Questions, questions...

Germans say "no" when they mean "no".
The English say "I'm sorry" when they mean "no".
The Japanese say "It is perhaps difficult" or even "Yes" when they mean "no".
Do you know why?

Have you ever been confronted with such questions in your daily business dealings?

If you have asked yourself such questions but come up with no answers, then we have some good news for you. One, you belong to an overwhelming majority; two, you don't belong to the majority!

You belong to the majority because in this age of rapid globalization and world-wide communication networking, people from vastly different (and not so vastly different) cultures are being thrown together, resulting in situations which can give rise to exactly these kinds of questions.

On the other hand, however, you are in a minority for the simple fact that, unlike the majority of people, you have already realized how important it is to find answers to these questions in order to be able to communicate successfully internationally and interculturally.

The fact of the matter is, whoever comes into contact with people, communicates. Whoever has international contacts, communicates interculturally, and in many cases today in English. Most of those who do this already speak English and trust that their English is good enough to enable them to communicate successfully.

Reality, however, is often a different matter altogether. As soon as persons of different cultures come together and speak to each other, it becomes clear that it often requires more than just language competence to be able to communicate successfully. More often than not you feel insecure because you're not quite able to gauge the words or behaviour of the other. Furthermore, you also can't be sure if the other might not be facing the same problems as you! Even when there appears to be no miscommunication it does not mean it has not occurred. Members of many cultures would never tell you so directly, or you may simply not register the subtle signals that indicate miscommunication. There are countless examples of misunderstandings or miscommunication which have resulted from inadequate intercultural awareness and communication skills, or simply from an underestimation of their importance to successful communication. Opportunities are unnecessarily wasted, a productive work atmosphere is compromised, business suffers. This can occur at all levels of the organization, among call center staff, specialists, engineers, managers and CEOs, or even heads of state.

There are many quick-fix solutions on the market which aim to provide the international traveler or visitor with "how-to" rules that identify ways around taboos and faux pas. These tips and nutshell wisdoms, however, act only as localized bandaids. Being able to identify only the outer, most visible differences of another culture (e.g. "When doing business in France, expect to spend at least 2 to 3 hours at the dinner table", "The Japanese are always very polite", etc.) does not indicate an understanding of the culture. The individual who does not understand the reasons for cultural differences in speech and behavioral patterns will not likely develop those skills that enable him to deal with them successfully.

Our concept will help you to develop effective long-term intercultural communicative skills. We will give you not only answers to questions such as these, but more importantly, a "toolbox" with which you will be able to solve such problems on your own in the future, regardless of the specific culture in question.

Last changes to this page:
2005/03/12
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