Tips in Cross Cultural Management and Communications for those Traveling Overseas

In this globalized world, it has become the norm for many professionals to travel overseas on business assignments and for official meetings. This means that these professionals have to be sensitized to the different cultures and the customs of the countries to which they are travelling. This also calls for greater understanding of the cultural differences and an approach wherein the professionals would be able to mingle with their hosts in the country to which they are travelling easily and without creating any problems for either their companies or their hosts.

For instance, many Asians travelling to the West have to understand that business meetings in the US and the UK represent formal affairs with set agendas and minutes being taken with little or no deviance from the agreed upon schedule. On the other hand, Westerners travelling to Asia and in particular, China are usually surprised by the freewheeling nature of the meetings and the rather omnibus nature of the discussions that are also meant to be knowledge sharing session where the Chinese try and elicit information about how the Western companies operates. Naturally, these differences lead to some hiccups between the parties and this is more the reason why Westerners traveling to Asia and Asians travelling to the West have to be sensitized about the differences in culture and context.

Another aspect of this can be found in the attitudes towards women and minorities. In the US and the UK, one can expect the professionals to be politically correct in their words and deeds as far as women and minorities are concerned. This means that everyone tries to avoid overt and covert racism and gender discrimination apart from being non-controversial as far as other issues are concerned. On the contrary, Asians tend to be vocal about their opinions and attitudes and literally wear their views on their sleeves, which lead to awkward moments for Westerners in Asia and Asians in the West.

Further, women are treated as equals in the West, the meetings are usually conducted in a formal and structured manner avoiding any racist, and gender related conversations. Apart from this, Westerners travelling to Asia and India, in particular are usually surprised by the sight of all the women employees sitting together during formal lunches and in some cases separately from the men and little or no mingling between the two groups. Of course, this is not to say that this is the norm but, in many cases, this happens leading to puzzlement and surprise among the Westerners. Moreover, the conversations with women employees are not informal and usually very stilted apart from the natural language barriers and the accent differences that accentuate the friction in cross cultural communication.

The third aspect of how professionals visiting other countries might need some background training is to do with how rules and regulations are observed in the countries they are visiting. For instance, many Asians travelling to the West are usually cautioned against breaking the law in even minor instances like over speeding or drinking and driving as well as having to show the identity for age proof when they have to buy alcohol or tobacco. Further, they are also advised to take medical insurance even for short trips because without insurance, it is difficult to get treatment in hospitals in the US. Even buying medicines is usually restricted to over the counter items and not prescription drugs that need doctor involvement. On the other hand, all these aspects are considered minor in Asian countries and hence, this is another significant cultural difference that has to be taken into account when professionals travel from the East to the West and vice versa.

Finally, though we have covered a few of the common instances of cultural differences, it is important to note that the best approach that anyone whether they travel from the West to the East or vice versa have to remember is that the people in the country they are visiting have to be treated according to how the visitor would like to be treated and hence, sensitivity and humanistic approaches would help everyone in the process.


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