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Intercultural Communication - Essay Example

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Intercultural Communication

Sometimes innocuous blunder may occur through minor mistake causing insult and hurt and for the perpetrator may result in shame and embarrassment. Normally respect and approach will follow where there is understanding, but the way understanding takes place is complex (Pettigres, 2000). Studies have shown that in many cases the awareness, that understanding is needed, is often lacking, which unfortunately forms the route cause of misunderstanding.
In this globalized economy where the boundaries of countries are disappearing, the intercultural communication is finding its importance. We take example of this business meeting between a Vietnamese business team with US business team. Let us assume that each team is reasonably well prepared for the meeting. The language is not the problem, members of both the teams are well conversed with English. However to iron out minor language hiccups, each team also included a good translator. The members of both the team comprises men and women, all are meticulously dressed in business dress. Both the teams are punctual and the meeting starts on time. The meeting being a daylong affair, the lunch has been arranged at a local restaurant. Proper planning is made in advance in choosing the menu beforehand so that potential cultural issues on food habits can be prevented. The organizer expected all to go well as the perceived threat from lack of communication have been taken care of.
However there arose problems. Initial shaking of hands went well as this has become universal custom for English knowing people to shake hands. The problem started with greeting; both the parties did manage to greet the other in a wrong way. In UK the family name is given at the end of the name. For example Peter Smith is known as Mr. Smith, not other way round as Mr. Peter, whereas in Vietnamese the family name comes first thus making Mguyen Van Khai, Madame Nguyen. But in the meeting Mr. Smith was greeted as Mr. Peter whereas Madame Nguyen was greeted as Madame Khai. The Vietnamese delegation took more offence than their counterpart, the UK delegation, as they perceived it as disrespect. However the meeting continued with the initial hiccup starting with a sore note. The second misunderstanding occurred, this time around with the UK delegates, when one of their team members was referred by someone as his sister. The UK delegates took the meaning literally, but actually it was meant to denote close friendship. The main problem started with the way the Vietnamese men were interacting with their female counterpart of UK delegation. They expected the women delegates would prefer to mix with other women of Vietnamese delegation and left them, which was perceived as disrespect by the female members of UK team. There was another major goof up when during lunch break one of the Vietnamese delegate placed his hand on the elbow of a lady UK delegate to show her the way, when they were leaving for lunch. In Vietnamese culture this is seen as sign of respect and as non-sexual, undertaken between members of the same as well as opposite sex. ...Show more

Summary

'We have seen all people commit intended cultural offenses. In response we feel hurt for the victim, shame for the act, and disgust for the perpetrator. But we have also seen people, including ourselves, commit unintended cultural blenders. While we meant no harm by such gaffes, the actions often caused harm, regardless of whether we acted out of ignorance, carelessness, or misunderstanding' (Van Rys, Meyer & Sebranek 2006, p71)
Author : pquitzon
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