According to Zheng (2015) “The first step in effectiveintercultural communication involves self-analysis, self-awareness, andunderstanding.” (p.1) But to understand others I first need to understandmyself. If I don’t understand my own religion how can I understand anotherperson’s religion? During this trip, I learned a lot about Arabic people andculture.
Especially when we went to the Jumeirah Mosque. Fatima taught us aboutthe five pillars of Islam through the “Open doors. Open Minds” program.Listening to her made me think a lot about myself and the religion that Iidentify with, which is Catholicism. I began to ask myself the question, whatare the differences between Catholicism and Islam? I found that there are moredifferences than similarities. For example, Catholics believe that Jesus wasthe son of God. On the other hand, Muslims believe that Jesus was a greatprophet whose message was ultimately rejected. So God sent another, finalprophet, Muhammad.
A similarity is that both believe in Heaven and Hell, andboth believe in a number of Old Testament figures, i.e. Abraham. Both religionsalso have their own rituals: Catholics have The Sacraments (Baptism andCommunion, Confirmation, etc.
) and Muslims have the five pillars of Islam. Igained a great understanding of the five pillars. The first pillar Shahadameans faith, which is a brief prayer proclaiming the oneness of God and faithin Islam. The Second pillar is Salat, which requires Muslims to pray five timesa day facing Mecca. The third pillar is Zakat, which states that Muslims areexpected to give to the poor and sick. The fourth pillar is Sawm, whichrequires Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamiccalendar).
The fifth pillar is Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca thatevery Muslim must make at least once in their lives. Through this learningprocess, I found that there are things that I agree with and some things Idon’t agree with, but that’s the beauty of it all. Understanding and acceptingof the differences between the two religions. Furthermore, understanding and accepting of thedifferences is a vital step to good Intercultural business communication,understanding another culture’s viewpoint or values does not mean that I haveto agree with them. Although, it does mean that I have to examine my beliefsand values, determine how they will benefit or hurt me in a situation andprioritize them in a way where I and whatever other party is involved can worktogether. This is how one adapts to the cultural conditions of the countrybusiness is being conducted in.
This doesn’t mean forgetting one’s own culturebut learning about the other cultures priorities, values, and attitudes whichare important to great relationships and successful business. Zheng (2015) saysit best “This approach means adding to one’s own culture, not subtracting fromit.” (p.2) An example of something that I’ve learned and added to my culture isbargaining. I got the first taste of this in Dubai when we went to Dubai Cityof Gold or the Gold Souk. When you go to a store in the United Statesbargaining doesn’t exist. When I get to this place where bargaining isencouraged it was a bit of a shock.
Just like everything else it took somefailures to get it right. You could probably tell how it went at first. I endedup overpaying for a keffiyeh and an agal. A keffiyeh is a square of cloth,traditionally worn as a headdress by Arab men and an agal which keeps thekeffiyeh in place. The whole bargaining process was completely new for mebecause in Miami if I go to a store whatever the price tag says is what I’mgoing to pay. Even though I got duped, it was one of the first things that Ilearned about the culture there. On the bright side, now I have some experiencebargaining. According to Zheng (2015) “The third step indeveloping Intercultural business communication skills is to use categories ortools for understanding how cultures compare.
” (p.2) Now that I have anunderstanding of not only my culture but of the other as well, I can now usetools to compare both cultures. Through this, I was able to understand andadapt to certain practices. One such practice was the modesty in the Emirates.In the United States, people are very direct, people have a business firstrelationship later mentality. In the U.S., we can talk about any topic nomatter the place or time.
This is completely different in the Emirates. From abusiness perspective, the US and the Emirates are very opposite. In the US,business owners just want to get things done as fast as possible with veryquick interactions. As long as there is a benefit to both parties it doesn’tmatter how many times they have seen each other. On the other hand, in theEmirates business is more personal. You don’t really get down to the numbersuntil multiple meetings in, there is a period of building relationships.
Another way that shows the modesty of the Emirates is through the clothespeople wear. Emiratis usually wear veils and long-sleeved robes. Most womenwear abayas while most men wear a thawb or a dishdasha.
This is an importantpart of their culture, they do not wear revealing clothing. Something that Inoticed when I was there, some foreigners didn’t really care about these rulesthat are in place. I saw women wearing short shirts revealing their stomach andsaw men wear short shorts. I found this appalling because I wouldn’t go to someone’shouse and do things they told me not to do. Which is exactly what these peopledid, there are signs in malls and laws in place that should be followed.
Thiswas something that I had to deal with. In Miami, I never wear long pants unlessI’m going to an interview or to a presentation. But instead of disregarding thelaws, I adapted to the culture. Clothes were one of many things that I had toadapt to once I was in the Emirates. Public displays of affection are anotherexample. In my culture, it is customary to hug and kiss when you greet and whenyou say goodbye. In the Emirates, this is not socially acceptable. Holding hands,kissing and even posing for pictures (in some areas) can get you arrested andhit with a fine.
I could have easily said take me as I am or don’t take me atall, but what good is that going to do anyone. I am in someone else’s house soI must respect their rules. The last step is enacting what one has learned. As anew-comer to the Emirates, there were many things that I had to adapt to. Theyweren’t life-changing but necessary so that I could have a good time there.Once I got accustomed, these changes became effortless. What once was adilemma, became easy to the point where I was walking in the shoes of theculture. This is the ultimate goal in learning and understanding of another’sculture.
One such example is when I had to adapt to eating with my hands more.Honestly, did not have a hard time with this. The one thing that I did have aproblem with was how to make that little rice ball. Our taxi driver from Oman tried to teach mebut I just could not figure it out. Intercultural business communication skills are ofextreme importance for people at all levels of any industry to properlyinteract with people of different cultures. One of the definitions of cultureis the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizesan institution or organization. A few decades ago, most Americans would onlywork with people of similar background. Today everything has changed.
Thanks tothe fast development of technology, local and global business transactions haveincreased. So the ability to effectively communicate and work with other peoplefrom different parts of the world has become a necessity. On a daily basis, wework with people from different parts of the world and with different businesspractices. Intercultural business communication is essential for buildingeffective teams that work at all times and throughout the world.
But there arealso great challenges to ICBC. Different worldviews, experiences and languagebarriers are some of the challenges that we face. These challenges can be verycostly to the organization because it can prolong projects for extended periodsof time. Communicating through a global lens effectively greatly augments yoursuccess when working and negotiating with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
(Zofi, 2017). Studyingabroad was an amazing experience that open my eyes to new worldviews, increasedmy cultural curiosity and has energized my willingness to explore. Cultureshock is very common when traveling abroad and it affects people at differenttimes in different ways. Culture shock can still happen after you’ve becomefamiliar with a new culture. Zheng (2015) says that there are four differentphases euphoria, frustration, adjustment, and integration. I experienced thesein different ways and they don’t all correlate with each other. I experiencedeuphoria on the first two days.
I was meeting new people in the group, going toFrankfurt, and arriving in Dubai are some examples. Before the study abroad theonly places that I had been outside of the United States were all in theCaribbean. This was the very first time I was going across the Atlantic. Theeuphoria was so serious I did not sleep the first night in Dubai. I had justmet my roommate Rob and neither one of us could sleep. I also experienced somefrustrations, I could tell there were people who already knew each other andwho started to clique up.
It was a bit intimidating at first to go and talk tothose people. Whenever we would go to a new place they would always do thingson their own, never inviting anyone else from the group. But luckily everyoneelse was really friendly and open. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way andso someone brought it up. This was the adjustment phase. From that day on thecliques started to integrate a bit, people from their respective groups startedto talk and hang out with others.
By the mid-end of the trip, the integrationphase occurred, it didn’t matter who you knew on day one because everyone kneweveryone at this point. This was really important because communication withdifferent people from different cultures is how we expand our worldviews. Now that wehave an understanding and have adapted to other cultures there are a few stepsthat we can take to ensure we continue to have success in the future. There arealso two very important questions that we should ask ourselves. What have welearned? And, how can we improve for next time? The first step is keeping itsimple, avoiding long complex sentences, language and presentations.
By usingsimpler language going at a slower pace and using visual aids. All of theseexamples will help the transaction go smoother. The second step is culturalknowledge. I had the most trouble with this because I didn’t do extensive researchon the culture. If I would have done my research before going I would’ve had abetter understanding of their culture and their reasoning for doing certainthings.
Having an understanding of the cultures history and business practicesof that region are vital to successful ICBC. Practices, such as knowing how toproperly dress to different occasions for both men and women. Knowing how toproperly greet and who to greet. Also having an understanding of how toproperly build a relationship and develop trust. Engaging in active listeningis the most important one in my opinion. I uncovered how important activelistening was on the trip because it allowed me to learn from the variousguides we had throughout our time there. The goal is to listen with the intentto understand their needs and how we can meet those needs. It’s reallyimportant to have the ability to hear what people are saying, know what theyare trying to say and predict how they will react.
Intercultural competence is “the ability tocommunicate and behave in appropriate ways with those who are culturallydifferent-and to co-create shared spaces, teams, and organizations thatinclusive, effective, innovative, and satisfying.” (Cultural Detectives 2017)ICBC is a skill that is extremely important in a variety of areas, such as,education, negotiations, building relationships, healthcare, etc. Beingsensitive to differences and accepting the influence that they may have willimprove relationship in all facets of life.