Intercultural business communication definition

Living in Cayman Islands, from Germany

"Moving to the Cayman islands may sound luxurious, but it's actually moving to the middle of nowhere. InterNations helped me to meet more expats."

Peter Okello

Living in Cayman Islands, from Kenya

"I found great tips on the InterNations platform before moving to the Caymans. I even found my current house through other members."

Cross-Cultural Communication

Intercultural communication – what is it, and why does it matter? In this article, we will briefly look at theories of culture and provide a short introduction to cross-cultural communication for expats, with plenty of practical advice.

Prior to their assignment, most expats will be busy preparing for the “hard facts” of international life, so to speak: They are busy filling in visa application forms for the entire family, labeling different boxes and crates for the relocation company, or negotiating some last clauses in their new employment contract. There is not much time left for thinking about the “social skills” of an international lifestyle, such as intercultural communication.

An Introduction to Cross-Cultural Communication

Other expats-to-be, who are slightly less stressed out, might already be taking language classes for their new home country. People often think that speaking another language fluently is what intercultural communication is all about. Of course, speaking the local language is extremely helpful. However, social interaction is about much more than language skills.

Obviously, as the very phrase suggests, intercultural communication is about cross-cultural competency rather than about language only. So what does it mean? And why should it matter to you?

A Basic Definition

Inter-, as you’ll probably know, comes from the Latin word for “between”, and the dictionary defines “communication” as “exchanging information”. Therefore, let’s draw the following conclusion: Intercultural communication refers to exchanging information between people from different cultures. Sounds very easy, doesn’t it? It’s the “cultures” part of this simple definition where things start getting a tad complicated.

Academic researchers often start out with the observation that “culture” is a word with a very vague meaning. Or rather, a word with lots of different meanings. A ground-breaking study by two anthropologists in the 1950s found that there were no less than 164 (!) definitions of the word. To understand what intercultural communication is all about, you first need a good grasp of what “culture” refers to.

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