10 Things to Keep in Mind About Intercultural Communication as an Expat

group of peopleThe modern globalized society requires us to think globally and to interact with many different cultures, and it is crucial to know how to properly communicate abroad or with people from abroad. Receiving negative feedback from the person you’re speaking to is not very uncommon, and in the worst case scenario this could even endanger a potential business partnership. That’s why it is important to start preparing to face an either partially or completely different approach to communication well in advance: in general, if you aim to successfully connect and deal with people abroad you should be aware of some basic tips for improving your  global communication skills.

  1. Intercultural communication involves two or more parties, each one with a different culture, tradition, and approach: it is a circular exchange of knowledge that should follow some predetermined paths in order to be effective.
  2. Language is vital: English is acknowledged as the universal language and it is used and understood worldwide. Speaking the local language is, however, a way of getting closer to your host country’s culture and traditions, and is thus preferable to just making do with English alone.
  3. Language is only the tip of the iceberg. Make sure to adapt your body language and your behavior to the context and your addressees, as well. Don’t be afraid of imitating the intonation and gestures of the locals.
  4. Communication is a channel through which you can transmit information. You should pay attention to the content of that information, as well: what you want to communicate should be adapted to the audience in the same way as the form of communication.
  5. You are an expat and you are being hosted by a foreign country: it is up to you to adjust your approach. Don’t expect an entire culture to change for you.
  6. Think cross-cultural! You may have heard about cross-cultural intelligence or cross-cultural competence and you may find these ideas unclear. As the word itself suggests, it is about crossing cultural borders and interacting in an unusual way; therefore having an open mind and an entrepreneurial approach play a vital role here.
  7. Study and practice: as with every other soft skill, global communication can surely be studied but, most of all, it needs to be put into practice.
  8. Observe and react: first-hand knowledge, collected on the street or from experienced expatriates, can teach you what books and the internet cannot.
  9. Ignore stereotypes, because they are counterproductive and they may provide shadowy and untrustworthy knowledge.
  10. Don’t underestimate the role of global communication skills! Interaction abroad is a challenge, but it is necessary. Therefore, it is important to be well-prepared and open-minded, and to be ready to get to know the big world that is waiting out there.

Guest Blog the Internations Team

2 responses to “10 Things to Keep in Mind About Intercultural Communication as an Expat”

  1. Yes I agree English is the universal language but learning the local language is wisdom. Here in the USA, Spanish is fast becoming our second language as more Hispanics relocate. I did both Spanish and French in High School while growing up in Jamaica, West Indies. Wish now I had continued my studies but it is never too late to get back on track. I am now busy doing Spanish online and it has been fun recognizing a lot of the words. Thanks for a very informative post!

  2. Thank you for your comment. There is a tremendous number of advantages to being able to communicate in a local language including demonstrating respect for the local culture. Studying another language can help people to appreciate the effort required to speak in another language. Again, thank you for sharing.

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