Indians' inter-cultural communication competence as perceived by European expatriates.

AuthorRaina, Reeta


With increase in cross border trade and globalization today's manager increasingly has to work in international and cross cultural environments. Worldwide the manpower constituting an organization is becoming multi cultural. Organizations at times have less than 15% of its employees from the home culture (Ray, 1998). Understanding of different cultures has become a necessity for anyone wanting to conduct business successfully in this global scenario. Managers, besides managing employees, are expected to deal with all kinds of challenges emanating from cross cultural differences. He must understand the laws, customs, and business practices of many countries and be able to communicate with people who speak other languages. The key to managerial efficiency in this modern environment is to have cross-cultural communication competency that includes understanding people, their perceptions, their backgrounds, values etc. in order to get the best out of a multicultural team.


Differences in goals, customs, behavior, values and thought patterns have led to many faux-pas especially in a diverse workforce with increasing numbers of expatriate workers not familiar with the host culture, its language, and communication systems in their intercultural experience (Chen& Starosta, 1998). Some are not serious, while others result in organizational and personal tragedies and affect company presidents and ambassadors, as well as tourists. Using the 2001 accident involving the sinking of the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fisheries high school training boat, Lingley (2006) highlights how differing cultural norms and values surrounding apologies in America and Japan caused serious intercultural communication problems. Gudykunst & Nishida (1994) termed this as the "violations of expectations" in a communication, causing an arousal in either or both interlocutors.

Intercultural Competence Model

Byram (1997) proposes a model of intercultural communicative competence which involves four elements: linguistic competence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence and intercultural competence for interacting successfully with someone from a different culture. Competent communicators are able to identify their goals, assess the resources necessary to obtain those goals, accurately predict the other communicator's responses, choose workable communication strategies, enact those communication strategies, and, finally, accurately assess the results of the interaction (Parks & Kim, 2008).Thus, communicators who do these activities effectively and appropriately, are considered competent communicators. The final component-skill-of ICC competence reflects the needed behaviors to interact appropriately and effectively with members of different cultures. Research has discovered several behaviors that are positively associated with ICC competence: being mindful (Gudykunst, Nishida & Chua, 1986), intercultural adroitness (Chen & Starosta, 1996), interaction involvement (Cegala, 1984), recognition of nonverbal messages (Anderson, 1994), appropriate self-disclosure (Li, 1999), behavioral flexibility (Bochner & Kelly, 1974), interaction management (Wiemann, 1977), identity maintenance (Ting-Toomey, 1994), uncertainty reduction strategies (Sanders, Wiseman & Matz, 1991), appropriate display of respect (Ruben, 1976), immediacy skills (Benson, 1978), ability to establish interpersonal relationships (Hammer, 1987), and expressing clarity and face support (Kim, 1993). These behaviors reflect the ability to communicate in an adaptive, flexible, and supportive manner.

Towards Better Intercultural Understanding

Within the context of the global workplace, intercultural communication at its foundation aims to establish and understand how people from different cultures communicate (verbally and non-verbally) with each other, manage, work together, approach deadlines, negotiate, meet, greet, and build relationships and more. According to Phatak, Bhagat & Kashlak (2005), successful communication is critical as cultural diversity in multinational and global corporations has become a reality. There is no denying that intercultural communication is becoming a significant part of people's daily life and work. Earlier, both the American as well as Japanese Intercultural communication scholars did lot of research highlighting the differences between the two cultures with regard to individualism/collectivism, low-context/ high-context cultures, self-disclosure, and other values (Condon & Saito, 1974, 1976; Barnlund, 1975) since both these countries were seen as the major economies of the world. However, recently it is noticed that the subject has evoked the interest of scholars from different cultures as well across the world. Shim, Zhang & Harwood's (2012) two models examining the associations among Korean young adults' consumption of U.S. dramas, direct contact with a U.S. American person, and their attitudes toward U.S. Americans in general were tested. Results demonstrated that personal contact and mediated contact had a positive effect on intergroup attitudes, but that frequency of personal contact was a negative contributor. In addition, intergroup anxiety played a significant role in the contact modes and attitudes links. Brinson & Stohl (2012) in their study presents experimental findings on the impact of media framing of the 2005 London bombings. A total of 371 American participants were exposed to one of the two frames to test their effect on public attitudes towards civil liberties and Muslims, and support for counterterrorism policies. Results show that the "domestic homegrown" frame produces greater increases in the fear than the "international" frame. This leads to greater support for restricting civil liberties of Muslims and, under certain circumstances, general feelings of negativity towards Muslims.

The study of intercultural communication has drawn considerable interest in Australian tertiary education also. Gerber & William (2002) opine that it is of value not only to staff and international students but also to tertiary graduates who should have the ability to communicate across cultures as "cultural differences are indeed significant, especially in areas of dialogue and public participation". In another study, O'Sullivan, Coughlan & Ryan (2012) using the Grounded Theory principles to explore the service users' experiences of MH service and being treated by ethnically diverse professionals within it, found the initial apprehension of cultural difference in relation to e.g. language. Therefore, Deakins (2009) in his study infers that there is need to increase the awareness about the cultural diversity. He points out that the cross national interactions between international students studying in New Zealand and their domestic peers remains generally low. His findings are further reinforced...

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