Aspects Of Behavior That Can Result In Intercultural Miscommunication Between People From Asian And Western Cultures

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As more people study and work in different countries, successful intercultural communication is increasingly important. Each individual has their own culture as s part of that persons’ identity according to where s/he was born. Nowadays more Asians are study and work in foreign counties. As a result of that there are some obstacles for them because of the cultural difference. Such as, cannot show their potential in work areas or unable to give their opinion openly like that. Misunderstandings and misperception make communication more difficult. Lack of understanding of cultural differences can be a vague for people in business field and for those who study abroad. Therefore it is a prime concern to understand the reasons for these misinterpretations. Doing business or studied in a different culture demands an understanding of that culture in order to do that we need to have a knowledge about their perception of face, language, dressing style and the perception of time.

“The abstract concept of “face” obviously has nothing to do with anatomy, but instead can be described as a combination of social standing, reputation, influence, dignity, and honour”. According to that, in Asian cultures leading a person to lose face means that their self-worth is being lower in the eye of their peers, in the meantime saving/building face means to raise someone’s self-worth.

Even though the western culture people tend to acknowledge the ones who are “brutally honest” by pointing out swiftly, the opposite often holds in Asia as they prefer to avoid pointing out someone’s mistakes openly in front of their peers and try to do what they can to prevent all potential embarrassment for others. “What you may perceive as a gesture of goodwill (e.g., telling an older gentleman that he has toilet paper stuck to his shoe) could cause him personal embarrassment, leading to loss of face. In some instances, less damage is done just by letting him trail that toilet paper down the hallway”. For Asians saving/losing face is considerably important and it is righteous to have a clear consciousness about this when engaging in intercultural businesses and studies.

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It is clear that language can cause misunderstandings among people who belong to different cultures. In most Asian countries English is a secondary language, so people do not stress about learning it as long as they do not have to use English in their day to day life. Because of that Asians who study/work in western countries face difficulties in communication. Such difficulties are, they cannot catch up to the fast pace conversations, they do not understand the accent or pronunciation properly. For example when some Indians speak English they tend to emphasize the letter “R” in words. Sometimes Asians mispronounce words which make it difficult to the listener to understand the content/meaning.

For example some Asians mispronounce patience as passions. When a western say “break a leg” it means “do your best” but, if we say it to an Asian they will take the literal meaning and misunderstand it. At some point even vocabulary is difficult, because just like pronunciation there are minor differences between British English and American English. For Asian who learns English as a secondary language this is a big problem. In general multicultural companies face this problem because even it is an advantage to have colleagues from different countries; they cannot get their ideas and opinions as Asians tend to speak less during conferences. Because of that western people are frustrated and it shows how language becomes a cultural barrier. When comparing Asian culture and western culture, “dressing” is highly considered to be professional.

Fashion and trends are both equally significant. Not only that we want to respect the local culture, but in some traditional and conservative countries in Asia interprets that dressing norms in the U.S., are discourteous and provocative. “Businessmen may be very forward with you if you don’t observe the dressing customs that local businesswomen adhere to,” La Valle-Finan says. In countries like China, Japan, India and Sri Lanka, modest dressing includes keeping a woman’s knees and elbows covered and buttoning shirts up right to the collar. In Asian countries like Japan, if a woman wears a pant she is also discouraged by the society and they prefer woman to wear skirts. Even if there is a social event organized by the business hosts, wearing dresses showing of cleavage is consider disrespectful and cavalier. On the other hand in Latin America and some European countries women are respected for being fashionable. “So whether you’re traveling to Sao Paolo or Stockholm, it’s important to stock up on well-tailored suits and stylish accessories”.

We can see both similarities and differences in perception of time. For some people time is everything. There are monochromic people and polychromic people. Monochromic people are linear and are expected to do one thing at a time and they will not tolerate any lateness or interruptions. In Japan, Singapore and also in western counties like U.K., punctuality is considered as a moral virtue. Polychromic people are cyclical and because of that they are not ruled by a precise calendar or schedule as they are flexible about time. People in China, India and Sri Lanka are polychromic. “Arrive on time, bring a book and prepare to wait. Never appear agitated or frustrated,” adds Lett. For that reason time is fluid and “on time” term meaning differ across the world significantly. So adjusting to that and the points discussed above can prevent many problems caused by intercultural miscommunication.

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