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What Is Cross-Cultural Business Communication?

Esther Ejim
Esther Ejim

Just like the name suggests, cross-cultural business communication is used in reference to the manner in which business communications occur across cultural borders. Cross-cultural business communication is something that is totally the consequence of globalization and the effect of increasing integration and interactions across cultural borders that have become commonplace as a result. These interactions may be business-oriented or geared toward other personal objectives, but both require the same types of considerations in terms of an acknowledgement of differences in perspectives caused by the inevitable variances inherent in the various cultures. Some of the considerations in cross-cultural business communication include concerns about the differences that are caused by culture, beliefs, law and language.

One of the factors in cross-cultural business communication is the fact that the differences in cultures usually have a direct effect on the manner in which business affairs are carried out by the members of such a community. For example, cultures that do not allow women to have certain rights will also reflect this bias in the business aspect of their dealings, something that businessmen and women from other less repressive cultures would have to understand in order for them to communicate effectively. Since culture is not something that can be changed merely through the operation of a foreign company, the management and staff of such a company would have to look for common grounds on which they and the business partners from those different cultures can meet.

Differences in culture may have a direct effect on the manner in which business affairs are carried out.
Differences in culture may have a direct effect on the manner in which business affairs are carried out.

Another consideration in cross-cultural business communication is the manner in which the law of the foreign culture affect the manner in which they conduct their business. This is very important because most times, miscommunications may occur due to the assumption by one party to a business communication that the law in his or her country is also the same in the country of the foreign business partner. One way to avoid this miscommunication is through a conscious effort by a business to study the law and customs in a country before it ventures into that country. Language is also a concern in cross-cultural business communication due to the fact that the language barrier must be surmounted in order for business communication to occur. Some businesses achieve this by hiring interpreters or using translation services as a medium for channeling their communication to the other party, and also for them to decipher what the other party is trying to say.

Discussion Comments


@donasmrs-- Sometimes an interpreter is enough, sometimes it's not. It depends on the culture.

For example, I had to have dinner with a group of Japanese businessmen in Japan. Before I went for the dinner, my friend who is from there told me what I should do and not do during dinner.

Did you know that sticking chopsticks into food is a great disrespect in Japan? Or that giving someone food with chopsticks is only done at funerals?

Just imagine if I had done these things during the dinner!


@fify-- So you don't think that an interpreter is enough for cross-cultural business communication?

Shouldn't businessmen and women be more open-minded when working with people from different cultures? Why is it so difficult?


It's very easy to make mistakes when working with clients from different cultures. And these mistakes can be detrimental to business dealings, especially if the client feels that he or she is being disrespected.

I work with clients from different countries all the time. Whenever I have to go to a foreign country to meet clients, I do my homework about that culture. I speak to acquaintances who have lived there and I learn general rules about how I should greet others and how I should behave in different circumstances.

I have benefited very much from doing this. Not only do I learn about that culture, but I also find ways to connect with the client and communicate in a friendly way. I think this has been key to my success with foreign clients.

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    • Differences in culture may have a direct effect on the manner in which business affairs are carried out.
      By: Scott Griessel
      Differences in culture may have a direct effect on the manner in which business affairs are carried out.