Moving countries and entering new cultures

international business communication begins with self awareness

Today I want to focus on where one begins when learning about the use of Intercultural Communication when relocating an employee to a new country. There are so many stumbling blocks when transferring employees into new cultures.

Using the methods of Intercultural Communication, the training can start before the employee arrives in a new place. They begin by looking at their own culture and attempt to fully understand how it influences the way they work and interact with others. The employee investigates their present roots from the personal, local, regional and national perspectives.

So what does this mean?

At this point, I want to concentrate on the personal perspective which is the world from which you were raised or live inhabit presently. Friends and family norms. Even quirks.


As an example, I grew up in a small town in Texas, and My parents were from Georgia and Pennsylvania, so they did not speak the local dialect. The word ‘lack’ was used a lot when asking someone what they needed in a given situation. When they spoke, though the pronunciation altered to sound to my ears as,’ like’, so that I thought that the latter word had two meanings. One was the accepted meaning that ‘ like’ was ‘similar’, etc.. But I also thought that it could mean ‘need’.

I went through my life using it in this way, often misunderstood until I began to examine the dialect of the world in which I lived.

Texas is a big place, and we as Texans enjoy our voices, our space, and our sense of independence. Their state is full of mythology, and we want to believe it all in embodied on us. Some good and some bad, but it is us. I thin arrive in other parts of the country, New York and then Berlin, where bigger than life attitudes are sometimes off-putting, not ordinarily acceptable when dealing in business. I had to learn when and where to turn it on, and off. I even learned to be a bit humble.

I learned to listen and take into account the culture I was trying to relate to and temper my approach to my personal and business interactions. The difficulty was how to keep my identity and to respect the adopted culture. Not an easy task and I would fail a lot until I began to succeed. I felt for a while that I had to sublimate my cultural identity to my host country until I found that people did like me for my ‘bigger-than-life-Texas-self’, now and then, but sometimes they needed me to meet them in the middle somewhere between Texas and, in this case, Germany. Oddly, there is a significant cultural history between Texas and Germany.


Know your personal, cultural quirks, and observe how they are perceived. Develop the ability to modulate your usual modes of interaction from home when necessary and also when to celebrate it. Everyone likes the variety that different cultures offer. It’s all about self-knowledge and timing.

I could write on and on but will stop with this, picking up next time with a little observation about accents in speaking English. How much to keep, and how much to try and lose.


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