The & Weaver, 2009). This is not the same

The phrase
“Intercultural communication” was first used in 1954 in a book by
E.Hall, Culture as communication, (Kulikova, 2004; Mindess, 1999) and was
described by (Ozdemir, 2011) as different cultures sending and receiving
messages with each other and meaning these messages. (Leontovich, 2007) simply
described it as its own independent science, which I feel is accurate as
intercultural communication is an art that is constantly changing and evolving
as the world around us becomes increasingly connected with improvements in
technology and an ever changing ‘culture’, something (Williams, 1987) described
as one of the most complicated words in the English language. In this essay I
will compile various studies from over the years together to analyse 4 issues
with intercultural communication as well as looking at a commonly cited model
devised by Hofstede.


One of the main issues
faced with intercultural communication is Ethnocentrism. This is the belief
that your own cultural way of doing things, norms and ways of thinking are
better to that of your cultural groups (Hybels & Weaver, 2009). This is not
the same as Patriotism, which is defined as “devotion to your country.”
Ethnocentrism causes a person to think that’s impossible for someone else’s culture
to be better than theirs in any way (Hybels & Weaver, 2009). This makes it
an issue in intercultural communication as it can prevent you from even
attempting to see any other point of view. It’s one of the quickest ways to “create a barrier that
inhibits, rather than enhances communication” (Jandt, 2012), and acts as
a barrier to both the sender and receiver of the communication. It commonly
referred to as “culture shock” and is an increasingly important
barrier to overcome, as in America a nurse is more likely to encounter a
patient that speaks a different language. It is vital therefore that this
intercultural communication barrier must be overcome in order for nurses to
effectively carry out their jobs.

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A stereotype can be defined as
“Widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of
person or thing” by the Oxford English Dictionary however (Lipman, 1922)
referred to them as “pictures in our heads” which I feel is a more appropriate
definition. The problem with stereotyping comes when we use our stereotypes to
tell us how group members would typically communicate (Krauss & Fussell,
1991). However these predictions typically may not be accurate and as a result
it can lead to miscommunication and communication breakdowns. Stereotypes
become more serious when they are negative and rigid. Research into this topic
shows that, once a stereotype is formed, it is very difficult to discard. This
is because people remember information supporting a stereotype before they
process information that may contradict it (Hamilton, Sherman, & Ruvolo,
1990). This can lead to problems in organisations where a worker may base
assumptions on a person based on their race, gender or sex. This can lead to
the wrong person being selected for the job and therefore in efficiencies and
problems within the business leading to a potential loss of profit.


Prejudice is another
issue that plagues intercultural communication and falls hand in hand with
stereotyping. (Hybels, 2009) states that prejudice is, “a negative attitude
toward a cultural group based on little or no experience.” The difference
between stereotyping is that where stereotyping tells us what a group or
culture is like, prejudice is about how we feel towards said group (Newberg,
1994). However some scholars such as (Hecht, 1998) believe that it may not have
such a close relationship to stereotyping but instead stems from negative
feelings towards one group and positive feelings towards your own, or even
genuine threats. Prejudice causes issues when communicating as it causes entire
groups of individuals to be left out or treated differently (Barna 1997). An
example of this is could be in a large company with a diverse work force such
as Deloitte. Entire departments may be reluctant to share information with each
other due to a prejudice against each other and as a result there could be a
breakdown in communication resulting in a Deloitte not being as efficient as
possible and losing out on potential profit.

Language is perhaps one
of the most obvious issues that can arise with intercultural communication.
(Jandt, 2000) described language as the set of symbols that is shared by a
community to allow them to communicate experiences and meanings to each other. Given
that this is the main way we communicate, intercultural communication will
break down if the sender of the information cannot send it, the receiver cannot
understand it, or both. Language is vital for a person’s self-identity as it
allows them to express themselves, speak, and convey complex messages with
emotion that would otherwise not be possible. Language is one of our greatest
mediators that enables us to understand and relate to each other (Imberti,
2007). These issues become apparent when it comes to ordering food in a
language that you aren’t fluent in. Miscommunication and a struggle to obtain
accurate information about the food presented on the menu are the biggest
problems that customers ordering in a foreign language face. This will affect
their decision when it comes time for them to order because they are not
accurately informed as to what each dish offers. This can result in
embarrassment and anxiety. Many customers also experience fear, possibly
related to “face consciousness.” This involves being embarrassed in front of
peers or servers and can be a stressful burden for many people.  (Ho,
1979) described face consciousness as “the reputation and the credibility one
has earned in a social network.” There is evidence to show that Asians are more
face-sensitive than their Western counterparts (Ho, 1991), however anyone who
has been in this situation before will know all too well that it can be both
stressful and embarrassing. Different people try to cope with these break downs
in intercultural communication in different ways and coping behaviours can be
severely affected by the attitude of the person serving them. An attentive
server can help to overcome these language barrier issues associated with
intercultural communication by being welcoming and encouraging to a customer.
In contrast a less attentive server who is less experienced when communicating
in an intercultural fashion may get impatient. This may result in the customer
feeling discriminated against and could negatively affect the business and result
in bad publicity all because of an issue caused due to a break down in
intercultural communication. Service recovery to customer complaints will
increase satisfaction and loyalty according to (McCollough, et al., 2000), and
therefore training employees regarding cultural backgrounds and teaching them
to be more attentive and friendly to customers is essential.

(Hofstede, 1991)
suggested a multi-dimensional model based upon the national values. Therefore,
it is also known as the Hofstede cultural value model. Hofstede surveyed more than
More than 88,000 employees of a large multinational firm based in 66 countries
were interviewed by Hofstede in order to develop this model. This allowed
Hofstede to identify four dimensions including power distance, uncertainty avoidance,
individualism-collectivism, and masculinity-femininity and these were
identified as the dominant patterns. With the help of Bond and a survey, Hofstede
was able to identify another cultural classification called the “the Confucian
Dynamism.” This mainly applied to cultures from East Asia such as Korea, Hong
Kong and Japan. One of these areas that I find most appropriate towards the
topic of issues that can arise through intercultural communication is
masculinity-femininity. This area of the model looked into how in many societies
the male would carry out the assertive and ambitious jobs whereas the secretary
job may be left to be the Woman (Dadfar, 2001). This would definitely be an
issue with intercultural communication as men from societies where this is most
prominent, such as Saudi Arabia, may treat woman from countries with a Low MAS
(masculinity index), such as those in Scandinavian, with less respect than they
feel appropriate and this could conflict in both social and business settings.

I myself have faced some
issues with intercultural communication, with the most notable occurring during
a cross community trip to America. Initially I made the mistake of speaking to
people in slang as if they were my friend living here which often caused
confusion and a lot of awkward silences and as well as a constant “excuse me?”
One of the most problematic phrases I was using was the greeting, “what’s the
craic” or “any craic”. This wouldn’t raise an eyebrow to someone from Northern
Ireland however it managed to raise multiple in The States with several people
thinking I was offering them drugs or asking for them! Thankfully I was able to
iron out any problems before they escalated however it goes to show that there
are issues that arise with intercultural communication even when you speak the
same language. Over the course of the month I feel like I really improved my
intercultural communication skills as our group dealt with some of the main
reasons behind the division in Northern Ireland. Everyone in the group had come
from different cultural backgrounds and that made intercultural communication
all the more important as we all had our own individual experiences with some
people coming from segregated schools and some not. This gave me an insight
into different people’s cultures as everyone had come from different
backgrounds yet through the use of intercultural culture we were able to come
together to carry out valuable community work whilst out there. A strong
understanding of intercultural communication was also needed for this as I
needed to interact with disadvantaged people of all ages and not discriminate
through stereotyping or prejudice which as I have previously discusses are huge
barriers to intercultural communication. I had to try and overcome my accent as
the Americans found it hard to understand and it could result in
miscommunication. This is not the only time that I have demonstrated my use of intercultural
communication as I have also had to demonstrate these skills when coaching a
youth football team. Due to the popularity of football, kids from all
backgrounds and ethnicities would turn up for training and this required a
clear use of intercultural communication in order to effectively carry out the
training session. The first challenge was establishing ground rules as many of
the kids had different ideas of what was within the laws of the game, whether
it be from the teaching of their parents or because of where they were
originally from. Intercultural communication proved vital for this as I had to
communicate with each team member differently.

An ever changing world brought upon
by globalisation has made intercultural communication more important than ever.
Businesses are becoming more diverse as they employ people from all backgrounds
of life and it is making over coming barriers to effective intercultural
communication such as stereotyping, prejudice and Ethnocentrism, crucial to
everyday business activities. It is important to read different situations and
approach them with caution, especially when dealing with people who don’t speak
the same language as miscommunication can lead to inefficiencies in everyday business.
To summarise intercultural communication is a skill we all need to value and
continue to improve upon in our everyday lives in order to improve our social skills,
as well as in our professional lives as it is a skill that will allow you to
network effectively with clients and colleagues from all around the world.









Reference List

Dadfar, H. (2001). Intercultural communication, Theory and Practice.

Ho, D.
(1979). Psychological implications of
collectivism: with special reference to the Chinese case and Maoist dialectics.
pp. 143–50.

Ho, D.
(1991). The concept of ‘face’ in the
Chinese–American interaction. In: W.-C. Hu & C. L. Grove, eds. Encountering the Chinese: a Guide for
Americans, pp. 111–124.

Hofstede, G. (1991) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the

Hybels, S & Weaver, R.L (2009). Communicating Effectively. (11th

P. (2007). Who resides behind the words?
Exploring and understanding the language experience of the non-English speaking
immigrant. pp. 67-73.

Korolevab, B & Mikhaleva, L.V (2014). Problems and Discrepancies of Intercultural
Communication in Russian and Foreign Science.

Matilla, S. & Kim, K. The Impact of Language Barrier & Cultural
Differences on Restaurant Experiences: A Grounded Theory Approach.