Barriers to Cross-cultural Communication.

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Barriers to Cross-cultural Communication.

Misunderstandings are especially likely to occur between the people of different cultures because of the following "barriers" to communication:

- stereotypes

- time concepts

- space concepts

- body language

- etiquette standards

- translation problems


All cultures have stereotypesor preformed ideas about other cultures. These stereotypes generalize the main characteristics of a group of people and can get in the way of communication when people interact on the basis of the imaginary, generalized picture and not on reality.

The stereotypical American, for example, is a straight-forward, get-to-the-point, aggressive-in-business person for whom "time is money." On the other hand, the American in everyday life is perceived as easygoing, loud, friendly, and smiling.

It should be stressed that one must not jump to conclusions based on such stereotypes. All individuals are different, and stereotypes, though true to some extent, are often exaggerated and generalized.


Different perceptions of time can also lead to misunderstanding.',

American straightforwardness, for instance, leads Americans to make strict schedules, appointments, and arrangements whereas in Ukraine delays in meeting visitors and in responding to correspondence are not uncommon. However, a Ukrainian partner who is late for an appointment will probably then spend more time with you than originally scheduled. The same nonchalant attitude toward time can be found in Mexico. We can say that

there exist two perceptions of time in Ukraine or in Mexico: the time on the clock and "Ukrainian time" or "Mexican time" — that is, "when I getthere."

The Japanese, knowing that North Americans are impatient, use time to their advantage in negotiations. Perhaps they think: "You Americans have one terrible weakness. If we make you wait long enough, you will agree to do anything."


Space operates as a language as much as time does.

In different cultures the "personal space" or "body bubble" (that is, the personal territory or the distance between people in communication) varies.

When a Ukrainian is conducting a business conversation with an American or a Canadian, he (she) should keep in mind that North Americans stand about five feet apart. For an Englishman, the space will be larger, while an Arab or Latin American will find this distance uncomfortable and so will move closer. This action does not mean they are pushy or aloof, and we should not react negatively to it.

By observing the behaviour of others, we can gain some idea of their concepts of personal territory, which can assist us in our own attempts to communicate.


Another non-verbal factor in international communication that springs from cultural background is body language.

The familiar American symbol for "OK" means "zero" in France and "money" in Japan. In Latin America, it is sign of vulgarity. The familiar V (victory) sign will be an obscene, insulting sign in most of Europe, especially in Great Britain (unless the palm of the hand faces the receiver of the message).

In Saudi Arabia and Thailand, communication breakdowns may result if you sit with your legs crossed with the sole of your shoe visible. It is considered to be the dirtiest part of your whole being.

In Ukraine, as well as in Europe or North America, we "read" each other through eye contact. Avoiding eye contact can be regarded as evasive or dishonest. But in many parts of Latin America and Africa, keeping your eyes lowered is a sign of respect.


Social behaviours and manners are important factors in communication. Here are some examples of the etiquette for communicating more effectively when conducting international business.

• In Spain, let a handshake last five to seven strokes; pulling away too
soon may be interpreted as a sign of rejection. In France, however, the
preferred handshake is a single stroke. In Ukraine, the length of the
stroke depends on the feelings you want to express: a short casual stroke
is good for business and the longer the handshake, the warmer the
welcome. In Canada, a weak, "fishy" handshake is disliked. A strong,
firm handshake is most desirable.

• Never give a gift of liquor in Arab countries.

• In England, never stick pens or other objects in your front suit pocket.
Doing so is considered gauche.

• In Pakistan, remember the Moslems pray five times a day, so don't be
surprised when, in the midst of negotiations, your partners excuse
themselves and conduct prayers.

• In Africa and in India, people may distrust you and avoid doing business
with you if you get strictly to business. Africans need plenty of time to
get to know their future partners and are suspicious of those who are in a

• In Arab countries, never turn down food or drink; it's an insult to refuse
hospitality. But don't be too quick to accept, either. A ritual refusal ("I
don't want to put you to any trouble") is expected before you finally

• In India, an invitation ("Come anytime") can be considered an official
invitation, and you don't need to wait for another, more formal one.
Being reluctant to make an unexpected visit might insult the hosts.

• Stress the longevity of your company when dealing with Germans,
Dutch, and Swiss; if possible, print the founding date on your business


Often, words in one language do not have an equivalent meaning in other languages, and the concepts the words describe are often different as well. When the meaning of a word is not agreed on in advance, later misunderstanding is a strong possibility.

In a humorous and helpful book about marketing overseas, David A. Ricks (1983) highlights the problems of translating with several examples of American advertising and product labels that resulted in different meanings when translated. General Motors promoted their cars in Belgium with "Body by Fisher" (a phrase familiar to Americans). But translated into Flemish it turned into "Corpse by Fisher." "Come alive with Pepsi" became "Come out of the grave..." in German and "Bring your ancestors back from the dead" in Asia. Pet milk failed in France because "pet" has the meaning "to break wind." In Mexican slang, "fresca" means "lesbian."

In Ukraine, the name of a painting is "Doky sontse zijde rosa ochi vyist." which is a famous Ukrainian proverb meaning, "Dew will make your eyes sore if you wait too long for the sunrise." When the picture was taken to an art gallery in Japan, the name in Japanese translation became, "When a new day is born, the sun rays give birth to a blind baby."

To avoid embarrassment, don't forget that "rubber" is the British name for American and Canadian "eraser," but in American and Canadian slang it

means "condom." Do not mix these words when negotiating about a delivery of one thing or another.

In reading and responding to foreign-origin documents written in English, a Ukrainian business person needs to realize that differences exist in vocabulary. Success in international communication will be achieved partly through willingness to investigate and understand the differences and to use words and expressions relevantto the country involved. For example, in writing to someone in Britain you should use the British variant of the word, but in communication with American partners, use the American variant.

Lesson 6

1. Labour is the Duty of Everybody.

• Reading and speaking.

Pre-reading task.

a) Read the words, word-combinations and sentences with the


b) Cover the left side of the page and translate into English.

an occupation заняття, фах

to fill in заповнювати

an official службовець, офщшна особа

an official form офщшний бланк

a skilled worker квал1фшований роб1тник

a semi-skilled worker натвквал1ф1кований po6iT-


an unskilled manual неквал1ф1кований роб1тник

worker ф1зично! пращ

a trade профеадя, заняття, ремесло

a job робота, служба, посада

on the one hand з одного боку

on the other hand з іншого боку

considerable значний

mental skills розумові (інтелектуальні)


What do you do for a liv- Як ви заробляете на жит-

ing? тя?

Read the text) and translate it.

Tell your classmates what you have learned from the text
"Occupations, Professions, Trades9'.

Answer the questions in writing.

1. What's an occupation?

2. What do people say in ordinary conversation if they
want to know someone's occupation?

3. What's a profession?

4. What's a trade?

5. What examples of trades are given in the text?

6.What sorts of occupations does the term "job" include?


Do exercise in 40 seconds.

Read your answers .

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