 2003; Bauman, Trawalter and Unzueta 2014) have argued that diversity or inclusion,
paradoxically, may be divisive, and may in fact undermine equality (e.g. beneciaries of
equal opportunity programs may be perceived to have been given positions because of
diversity considerations rather than merit; different minority ethnic groups may discriminate
against other minority ethnic groups), and that ‘diversity fatigue’ may be setting in at some
workplaces (Gordon2003; Bronson & Merryman 2006; Benson 2005; Hayes 2008).
Editor’s Note: 3 lines short
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Homogeneous Heterogeneous
Structural composition
Demographic composition
proportional representation
predominantly at lower
representation at
predominantly composed
FI GURE 15.17 Joshi’s
three-stage model of
organisational demography
Source: Joshi (2006, p. 586).
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Communicating in the 21st Century 552
These issues involve deeply-held values and strong emotions, and feature strongly in
discourse about diversity, multiculturalism, intercultural communication and intracultural
Intercultural communication:
With all of the conicts between nations and within nations these days, it may well be
that the more we learn about intercultural communication, the less conict there will
be, and that has to be a good thing. There is much food for thought in what we have
discovered so far, and research into intercultural communication in the next few years will
undoubtedly produce still newer and more powerful insights. We need to be aware, however,
that communication does not always solve problems, and indeed can sometimes exacerbate
them. Thus, while the communication models of Bennett, Deardorff and Joshi are powerful
tools for understanding human interaction, they are, to a certain extent, teleological. That is,
they seem to suggest that a nal goal of understanding between people of different cultures
will always be reached, and that will be good thing (see online chapter 6 ‘Scientic and
technical writing’ for a discussion of teleology). In fact, the forces making for conict and
non-communication between cultures are strong, and perhaps have never been stronger.
Better intercultural communication is probably a necessary, but not sufcient, condition for
a reduction in conict between cultures.
Yet we must not forget the warnings of Hoftstede (2001). Conicts can still occur between
people with similar values, and peaceful coexistence can prevail between people with
different values. In other words, similar proles between nations do not guarantee peace, and
dissimilar proles do not guarantee conict. The same dynamic pertains at the interpersonal
level — between individual and individual, and among family and group members.
Just as the growth of greater understanding and the shrinking of ignorance and
xenophobia promises the end of global conicts, the reality is that familiarity all too often
breeds contempt and violence. The most violent wars are often not intercultural ones but
intra-cultural or civil ones. Perhaps for people from some cultural groups (e.g. different
cultural groups in Ireland and the Middle East) familiarity may very well contribute to
ongoing tensions.
At the beginning of the 60s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany and now
they live in our country. We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will
be gone,’ but this isn’t reality. And of course, [this] approach to building a multicultural [society] and
to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other . . . has failed, utterly failed.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, October 2010
Multiculturalism is a failure. The truth is that in our democracies, we cared too much about the
identity of the migrant and not sufficiently about the identity of the country that welcomed him.
Nicolas Sarkozy, former President of France, February 2011
Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate
lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream . . . We’ve even tolerated these segregated
communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values . . . This hands-off tolerance
has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. And this all leaves some young
Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can
lead. . . . [to] a process of radicalisation. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, 2011
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 553
Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better
in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to
understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same
questions. Paulo Coelho
Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture. Allen Ginsberg
Learning a foreign language, and the culture that goes with it, is one of the most useful things we can
do to broaden the empathy and imaginative sympathy and cultural outlook of children.Michael Gove
I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative
stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. Barack Obama
Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing . . . you are talking about the
internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers. This doesn’t affect two-
thirds of the people of the world. Jimmy Carter
Armageddon is not around the corner. This is only what the people of violence want us to believe. The
complexity and diversity of the world is the hope for the future. Michael Palin
From theory to practice: communicating
across cultures
We have now considered processes of acculturation, four separate models of culture, and the
ideas of diversity and inclusion. How do we then put all of these ideas into practice? How
do we communicate better with people from other cultures, either in their own country, or in
our own country? In some respects, this is related to the question of just how well (or how
badly) we communicate with people from our own primary culture.
It is impossible, and undesirable, to produce lists of ‘tips and tricks’ of how to
communicate with people from other cultures — in fact, given that the writer of this book
lives in a low-context culture, such lists could be seen as a classic low-context thing to
create. Nevertheless, knowledge of other cultures is possible, so long as such lists are seen
to be as important for what they leave out as for what they leave in. When communicating
with peoples from other cultures, then, focus your energies on two phasespreparation
and delivery:
Preparation: research the culture
Find out more about the culture before going there or before interacting with others from
that culture. What are ‘the rules’? Read, use the internet, talk to those who have visited
before, and operate on the principle of assuming that at least 50 per cent of what you see
and hear is wrong sometimes diametrically so. Focus your attention on the categories
in table 15.5.
Editor’s Note: 5 lines short
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TAB LE 15.5 ‘Rules’ of different cultures
‘Rules’ relating to . . . Example
Time Are norms of punctuality strictly observed, sometimes observed, or ignored?
How important are scheduling and sequences of activities, diary-keeping, use of watches
and clocks?
Is time to be managed, or to be experienced?
In professional and personal lives, do people have long time horizons (focusing on one or ten or fifty years
from now) or short time horizons (tomorrow, next week, quarterly financial statements)?
Is it expected that desires will be gratified immediately, or is it expected that gratification will
Space In personal and professional settings, is private space valued or ignored?
What is the population density?
How large are offices and dwellings?
How close do people stand when they are talking to each other?
What are the rules for touching other people of the same or opposite sex in personal and
What are the rules for eye contact with others? Do people avert gaze to show respect? Is direct eye
contact correlated with honesty? Is it polite to stare?
What vocal volume do people use when speaking?
Are any gestures or mannerisms considered to be taboo or in bad taste?
What clothing is considered appropriate for differing situations?
What adornment (hair styling, jewellery, body marking, etc.) is considered acceptable/unacceptable?
political milieu
What is the per-capita income?
How much socioeconomic mobility is there?
How much socioeconomic equality is there?
What are the levels of wealth and savings?
What is the per-capita rate of energy consumption?
What is the average life expectancy for males and females?
What resources are present/lacking?
What is the nature of political power?
Are leaders elected?
Does every adult have a vote?
Is there optimism about leaders being able to solve large-scale problems?
How stable is the political situation?
Is ethnic diversity high or low?
What is the rate of change of ethnic diversity?
Is there separation of church and state?
How independent is the media?
How independent is the judiciary?
What online ratings are given by organisations such as Transparency International, Amnesty International,
Freedom House, Global Witness, Nation Master, WorldWatch?
Do people work to live, or live to work?
Which is given more importance – seniority or merit?
What is the usage of computers, the internet and mobile/cell phones?
Are the prices of everyday commodities fixed or can they be bargained/haggled over?
How high is the level of trust in the police?
When agreements on medium- to large-scale enterprises are reached, is extensive legal documentation
required, or are verbal agreements preferred?
Do subordinates expect to be consulted on decision making, or told?
Are organisational pyramids flat or tall?
Is nepotism (giving preference to relatives) acceptable?
Is it acceptable or expected to give gifts or money as an inducement in a transaction?
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 555
‘Rules’ relating to . . . Example
Values and beliefs What rituals and protocol are involved in meeting a person or group? What rituals and protocol are
involved when you depart?
How important is religious ritual in everyday life?
Do females have the same rights as males?
What are dominant attitudes towards homosexuality?
Is there more sympathy for the strong than for the weak?
Is risk taking admired or frowned on?
Are strangers welcomed or are they viewed with suspicion?
What are the attitudes towards processes of globalisation?
How much tolerance is there of ambiguity and uncertainty?
Is competition or cooperation more important?
If an individual achieves success and wealth, is the expectation that the wealth should be kept by the
individual or shared communally?
How is the year structured in terms of holidays (holy days) and festivals?
What differences in values and beliefs are there between different generations?
Roles How are tasks and responsibilities allocated in households?
Are old people given respect and power?
In relationships, is formality or informality more important?
How do people primarily identify themselves – according to neighbourhood, state/province, family, clan,
tribe, caste, class, ethnic group, religion, nationality?
How is status displayed?
Communication and
Is it acceptable to express strong emotions in public?
What languages are spoken?
How many people speak more than one language?
What is the literacy level?
Which is more important – direct, explicit messages or indirect, implicit messages?
Is it more important to fight for an issue, no matter what the cost, or to compromise?
Do individuals or groups make decisions?
Is self-disclosure of weaknesses and problems admirable or contemptible?
What constraints are there on violent actions and words?
Are verbal and nonverbal messages always congruent?
What levels of tolerance are shown towards those of other classes, religions, nationalities?
Delivery: interact with the culture
Once you have some information about these categories (and you will never have all of the
information you need), consider using the following communication strategies.
1. Don’t operate from the position of believing that your culture is superior to that of the
person you are interacting with.
2. Don’t operate from the position of believing that your culture is inferior to that of the
person you are interacting with.
3. Try to ensure that your verbal and nonverbal communication reinforce, not contradict,
each other.
4. Demonstrate and model respect for the other person, and expect respect in return.
5. Strive to present a calm and politely assertive demeanour — don’t come across as
aggressive or submissive.
6. Try to nd common ground and mutual interests.
7. If working with a translator, try to break up your ideas into relatively short but sequential
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Communicating in the 21st Century 556
8. Monitor the other person’s nonverbal communication to check how your messages are
getting across.
9. Be willing to invest time in building rapport rather than always jumping into task-
oriented specics.
10. Speak clearly, and avoid using jargon and slang.
11. Try not to be disoriented by new sights, sounds, tastes and smells.
12. Participate in rituals of greeting and farewells.
13. Consider investing time and resources in learning the language of the area, or at least
20–30 words and phrases of that language. Only do this if you feel condent in doing so.
14. Try to ascertain what the optimal mix of communication channels is and will be for those
you are interacting with.
15. Defer judgement and don’t rush to conclusions — gather information by listening and by
respectfully questioning; don’t spend more time talking than listening.
16. Pay attention, but continually monitor your performance by refreshing your memories of
what you have learnt about the culture’s rules of time, space, nonverbal communication,
the socioeconomic and political milieu, values and beliefs, roles, and communication and
17. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
18. Pace yourself — this may be the rst of numerous interactions, so take it easy, and be
comfortable with adjourning to another time and place.
19. Be absolutely clear in your own mind what your objectives and goals are, and communicate
these with clarity.
20. If you are part of a team or group, ensure beforehand that all others share objectives and
goals, and understand their roles within the interaction.
21. Don’t joke about the sounds of the names of people from other cultures, which may sound
humorous or obscene in your own language: it’s incredibly rude and potentiallyoffensive.
Consider your own name in the thousands of languages on the planet — maybe there’s
something to laugh about there, and you perhaps wouldn’t necessarily see the joke.
22. Be ready to ruthlessly abandon any or all of these strategies if they are not working,
andtry something else.
Applied intercultural communication
Let’s now consider two very different nations or cultures, the Chinese and the North
Americans, and examine them within the specic communications arena of negotiation and
conict to see what insights emerge.
The Chinese
Much has been made of the economic, political and
military rise of China (and India and Brazil) in recent
times (Jacques2013;Gupta & Wang, 2009). To better
understand the dynamics of this new world, Lee (2003,
p. 5) suggests that outsiders like North Americans can
best understand the Chinese by considering cultural
backgrounds. North Americans, he suggests, are
‘cowboys’ (individualistic, prot-driven and ruled by
law), whereas the Chinese are ‘dragons’ (group oriented,
harmony-driven and ruled by hierarchical authority).
This is also borne out by the research of Hofstede and
the GLOBE team, and Hall’s idea of Asians as high-
context people.
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Further to the cowboys/dragons metaphor, Hampden-Turner and Trumpenaars (2006:
57–8) point out the historic situations of the two cultures:
No wonder then that the United States found that individualism contributed to the survival of
members of its culture. Immigrants who cross a vast ocean are likely to have this trait already.
When they nd themselves in a rich and fertile country never farmed before, with abundant
timber and wild game easily slaughtered by rearms, each could disappear into the mountains
for months on end and survive, as could a single farming family on a prairie given free land
under the Homestead Act. Never was there an environment friendlier to individualists with
fantastic opportunities for private gain.
Compare this to the conditions faced by the Chinese for centuries. You cannot grow rice without
the help of a whole village. You are either a welcome member of a community or you die.
Population survival is a group struggle.
Yu and Miller (2003) suggest that the Chinese business style is inuenced by Buddhism
(with its emphasis on obedience, trust, morals and stable mentality), Taoism (with its
emphasis on control, collectivism and hierarchy), and Confucianism (with its emphasis
on friendship, networks and loyalty). Graham and Lam (2003) suggest that four cultural
threads have bound the Chinese people together for some 5000 years (agrarianism, morality,
the Chinese pictographic language, and wariness of strangers), and these show through in
Chinese business negotiations.
Mainland China, or the People’s Republic of China, has been consciously engaging more
with the rest of the world for some time. Under Communist control, particularly before
the ‘Four Modernisations’ policy of 1978 (agriculture, industry, defence, and science and
technology), this was not always so. The massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989 arrested
this engagement, or at least arrested the West’s reciprocal engagement, but this appears to
be improving, with the possibility of China emerging as a superpower.
The Chinese are apt to see issues, and begin negotiations, by looking at the big picture.
Confucian holism portrays the world as a synthesis of differing parts, of yin and yang
(Kirkbride & Tang 1990, pp. 5–6). In practical terms, this may mean that Chinese negotiators
begin proceedings not by addressing specics, but by considering general principles, by
constructing a framework for all that is to follow. This can often make more pragmatic, issue-
oriented westerners impatient. The slow opening is not only a reection of a worldview; it is
partly because the Chinese do not see negotiations as an adversarial process (even though they
can be formidable adversaries), but rather as an occasion for building a relationship to work
together (Seligman 2009, p. 156). It is also partly because at the opening of the negotiation,
the Chinese are not yet negotiating — they are still doing research and preparation, sizing
up the other side to determine their negotiating position, their trustworthiness and sincerity,
and their vulnerabilities (Hendon, Hendon & Herbig 1999, p. 37):
Confucianism, honesty, integrity, and sincerity in dealmaking are greatly appreciated . . . Many
cultures are holistic, especially in the Far East, where all issues are to be discussed at once and
no decisions made until the end. Especially in the Far East, the negotiating session is less a
forum for working out issues than it is a formal and public expression of what has already been
worked out beforehand. Asians may use cooperative styles when negotiating among themselves
but can be ruthless with outsiders.
The Asian negotiation process is as much a ceremony and courtship as it is a form of business
communication. The negotiation style in the Asian context is often described as relationship-
oriented, and concentrates on a long-term, single-source arrangement. The implication of this
style is that it is collaborative and will lead to some mutual satisfaction. The form is often more
important than the functional. In contrast the American style of negotiation is to concentrate
on the results (the ends) as an outcome. This focus on results is very characteristic of Western
cultures . . .
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Asians value details in formulating their business decisions; they consider information gathering
to be the heart of a negotiation. However, what they call a ‘know-how exchange’ often becomes
‘information rape’, with the Asian side planning to reverse-engineer a Western product from the
outset of collaboration with the rm. The Asians’ objective of sharing in a company’s know-
how without paying for it may be partially cultural in origin. In Asia, no notion of proprietary
know-how took root; new technology was shared by all. Knowledge was kept public, and to
imitate or adopt someone else’s methodology was considered virtuous, and a great compliment
to the person who created it. Borrowing another person’s know-how was considered to be
neither thievery nor unethical. Knowledge is to be transmitted to the country as a whole, not
hidden away.
In spite of a new openness to outsiders, China is still remarkably centralised, bureaucratic
and secretive. It is unusual, for example, for an outside organisation to make contact
with an end user — say, a company or collective that wants to purchase machine tools or
educational services — and then negotiate totally with that end user. It is more likely that
approaches will need to be made via ofcial government agencies, and then negotiations
will be concluded with those agencies. China, however, is not so centralised that successfully
concluding an agreement with one agency means that you have an ofcially sanctioned and
locked-up deal; other agencies may need to approve, and in fact may be hostile to the deal
(Seligman1999, p. 152).
The notion of ‘closing a deal’ needs to be treated with caution. In western countries,
operating within a low-context mentality, one seals the deal and then walks away to begin
another one. High-context countries, however, tend to see a deal as a part of an ongoing
relationship, requiring much more emotional investment. In the case of Chinese negotiators,
this is taken further so that everything is negotiable at all times: issues apparently settled
early in the negotiation may be brought up towards the close, and bargaining may still
take place as a low-context westerner is driven to the airport, or even after he or she has
departed. Thus for the Chinese, a start may not really be a start, and a nish may not really
be a nish (Hendon, Hendon & Herbig 1999, p. 38):
The Chinese are quick to probe for, and then exploit in jujitsu fashion, any compelling
interests of the other party. In particular they feel they have the advantage whenever the other
party exudes enthusiasm and seems to be single-mindedly pursuing a particular objective. For
the Chinese, working to a common goal is the most important feature of the negotiations.
This means the development of a long-term relationship. The Chinese prefer an instrumental
and competitive approach to bargaining. [They] conduct negotiations in a linear manner
of discrete stages and in a distinctive (but not unique) style. They pursue their objectives
through a variety of stratagems designed to manipulate feelings of friendship, obligation
and guilt: the games of guanxi (Chinese communication networks). The Chinese tend to
stress at the outset their commitment to abstract principles and will make concessions only
at the eleventh hour after they have fully assessed the limits of the other side’s exibility.
After protracted exchanges, when a deadlock seems to have been reached, concessions may
be made to consummate an agreement. And while the end-game phase may produce a
signed agreement, the Chinese negotiator will continue to press for his objective in the post-
agreement phase (implementation stage), giving negotiations with the Chinese the quality of
continuous bargaining in which closure is never fully reached. To the Chinese (and most East
Asian cultures), a contract is relative to the conditions: if the conditions change, the contract
should likewise be altered.
In spite of profound differences between Western countries and China, however, there are
remarkable similarities between West and East. Kirkbride and Tang (1990, pp. 2–3) analysed
a number of western books on negotiation, and found that the following general ‘rules’ for
successful negotiation (followed by Chinese and westerners) were usually proposed.
Always set explicit limits or ranges for the negotiation process.
Always seek to establish ‘general principles’ early in the negotiation.
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 559
Always focus on potential areas of agreement and seek to expand them.
Avoid taking the negotiation issues in sequence.
Avoid excessive hostility, confrontation and emotion.
Always give the other party something to ‘take home’.
Always prepare to negotiate as a team.
Chinese negotiation behaviour can be understood within a framework of strategies
and tactics used all over the world (Seligman 1999; Kirkbride & Tang 1990; Brahm 2004;
Eunson2004), such as:
Invoking the competition, and playing competitors off against each other — for example,
by inviting rivals to a venue on Chinese soil and conducting parallel negotiations, using
condential information gained in one negotiation to pressure other negotiators in
another negotiation.
Using time. Negotiations with the Chinese often take a lot of time to set up, and they may
ask for detailed technical presentations and detailed commercial negotiations that may
take weeks. Other negotiators therefore have a massive time investment in the negotiations,
and may be loath to cut their losses and walk away. With the Chinese playing host on their
own soil, they will have knowledge of when the other side is booked to leave the country,
and may play the deadline tactic: leaving important matters till last, and attempting to
stampede them into a better deal.
Good guy, bad guy for example, having a lower level negotiator test the other side’s
position and drive a hard bargain, or even appear hostile, and then allowing a higher level
person to step in to effect a compromise.
Attrition, or persevering with military precision: Chinese negotiators may have been
inuenced by historical military classics such as Sun Tzu’s The art of war (‘Strike hard,
retreat, seize a position, reject compromise, and strike again.’)
Western-style tactics that do not appear to work in China are ones such as ‘lowballing’
and ‘splitting the difference’. (‘Lowballing’ is cutting one’s prices to the bone and below,
in expectation of better things later, and ‘splitting the difference’ is a 50–50 compromise
between two opposed bottom lines.)
Nonverbal alert
The following list includes some insights into Chinese nonverbal behaviour (Seligman 2009;
Axtell 1998).
Chinese people operate at a close interpersonal distance.
In spite of this, they are not touch-oriented, or may be selectively so; members of the same
sex may touch each other, but members of the opposite sex may rarely touch each other
in public (this is changing with younger Chinese).
If you request something that will be difcult and/or embarrassing to satisfy, a Chinese
may audibly suck in air through the teeth. This is a frustration and embarrassment signal.
Change the request.
Present business cards with both hands — a sign of respect.
Chinese people may applaud as an approval sign — return it.
It is not considered rude to stare at people, especially foreigners, in public.
Silence is quite normal in conversations or negotiation.
Age is venerated; white-haired negotiators have a hidden advantage, whereas young hot-
shots may be seen as non-credible.
The North Americans
The United States currently possesses the largest economy on the planet, and produces more
goods and services (and books on negotiation) than any other country. In terms of Hall’s
model of cultures, the United States is a classic low-context culture: individualistic; not
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Communicating in the 21st Century 560
group-oriented; lower sensory involvement in terms of interpersonal space and touching;
more verbally than nonverbally oriented; monochronic rather than polychronic in time
The individualism of North Americans ows from their historical experience of revolution
against tyranny, Protestantism, frontier resourcefulness and capitalist entrepreneurialism
(stimulated by an enormous natural resource base). There has been an abiding suspicion
throughout North American history of collectivist action and hierarchy, expressed as
aristocracy or bureaucracy. Generally, these traits have made North Americans ‘admirable’;
and certainly, even though many non-North Americans are ambivalent about or hostile
towards them, it is the image (as perhaps distinct from the reality) of the North American
dream that has motivated and mesmerised hundreds of millions of people thirsting for
freedom and/or material wealth.
North Americans, however, often have difculty communicating with the outside
world. Their strengths are sometimes their weaknesses, and this is particularly true of
their negotiating style. As North American humorist Will Rogers observed in the 1930s:
‘America has never lost a war and never won a conference’ (in Graham & Herberger 1990).
For many, North Americans are still ‘ugly Americans’, and this image can be understood
in terms of low-context characteristics. Solomon and Quinney’s book (2012) on American
negotiating behaviour is signicantly subtitled ‘Wheeler-dealers, legal eagles, bullies, and
Individualism is a ne thing, but Japanese negotiators have noted, and been embarrassed
by, the way members of North American negotiating teams will openly disagree with
oneanother, rather than maintain a united front and settle their differences in private
(Foster1995, p. 81). Graham and Herberger (1990) suggest that the frontier image of the
‘lone cowpuncher’ or the macho John Wayne gure sometimes predisposes North American
negotiators to enter another culture with some counterproductive, ‘shoot rst and ask
questions later’ types of behaviour, such as:
North Americans who are inuenced by the frontier hero ‘outnumbered, and loving it’
ethos may try to go it alone, to negotiate solo with a more skilled team from another, more
group-oriented culture.
North Americans may try to act independently, when in fact the essence of the negotiation
process is interdependence.
As relatively low power-distance people, they may prefer informality (‘Call me John’),
when in fact, in much of the world, formality is preferred.
North Americans are mainly monolingual, only speaking English or at best, speaking
other languages poorly.
They may act as if winning is everything and that the adversarial approach is
best, when in fact the best bargaining approaches relate to communication skills:
‘in most places in the world, the one who asks the questions controls the process
of negotiationandtherebyaccomplishes more in a bargaining situation’ (Graham &
Herberger 1990, p. 59).
Sometimes, North Americans may not be aggressive enough. Chu (1991, p. 259) says that
‘Asians know that ‘the marketplace is a battleeld’. To the Americans, it is more like a
football game’.
Other low-context characteristics that may present problems for North Americans
in negotiations with, say, the Chinese are their monochronic time orientation and
dependence on verbal, explicit communication. ‘Time is money’ for many North
Americans. Oftennegotiations in America are quick, effective and pragmatic transactions;
but in other cultures, more time is spent in building rapport and in nding out about
the other side. This is primarily because negotiation is seen as a prelude to a long-
term association, and thus negotiation never really ends. High-context cultures, with their
networks of interconnecting relationships, provide a situation where people expect to see
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Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 561
business partners face to face over long periods of time. This facilitates communication
and builds trust. Many North Americans seem, to people of other cultures, in too much
of a hurry to build this trust. As a Hong Kong businessman put it, North Americans are
‘McDonaldised’:‘Whatever they want to do, they want results right away’ (quoted in
Engholm 1993, p. 85).
Modes of communication and of chronicity are interconnected. North Americans are quite
verbal and explicit rather than nonverbal and implicit in the way they communicate. Low-
context cultures place great faith in the spoken and written word to regulate behaviour.
Therefore North American negotiators are often uncomfortable with silence, and may say
things just to ll up the voids: that may cost them in bargaining terms. They also tend to
depend heavily on legalities, expressed in contracts. In other cultures, there is not so great
a need for legal sanctions, because your partner is not going to hop on a jet and y out
in ve minutes, never to be seen again. Some cultures nd the North American insistence
on getting legal staff to review deals offensive for this reason.
This behaviour can have consequences reaching far beyond the negotiating table. North
Americans can be a very litigious people, and a litigious economic environment is a risk-
averse, un-entrepreneurial culture (Kennedy 1985, p. 85). The Japanese, in contrast, seem to
have more implicit, group-oriented mechanisms for solving conict. The downside of this
may be too much conformity; but the upside clearly is greater productivity and less risk-
averse behaviour. Similarly, the short-term time orientation of North Americans in their
negotiating style is merely a reection of their business dealings generally, and this has
led to an undue concern with quarterly prots rather than the long term the reverse
of high-context cultures where ve-, ten- and hundred-year plans seem to be paying off
(Foster1995, p. 273; Mamman & Saffu 1998).
The egalitarianism of North Americans also leads many to believe in principle-based
negotiation: ‘Tell me your underlying principle’. This is at odds with other less egalitarian
cultures, which tend to be more situation-based, more pragmatic in their negotiating
style. For example, Hofstede has this to say about one of the world’s best selling books on
negotiation — Getting to yes (Fisher, Ury & Patton 2012):
A well-known U.S. approach to negotiation training . . . has stated four principles for ‘coming
to mutually acceptable agreements’:
1. Separate the people from the problem
2. Focus on interests, not positions
3. Invent options for mutual gain
4. Insist on using objective criteria.
All four of these principles contain hidden cultural assumptions:
1. Separating the people from the problem assumes an individualist value set. In collectivist
cultures, where relationships prevail over tasks, this is an impossible demand. People are the
rst problem.
2. Focusing on interests, not positions, assumes a not-too-large power distance. In high PDI
(power-distance index) cultures negotiation positions are often linked to power issues, which
are of primary importance; vital interests are sacriced to the maintenance of power positions.
3. Inventing options for mutual gain assumes a tolerance for new solutions — that is, a not-too-
large uncertainty avoidance. In high UAI (uncertainty-avoidance index) cultures, where ‘what
is different is dangerous’, some options are emotionally unthinkable for reasons that seem
mysterious to the other party.
4. Insisting on using objective criteria assumes that there is a shared objectivity between the parties.
Cultural values . . . include attributions of rationality. What is objective to one party is subjective
from a cross-cultural point of view. (Hofstede 2001, p. 436)
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Communicating in the 21st Century 562
In spite of these considerations, North Americans are formidable negotiators, and should
never be underestimated.
Nonverbal alert
The characteristics of North American nonverbal behaviour include the following.
North Americans need a fair amount of interpersonal space.
They are not too keen on being touched, but are more tactile than, say, the English
another low-context culture.
A rm handshake and direct eye contact are considered to be tokens of honesty and
North Americans are among the most multiculturally diverse of peoples — generalisations
about ‘typical’ behaviour are risky for any culture, but particularly for this one.
North American behaviour — from the ‘high ve’ to sporting triumph displays, to casual
posture and clothing — continues via the global impact of its powerful media to be the
most imitated in the world.
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In this chapter, we have considered the process of acculturation, including Bennett’s model
of intercultural sensitivity with its six phases: denial, defence reversal, minimisation,
acceptance, adaptation and integration. We looked at Deardorff’s model of intercultural
competence, which develops a hierarchy of speci c skills, abilities and attitudes to
achieve the desired behaviour (effective intercultural communication). We considered
the notion of cultural intelligence (CQ). We then examined the Hofstede model of culture,
discussing power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/
femininity and short-term versus long-term time orientation. We looked at the GLOBE
model of culture, which compared assertiveness, future orientation, gender differentiation,
uncertainty avoidance, institutional collectivism versus individualism, in-group
collectivism, performance orientation and humane orientation. We also considered Hall’s
model of low-context cultures and high-context cultures, and we examined the validity
of Huntington’s ‘clash of civilisation’ model. We then looked at Joshi’s model of diversity
and integration at an organisational level, and examined some strategies for implementing
our knowledge in our communications with other cultures. We noted emerging criticism
of the multiculturalism and diversity models of intercultural communication. We applied
these models of intercultural communication to our understanding of Chinese and North
Americans in negotiation situations.
acculturation p. 529
individualism p. 536
clash of civilisations p. 547
cultural intelligence (CQ)
p. 531
low context p. 544
polychronic p. 543
diversity p. 550
macro-culture p. 527
monochronic p. 543
power distance p. 535
feminine p. 536
masculine p. 536
the other p. 529
high context p. 544
micro-culture p. 527
uncertainty avoidance p. 535
1. Identify the six phases of Bennett’s model of intercultural communication.
2. Identify at least four aspects of cultural intelligence.
3. Identify at least four characteristics of masculine and feminine cultures in
4. Identify at least four of the cultural dimensions or attributes of the GLOBE model.
5. Identify at least two characteristics that distinguish high-context cultures from low-
context cultures.
6. ‘Context also depends on what generation within a culture we are talking about.
Whatdoes this mean?
7. Name at least two nations described by Huntington as being ‘torn countries’.
8. What possible strengths and weaknesses might there be in a workplace diversity
9. Name at least three ‘rules’ relating to values and beliefs.
10. Identify at least four ‘rules of negotiation’ that apply equally to western and Chinese
11 . Why might time be a problem for a North American negotiator negotiating with people
from other cultures?
Chapter 15 Intercultural communication 563
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1. Consider the integration phase of Bennett’s model (p. 000) . How might it be possible
to help a person move from the encapsulated form of this phase to the constructive
2. ‘Nationality and culture are the same thing.’ Discuss.
3. Talk to someone from another culture who is familiar with the Hofstede model. How do
they rate themselves on each of the ve dimensions? How do they rate you? How do
you rate them?
4. ‘Hofstede’s model of culture is completely useless because it depends on out-of-date
data taken from too narrow a sample.’ Discuss.
5. Imagine a situation in which two people from different cultures marry. Use the GLOBE
model dimensions to explain how communication between the two might be enhanced
or damaged.
6. ‘The whole world will soon be low context.’ Discuss.
7. ‘There is no new clash of civilisations, only the same old national wars.’ Discuss.
8. ‘Multiculturalism is a failed experiment.’ Discuss.
9. Consider the list of communication strategies (pp. 000) . Working by yourself or with
others, try to think of at least another three strategies.
10. Find a person who is a current or former Chinese or North American citizen. Give
them a brief summary of the relevant section of this chapter. Ask them for their
You are an Australian ying home from an overseas holiday. You nd yourself next to
a Japanese businessman, who is coming out to manage the Australian and New Zealand
branch of ce of a company. He tells you that he has prepared thoroughly for this job, and
has studied both Australian and New Zealand culture as much as possible through pop
music, movies, TV soap operas and talkback radio (via the internet). He asks you for some
tips on how to communicate effectively with Australians and New Zealanders, both in and
out of the workplace.
Based on what you have read in this chapter on culture and intercultural communication,
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