Professional Development

8 Ways to Communicate Across Cultures (Without being awkward)

communicate across cultures

If you come from an environment where you never had to communicate across cultures. It’s not your fault.

There are steps you can take to get comfortable interacting with different cultures.

With the world becoming more virtual, your network should include people outside of your community. 

Because cultural awareness is a must have skill for the future.

Here are some ways to effectively communicate across cultures without it being awkward.

How to Communicate Across Cultures

1. Learn The Etiquette of Other Cultures 

Part of building relationships with people from different cultures means studying their etiquette. You’ll want to do research on their norms and unspoken rules. 

Here are some examples of cultural etiquette

  • In China, you present and receive things with both hands. This is considered polite in Chinese culture.
  • In Nigerian culture, you don’t address your elders by their first name. You call them Aunty or Uncle —  whether you’re related or not.  

It doesn’t mean you have to become an expert on other cultures. But a little bit of research can go a long way.

The most important thing is to embrace the differences of communities.

2. Don’t use slangs or jargon that aren’t globally accepted

Using words that people from other cultures may not understand can make them feel uncomfortable.

If you want to come across as inclusive, drop slang or jargon when interacting with different cultures.

For example, if you’re well educated and have a big vocabulary. You should be proud.

But when you’re working with people with English as a second language. That’s not the time and place to flex your big vocabulary.

Use simple words and speak in a way that anyone can understand. 

3. Avoid Talking about Culturally Sensitive Topics

Cultural sensitivity is important, especially nowadays. What’s triggering to one culture may be different from another. This is why doing your homework is so important.

Avoid triggering topics at all costs when communicating across cultures. You can do this by staying up to date with current events.

So you know what’s trending and how it affects people from other backgrounds.

4. Don’t Stereotype

Leave your bias at the door when communicating across cultures.  

Because everyone is different. If you know someone from another race. Don’t assume everyone in that race will be the same.

Take the time to get to know someone before making assumptions about them.

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5. Don’t Appropriate

Showing love to other cultures is great. But don’t overdo it. Cultural appropriation is taking from a culture that is not one’s own.

It can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from marginalized cultures.

So you’ll wanna be careful how you practice the traditions of other communities. Here’s what you can do. 

Connect with someone from that community. Let them guide you on the best way to celebrate their culture.

This way you don’t unintentionally offend anyone. 

6. Avoid jokes or humor that may offend some cultures

Humor is cultural, not universal. Our sense of humor is based on our shared views of the world. So you’ll want to be careful making jokes that could offend people. 

Here’s what you can do. Spend time reading the room when interacting with different cultures for the first time. 

Over time, you can let your guard down once you’ve had a chance to study their humor. 

For example, in the UK it’s normal to laugh at your flaws and make light of your failures. With British humor, you can’t take yourself too seriously. 

This leads to the next point…

7. Observe the Interactions of People within the Culture 

One of the best ways to study how to communicate across cultures is to watch how people in the community engage with each other.

You can do this in several ways. You can attend events hosted by that culture. Join online communities and watch how people interact.

Follow social media accounts and read the comment section. Pay attention to patterns to know how to show up correctly.

8. Admit You’re Still Learning 

Lastly, if you break a cultural code, don’t beat yourself up about it. Admit that you’re still learning.

And don’t be ashamed of that. The fact that you’re willing to study another culture says a lot about you.

And will be appreciated by others. Be patient with yourself okay? 

Communicating Across Cultures

If you wanna go far, you’ve got to be willing to step outside your comfort zone. This means being able to communicate across cultures.

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Over to You

Which culture would you love to learn more about? Head to our comments section on social @netwerkmovement and let us know. Share this with someone trying to build a diverse network!

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