4.19: Dealing with…

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Tips for Better Communication


Aim: To begin the process of gathering accurate information about a target culture and comparing key areas with our own culture.

Cultural Encounter Checklist

This checklist can be used as a way of gathering background information about the culture of anybody you may have to do business with internationally – especially if you are going to travel to or live in another country. Answers to the questions can be found in books, on the internet, from embassies and of course from talking to nationals from the target culture. Our culture, after all, is a large part of our identity. Many more questions could be suggested and it is expected that as you read through them you will think of more of your own.

Some General Considerations

1. If you are traveling, do you have a clear idea of the purpose of your trip or assignment? From a professional perspective? From a personal perspective?
2. Do you know the names and responsibilities of the people you are interacting with?
3. Will these people be able to make decisions related to your assignment or project?
4. What do you know about their background?
5. There are many contemporary and historical people of whom the country is proud. Can you name one of each?

Contemporary Historical
Sports figure


6. Can you name current political leaders and their current titles?
7. Do you know the names of the political parties?
8. Do you know the function of the political institutions?
9. How would you describe the political process?
10. Do you know the name of the parliament or legislature?
11. What is the form of the executive?
12. Is power delegated?
13. What are the interest groups and how do they express their concern?
14. What kind of citizen is valued?
15. What are the political myths of the country?
16. What penalties exist for disobeying the law?
17. How transparent is the government? How widespread is corruption?
18. How many women hold public office?
19. Is politics an appropriate topic of conversation?

The country

20. Are there states, provinces,counties or other? How many? Can you name them? Are their climatic differences?
21. What are the main cities? The population? The main industries? The kinds of problems?
22. Do you know basic history? Date of independence? Relationship to other countries?

Non-verbal communication

(65%+ of meaning is communicated non-verbally)
23. Will they understand your non-verbal communication?
24. Are there any non-verbal behaviour patterns you use which might be offensive?
25. What about their non-verbal behaviour? Do you understand it?
26. When is it appropriate to cry? To express other emotions?
27. What is the appropriate speaking distance between people who are getting to know each other?

Daily life

28. What are some courtesies you should observe?
29. How do people greet each other? Foreigners?
30. How do people say goodbye?
31. Is gift-giving a custom? What kind of gift for what occasion?
32. Do colors have a certain meaning? What about flowers? Do any numbers have a particular significance?
33. How many days a week do people work? Each day? From when to when? Are business and social conversations mixed?
34. Is alcohol consumption heavily regulated? What about non-alcoholic beverages and their place in the social environment?
35. How do people spend their free time? Upper, middle and lower classes?
36. What TV channels do people watch? What kind of serials or movies are popular?
37. Do families spend a lot of time together? What activities do they undertake?


38. Is there a dominant religion? How many religions are there?
39. How does religion influence the people?
40. What are the religious holidays?
41. What are five dominant religious values?
42. What are some of possible differences between your religious beliefs and the beliefs of this religion?

Social structure

43. What are the class divisions?
44. The ethnic divisions?
45. Is there a kind of discrimination? Against whom?
46. Does dress reflect social or economic status?
47. What is the nature of social mobility?
48. Has the experience of foreign domination affected class structure?
49. Is there inter-group friction?
50. What are the occupations of various people?
51. What is the size of the average family?
52. Is there family planning?
53. What qualities make a good husband? Wife? Daughter? Son?
54. Is there an extended family? What are the roles of the various members?
55. Is the group more important than any individual member of the group?
56. Who do people go to for advice with different problems?


57. Is education free? Compulsory? To what age level?
58. How does the education system compare to yours? Differences from your perspective?
59. How are children disciplined at school? At home? By whom? What implications does this have for adult behavior?

Roles of men and women

60. Are female and male children equally desired?
61. Do they share equally? Have similar responsibilities?
62. Are there differences between male and female roles in daily life and business? Do men and women have positions in all areas?

Business customs and social customs

63. What are the most important elements needed to succeed?
64. Is there a strong task-orientation?
65. What are some dominant business values?
66. What determines whether you succeed or fail?
67. Should you invite your business colleagues to your home? Will you probably be invited to their home?
68. Should you be on time or late for a meeting?
69. How do you tell a colleague s/he has made an error? In public? In private?
70. How do you reward? With increase in pay? Benefits?
71. How are people motivated?


72. What kinds of food are eaten?
73. Are you expected to eat all foods?
74. Will you be expected to drink the local beverage? What is it?
75. Is cooking an art? What are the methods?
76. What rules govern eating away from home? Who pays?

Newspapers and media

77. Which newspapers are most popular?
78. Are all subject matters of books available? In what languages?
79. What is the government’s attitude towards the media?


80. What medical facilities are available?
81. What preventative measures are necessary and appreciated?


82. What kinds of humor are understood and appreciated?
83. What are the elements of a good story?
84. Is odd behavior considered amusing? What is considered odd behavior?

Their attitude towards you

85. What is the relationship between this country and yours? Now, in the past ten years, and before that?
86. What do you expect will be their attitude towards you?
87. Do people know a lot about your country? What do they associate with your country? What are some common stereotypes about your country?
88. Is there a large expatriate community? Where do they live?

Your attitude and feelings

89. What concerns you most about this assignment?
90. How will you cope with these concerns?
91. What concerns you least about this assignment?
92. When you return home will you have changed?
93. If you experience ”culture shock” do you know the symptoms?
94. What about ”culture fatigue”?
95. Can you anticipate some possible communication problems?
96. What is your attitude towards the people? Do you feel superior? Inferior?
97. Do you know any effective ways to persuade?
98. Will you be formal or informal? In what situation?
99. Will you be able to find the intellectual / social / recreational stimulation you need?
100. What else do you think you should know about this culture in which you will be a foreigner?


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Intercultural Communication and Motivation

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