Some of you may enjoy this podcast:

Host Jean Feraca (Wisconsin Public Radio) leads a discussion and listener call-in that's focused on doing business around the world. The guests are the Dean of a business school, a travel writer, and an international executive.

A key message is that successful cross-cultural interactions come not from knowing tips & taboos of different cultures, but from expressing a willingness to learn and to understand our own cultural values and practices. This is not a business-person's how-to guide, but most of the calls are from listeners in international business. I found many of their stories interesting and insightful. Enjoy!

stephenbooth_uk's picture

Birmingham (where I live) is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the UK. I am constantly having to ask questions to learn about the cultures of the people around me.

The hardest part I've found is phrasing questions so the other person will know that it comes from an honest desire to learn more and is not intended as discriminatory. It's easy to accidentally cause offense with a poorly worded question, mostly because a lot of the time similar questions have been used in a discriminatory manner in the past.


wendii's picture
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I agree with you; I am genuinely fascinated by religion and culture and the differences and similarities that makes to our daily lives. But it is hard sometimes to ask in a way that puts that across.


jhack's picture

My new employer (via acquisition) uses a service called GlobeSmart ( which is really very good It provides lots of details, by country, of business protocol, entertaining, gift giving, standard greetings, what topics are off limits for conversation, gestures and body language, working hours, and a host of other details I would never even thought to ask about. It's been a really valuable tool for me.

A willingness to learn, and an attitude of respect, are certainly key. Solid cultural information is a great starting point, though, and helps you ask the right questions.

It also includes a "personality profile" (you take an online test) and you can compare your profile to the typical profile of another country. So, for example, I'm much more willing to take risks on a project than my colleagues in Shanghai. A generalization, yes, but worth knowing.

(sorry, it's not free. The existence of such resources is worth knowing about, and maybe you can get it through work. Maybe there are similar resources out there - anyone know of any?)


karaikudy's picture
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Thanks for posting an useful link on the radio talk. Good listening.

My personal experience, after having spent about 12 years traveling around the world if you show willingness and inclination to learn the local culture, it goes a long way to achieve successful results. This is done by not assuming anything as a way of doing things locally. Also saying one or two basic friendly words in the local language goes a long way towards being accepted one in them. This also sends out a signal that you are willing to go the extra mile. People are usually adjustive to a foreigner should there be a cultural goof up of minor nature.(walking with shoe in to home, touching the head, using left hand, etc etc to name a few,)

Yes, the "Globe smart" is a very useful resource to get a basic idea of what issues are culturally.

Came across interesting website resource for international business culture.

Hope this is of use. What is mentioned about India is mostly true although it can vary a bit from state to state.
The general link for other countries:-


stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="jhack"]A willingness to learn, and an attitude of respect, are certainly key. Solid cultural information is a great starting point, though, and helps you ask the right questions.[/quote]

If you're in or near a large town or city it may be worth investigating the local colleges. If they have a dedicated languages school many also provide cultural advice and events as well as language tuition.


rthibode's picture

Thanks for the links, Karthik. It appears to provide a good starting point, with some detailed information to add to the general stance of open learning recommended in the "cultural intelligence" podcast.


quentindaniels's picture
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The World is Flat! so I naturally believe this is a great convo!

First, what are you trying to accomplish? I assume it is better communication, and I get there by engaging people. So, in the words of Mark Horstman, "Ask yourself, are your natural behaviors the most effective ones?" For me I try to: raise my eyebrows, show facial expression, say "Please" & "Thank-you" more than normal, interrupt less, I use any words I know in that language, (i have learned thank-you in a native language goes a long way. I know it in 8 languages) I talk quieter and slower, and I READ as much as I can!

The behaviors I stated I believe work pretty well universally, as they convey a sense of sincerity. The reading gives less specific actions of do's and do-not's. Yet, it gives an appreciation for a culture's: history, how it is changing, and where it is going. It also will almost certainly contain lessons about cultural values.

I believe it is in the combination of both these: specific behaviors (raise eyebrows, fork stays in left hand,) and a frame of mind (thinking about how a cautious "Yes" may really mean "No") that help foreigners be effective in different cultures.

Books I like (China specific): China CEO (gives great specifics), China Inc. (current cultural and economic change), How to Win Friends ("Do this and you'll be welcome anywhere")

Would love to hear feedback and more book recommendations.

Quentin Daniels (sorry I've been gone so long)