Module 2: Intercultural communication, local culture and customs

Lesson Title


Business conduct: Cultural parameters applied to work life



This lesson looks at the different aspects and parameters of cultures aThis lesson looks at the different aspects and parameters of cultures and intercultural communication with a view of business life, helping to prepare for work situations both as an employee and entrepreneur.nd intercultural communication with a view of business life, helping to prepare for work situations both as an employee and entrepreneur.


Lesson time foreseen

1 hour for reading the lesson
1 hour for implementation (added links, videos, test)


Lesson Content

If you have studied the previous topics of this module you will already be well aware how thoughts, opinions, feelings and upbringing influence the way people act within a given culture, and how this expresses in the perception of rules and values,  time(liness), distance and privacy, table manners and clothing.  [link to the respective topics]
It goes without saying that these cultural parameters also influence the way people act in business life. However, what probably is the most crucial distinction to your interactions in everyday life: intercultural misunderstandings may be taken more serious in formal settings such as your workplace, thus have more severe effects. To avoid offending your colleagues and business partners by behaviour which might seem inappropriate to their cultural “setting”, better be cautious and beware of the pitfalls in intercultural communication!
An example on potential misunderstandings in oral communication, even amongst English native speakers :  in the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries, the word „compromise” has a positive meaning (as a consent, an agreement where both parties win something); in the USA it may rather have negative connotations (as both parties lose something).
Another example identified by studies on different cultures is that so-called “low-context cultures” (more common in Northern America and Western Europe) usually ask for contracts and written agreements, trying to base their decisions on facts. On the opposite, “high-context cultures” (more common in the Middle East, Asia and Africa) see trust is the most important factor for business deals, so many organisations with high-context culture are said to be collectivist and focus on interpersonal relationships.
Of course you are not supposed to know all of these tiny little details about each and every culture, so if you feel that your counterpart is showing some unexpected reaction (lifting eyebrows, staring at you, turning away from you etc.) to something you said or did the best you can do is: ask politely how they interpret your actions or words, or try to say it with different words.
In general, try to solve inter-cultural misunderstandings by identifying issues that might cause conflict. If difficulties or misunderstandings occur, consider the impact of cultural differences and make an effort to sensitively resolve differences, taking cultural considerations into account. Address any difficulties with appropriate people and seek assistance when required. [more details:]

Group Exercise (Roleplay): Imagine you are in a business meeting, negotiating over a subcontract e.g. for building a house – one of you takes the role of the architect, the other the real estate manager; the rest of the group are observers. In preparation, everyone (incl. the observers) writes down which place he/she would choose for the meeting, how to dress, how to prepare etc. Then the architect and real estate manager meet for about 20min to negotiate the deal. The observers follow the discussion with a focus on oral as well as non-verbal communication and note down their observations. Afterwards, everyone (the players included) share their views on what went well, where they noticed communication problems and how they might have been avoided.


Test d'évaluation: