Cross-Cultural Communication : Part Two

Yesterday, I talked about various problems which can arise in cross-cultural communication. What follows is a quiz which I use with my business English students to raise awareness of the issues, to stimulate discussion of their experiences and to allow me to feed in information. Try the quiz yourself. If you’ve already read the first part of this article you’ll know the answers to a couple of the answers already. If not, try the quiz before you look at it.

1. You are in the Arabian Gulf, meeting a client in his office. You can expect him to 
a) ...close his office door, refuse interruptions, and dedicate his attention solely to you.
b) ...leave the door open and interrupt your meeting to speak to anyone who wants to see him.
c) ...close the door, but to allow interruptions from anyone who needs him urgently.

2. Polish communication style is ….
a) very direct with a lot of eye contact
b) very indirect with very little eye contact
c) very indirect with a lot of eye contact

3. You are making a series of proposals and your Bulgarian counterpart keeps nodding her head. Does this mean …
a) Yes, I agree completely.
b) Go on, I’m listening.
c) No, I don’t agree.

4. You are making a series of proposals and your Japanese counterpart keeps nodding his head. Does this mean …
a) Yes, I agree completely.
b) Go on, I’m listening.
c) No, I don’t agree.

5. You’re in Japan. A client gives you his card. Should you take it with …
a) your left hand
b) your right hand
c) both hands

6. And then what should you do with it?
a) Look at it carefully and then put it away in your pocket
b) Look at it carefully and place it on the table in front of you during the meeting.
c) Look at it carefully and then pass it to your colleagues so they can see it.

7. You are organising lunch for a group of Arab visitors. Which of the following should not be on the menu?
a) beef b) chicken c) pork d) lamb e) fish

8. Which two of the following nationalities would be unlikely to express any emotion through facial expression or other signs during a meeting, but would seem to remain detached and expressionless?
a) Japanese   b) French   c) British   d) Finnish   e) American

9. A Greek meeting participant is liable to want to …
a) get a general overview of the situation without worrying too much about specific details.
b) discuss each point in great detail

10. In a meeting you can expect the French to …
a) agree and disagree with each other but not with you
b) criticise your arguments
c) report information but not discuss it

11. In a meeting you can expect the Japanese to …
a) agree and disagree with each other but not with you
b) criticise your arguments
c) report information but not discuss it

12. In a meeting there is a certain amount of conflict and disagreement. In attempt to lighten the atmosphere, an American participant makes a joke. Which nationality would not appreciate this?
a) British   b) Australians   c) Egyptians   d) Germans   e) Italians

13. In reply to a proposal, a Japanese visitor says That might be difficult. What does this mean?
a) I can see a few problems which we need to resolve before we decide.
b) No way.
c) I really like the idea but I have to talk to my boss before I say so.

14. You are in Germany visiting a client who you have already met several times. Should you call him by …
a) his first name – Klaus
b) his surname - eg Schmidt
c) “Mr” + surname – Herr Schmidt
d) his title - Doktor
e) his title and surname – Doktor Schmidt
f) “Mr” + title + surname - Herr Doktor Schmidt

15. In which three of the following countries is it important to be on time for a business meeting ?
a) Mexico   b) Portugal   c) Sweden   d) Germany   e) Egypt   f) China

Here are the answers. How did you do?

Answers : Ib    2a    3c    4b    5c    6b    7c    8a+d    9b    10b    11c    12d    13b  14f    15 c,d+f

When you’re using this sort of information though, bear in mind that they are only generalisations. Norms of behaviour may differ widely within the same country, for example from region to region, or may be determined by gender, generation, profession or many other factors. And then it is always possible that individuals will not, in any case, adhere to the norm. However, this type of generalisation and models like the Lewis model which I mentioned yesterday can be useful in explaining general tendencies and heightening awareness. As Michael Gates says of the model in an article you can find
here :

“As with any theory, it is simply a model for organizing reality. One has to take care not to let it make you see things that are not there or miss things that are. But used in the right way, it can be a powerful method of cutting through the complexity of cultural encounters.”
For Further Information
If you want to find out the rationale for these answers, one of the most useful web resources for information on cross-cultural differences is, which has articles on a large number of countries around the world. However, I find that the links on their home page don’t work – so try this one, but type the name of the country you are interested in at the end :

Photo provided under Creative Commons Licence by cp via flickr

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