Going Global: Knowledge of Cultural Differences Creates Easy Transitions
By Sarah Ashfeld, Lee Carpenter, Meghan Sobotta, Mallory Rinehart
According to the UW-Eau Claire Study Abroad Handbook from the Center for International Education, nearly 25% of all students study abroad. Many of these students have taken internships during the summer in a different country, and graduates are starting careers abroad. Alumni and students working and studying abroad can greatly benefit by valuing and learning about the differences between their homeland and their new surroundings.
“Being abroad provides a great opportunity to examine one's own culture,” said senior general management major Adrianne Neitzke, president of AIESEC, an international business student organization.
Anticipating change is an important aspect of working and studying abroad, as Neitzke realized during her time overseas. “I noticed that the moment I wasn't actively accepting my surroundings, I had a bad day,” she said.
Here are some tips to help students and alumni adapt to new cultures while abroad:
Know Basic Cultural Differences:
Consider whether a country is relationship-based or task-oriented, and understand general gender differences. Also know how the country views the concept of time. For example, the United States values starting and ending meetings on time. India, on the other hand, views time as being more fluid. In countries with a more fluid view of time, starting and ending meetings late is acceptable. People who have seniority may tend to be late to meetings; however, always arrive on time, even if that means waiting."In foreign countries, you have to be flexible and accommodate,” said Dr. Rajarshi Aroskar, assistant professor of finance. "Relationships are very important.”
Understand Nonverbal Communication:
Nonverbal communication is important when conducting business in a different culture. There are some gestures that are acceptable to Americans but are considered taboo in other cultures. Know which gestures are looked down upon and avoid them to prevent awkward moments and insults.Social boundaries are also considered nonverbal communication. Some cultures do not have the same concept of personal space. In Latin America, people communicate in close proximity to each other. In the United States, we place greater physical distance between ourselves and those whom we communicate with.
Study Verbal Communication:
Find out what language is spoken in the country. If the country speaks English, realize that there are differences in English from one country to another. In a country where English is not the first language, consider researching a few frequently used words or phrases. This will make communicating with people from different cultures easier and more enjoyable.Students and alumni traveling abroad should always consider the context and culture of the country they are in. Researching and understanding the country and the culture is important when communicating internationally. Consider how business people differ from one another and adjust certain practices to fit a specific style.
Being aware of your surroundings and considering these tips will help smooth the transition for going global.
Sarah Ashfeld, far left, is a junior marketing major from Plymouth, MN; Lee Carpenter middle left is a senior marketing major from Madison, WI; Meghan Sobotta middle right, is a senior management major from Arcadia, WI; Mallory Rinehart, far right, is a senior marketing and economics double major from La Crosse, WI. They wrote this article for their BCOM Advanced Writing class.