Understanding how Culture Affects Business Communication

4. 1. 2019

Multinational and cross-cultural teams are becoming more common, meaning businesses can benefit from an increasingly diverse knowledge base and new, insightful approaches to business problems. However, along with the benefits of insight and expertise, global organizations also face potential stumbling blocks when it comes to culture and international problems.

Cultural diversity is perceived quite often around the world with changes in geography, climate, countries, states, religion, language, race, and gender. For a business to become technically competent and advanced globally, to have better communication, travel, and transportation, cultural diversity must be sometimes breached. A situation can arise where cultural miscommunication can put human value at stake. Culture influences a range of interpersonal exchanges as well as value-chain operations such as product and service design, marketing, and sales.

Cross-cultural communication (also frequently referred to as intercultural communication, which is also used in a different sense) is a field of study that looks at how people from different cultural backgrounds communicate, in similar and different ways among themselves, and how they endeavor to communicate across cultures. Intercultural communication can be defined as the interpersonal interaction between members of different groups, which differ from each other in respect of knowledge shared by their members and in respect of their linguistic forms of symbolic behavior (Karlfried Knapp).


Comprehending the verbal and nonverbal meaning of a message is difficult even when communicators are from the same culture. When they are from a different culture, special sensitivity and skills are necessary. Different culture means that they have different norms, values, behaviors, attitudes and different perceptions for any business or life topic. The entire world of business is changing dramatically. The kind of work you will do, the tools you will use, the form of management you will work under, the environment in which you will work, the people with whom you will interact, are all undergoing a pronounced transformation. Many of the changes revolve around processing and communication information. Thus, the most successful players in the new world of business will be those with highly developed communication skills. 

Wide differences among languages make precisely equivalent translations difficult, as languages are generally based on experiences, different concepts, and views of the culture that developed them. For example, a florist in America means someone who sells flowers while in some culture the word florist is irrelevant because flowers are sold by street vendors. Similarly, the word supermarket has got no equivalent in some languages. The French have no word distinguishing house and home, mind and brain, and man and gentleman.

E-mail, instant messaging, the web, mobile technology, audio and video conferencing — all of these technologies mean that you will be communicating more often with different cultures than ever before. Your writing and speaking will be showcased and tested as never before. All of this illustrates the importance of possessing excellent business communication skills with different cultures. 


Author: Amr Essam Sukkar, lecturer at LIGS University

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