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To What Can Lead the Lack of Understanding of Cultural Differences

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Each individual has their own culture as s part of that persons’ identity according to where they were born. As a result of Asians who study or work in different countries, have some obstacles to overcome in those cultures. Such obstacles are, cannot show their potential in work areas and inability to give their opinion openly. Doing business or studies in a different culture demands an understanding of that culture. Therefore it is a prime concern to understand the reasons for these misinterpretations. In order to do that, we need to have knowledge about their perception of face, language, dressing style and the perception of time.

“The abstract concept of “face” obviously has nothing to do with anatomy, but instead can be described as a combination of social standing, reputation, influence, dignity, and honour,” G. Rodgers says in his web article in 2017 (Rodgers, 2017). Accordingly, in Asian culture causing a person to lose face means that their self-worth is being lowered in the eye of their peers; in the meantime saving/building face means to raise someone’s self-worth. Even though the western people tend to acknowledge the ones who are “brutally honest” by pointing out swiftly, the opposite often holds in Asia as they prefer to avoid pointing out someone’s mistakes openly, and try to do what they can to prevent all potential embarrassment for others. An example provide by G. Rodgers in 2017 mentions that, if a person has a toilet paper stuck to his shoe; telling it considering as a gesture of goodwill could cause him personal embarrassment, leading to loss of face. So, less damage is done just letting him trail that toilet paper down the hallway (Rodgers, 2017). For Asians saving/losing face is considerably important and is righteous to have a clear consciousness about this when engaging in intercultural businesses and studies.

Language can be another barrier for communication. In most Asian countries English is a second language, so people do not use it in their everyday life. As a result of that Asians who study/work in western countries face difficulties. Such difficulties are; not being able to catch up to fast pace conversations, inability to understand the accent, pronunciation properly. For example, sometimes Asians mispronounce words which make it difficult to the listener to understand the content/meaning; some Asians mispronounce “patience” as “passions”. Another area of miscommunication is slang words. When a western say “break a leg” it means “do your best” but, if we say it to an Asian they will take the literal meaning and misunderstand it. In general multicultural companies face this problem because even it is an advantage to have colleagues from different countries; they cannot get their ideas and opinions as Asians tend to be quiet during meetings. Because of that westerns are frustrated and it shows how language becomes a cultural barrier (Szkudlarek, 2017 ).

When considering the perception of “dress code”, it also can be an obstacle between these two cultures. “Dressing” is highly considered to be professional. Fashion and trends are both equally significant. Not only that we want to respect the local culture, but in some traditional and conservative countries in Asia interprets that dressing norms in the U.S., are discourteous and provocative. “Businessmen may be very forward with you if you don’t observe the dressing customs that local businesswomen adhere to,” La Valle-Finan who is an Expact career coach says. In countries like China, Japan, India and Sri Lanka, modest dressing includes keeping a woman’s knees and elbows covered and buttoning shirts up right to the collar. In Asian countries like Japan, if a woman wears a pant she is also discouraged by the society and they prefer woman to wear skirts. Even if there is a social event organized by the business hosts, wearing dresses showing of cleavage is consider disrespectful and cavalier. On the other hand in Latin America and some European countries women are respected for being fashionable (Tulshyan, 2010).

We can see both similarities and differences in perception of time. For some people time is everything. There are monochronic people and polychronic people. Monochronic people are linear and are expected to do one thing at a time and they will not tolerate any lateness or interruptions. In Japan, Singapore and also in western counties like U.K., punctuality is considered as a moral virtue. However polychronic people are cyclical and because of that they are not ruled by a precise calendar or schedule as they are flexible about time. People in China, India and Sri Lanka are more polychronic. “Arrive on time, bring a book and prepare to wait. Never appear agitated or frustrated,” is a saying in Latvia. (Tulshyan, 2010) For that reason time is fluid and “on time” term meaning differ across the world significantly. So adjusting to that and the points discussed above can prevent many problems caused by intercultural miscommunication.

Misunderstandings and misperception make communication more difficult. Lack of understanding of cultural differences can be vague for people in business fields and for those who study abroad. From this literature review it is understandable that the perception of face, dress code, language, perception of time are some of the most crucial factors which affect in the intercultural communication.

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