Whenever I hear the term intercultural communication, I cringe. It is as if special skills are required to communicate with people from other countries and language groups.
I have lived and worked in several countries in Europe and Asia. I have always found that our opportunities to commit cultural gaffes are quite limited and that intercultural communication is not much of a problem. With good will and sincerity, it is actually quite easy to communicate across cultures. The less fuss we make about our cultural differences, usually, the better.
Yet there is a whole industry devoted to teaching people how to communicate “across cultures”. This industry relies on creating the impression that it is easy to offend people of another culture, and that we need to be constantly on our toes to do the right thing by another culture. I have not necessarily felt closer to those people from another culture who behaved like North Americans. I have usually been able to tell people’s intentions and personalities, despite differences in culture and language. I take people as I find them, and would expect that others treat me the same way.
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