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Cultural Awareness: Intercultural Communication

Intercultural communication

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When it comes to intercultural communication there are many subtleties. It is important to be observant and non-judgmental. If you know the cultural background of someone you are working alongside or are often in communication with, check out the SBS Cultural Atlas

Handshake; Thumbs up; Fist; Eye - from https://pixabay.com CC0 Creative Commons; Face icon made by Dave Gandy from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BYPeople icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

Direct & indirect communication

A persons’ behaviour and non-verbal cues they use are elements of indirect communication. The meaning, importance and frequency of these cues vary greatly within different cultures. Make sure you are aware of both your own behaviour as well as the person you’re communicating with. Observe their behaviour and adapt your own to suit the situation.

There are also a few things to keep in mind for direct communication, that is, when speaking with someone. This particularly relevant when they are not a native English speaker.

 

Reza Mousavi - Settlement Worker, Spectrum Resource Centre
Melbourne Polytechnic LibraryReza Mousavi, Spectrum Resource Centre (1)YouTube, viewed 17 March 2021. Copied and communicated under YouTube Standard License. 

Speaking voice
Speak slowly and clearly without disrupting the natural flow. You should also avoid raising your voice. Maintain a pleasant tone of voice.

Use of language
Be cautious when using idioms, slang, jargon, jokes, irony, sarcasm. When taken in a literal sense, these can be easily misunderstood.

Clarity 
Use short and simple sentences with common words. Be specific as your words will probably be understood literally. Give clear instructions in a logical order.

Patience
Be patient! Communication with people from other cultural backgrounds may take longer.

Comprehension 
Check they’ve understood. Using open ended questions can help to establish understanding. Make sure you both ask for clarification. You may also need to paraphrase information.

Reza Mousavi - Settlement Worker, Spectrum Resource Centre
Melbourne Polytechnic LibraryReza Mousavi, Spectrum Resource Centre (1)YouTube, viewed 17 March 2021. Copied and communicated under YouTube Standard License. 

Eye contact
For some cultures maintaining eye contact during a conversation is expected and is a sign of interest, consideration and respect. However in other cultures direct eye contact can be considered rude or disrespectful, particularly if the person is an authority figure.

Personal Space
While personal space depends on the familiarity between people, it also varies considerably between cultures.

Facial expressions
The use facial expressions varies significantly. For instance, some cultures may smile when they’ve made a mistake, to diffuse a situation or may even smile and nod despite not understanding or agreeing with you.

Physical contact
How familiar and how much contact is acceptable varies between cultures. For instance, a handshake between a man and women is highly inappropriate in some cultures, whereas not offering a handshake can be considered rude.

Gestures
Some cultures use gestures more frequently than others. A gesture in one culture can also mean something very different in another.  

Web resources

Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs n.d. Events: calendar of cultural and religious datesHarmony Day, viewed 17 March 2021, https://www.harmony.gov.au/events/calendar/

City of Gold Coast n.d. Cross cultural communication: tips for communicating with people from other cultures, viewed 17 March 2021,
http://www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au/documents/bf/CrossculturalFactSheet.pdf

International Education Services 2018, The Cultural Atlas, viewed 17 March 2021, www.culturalatlas.sbs.com.au/

Victorian Government, Education & Training 2017, Communicating across cultures, viewed 17 March 2021, https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/careers/resourcekit/Pages/communication.aspx 

Library resources