Cross-Cultural Communication

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The world has become a global village due to the advent and development of technology. Moreover, technology has made the world a global village such that people leave their homes to go to different parts of the world for business or even education. Most of the students who have gone to study abroad experience difficulties in communicating with the native students. Cross-cultural communication is important to language and cultural studies since it identifies the barriers to effective cross-cultural communication and how people from different cultures can effectively overcome these barriers. Intercultural communication is the study of communication between people whose cultural symbols and perceptions are distinct enough to affect their communication levels. Culture refers to the beliefs and norms that defines the way of life for people within a certain geographical location. Do cultural differences prevent effective communication? The research report seeks to determine the impact of cultural differences on effective communication.

Cultural Barriers to Communication

Keles (2012) sought to find out the intercultural communication barriers that exchange students in Turkey undergo. The study identifies the obstacles that the students face as they try to adjust to the culture of the new country while they are in the university. High anxiety is the first barrier that most students experience as they adapt to the University environment. The anxiety is driven by the culture shock and hence the minority group in a particular cultural setting are not confident enough to focus during the communication process, and thus they fail to be effective. The assumption of similarities is another challenge that international students face when they are trying to adjust. Most of the international students usually assume some of the similarities that the culture of the locals has with their culture. Hence, due to the assumption, the foreigners do not pay particular attention to adequately understand the details of the new culture which they are trying to understand and comprehend. As a result, they struggle to understand the aspects of the language, the acceptable non-verbal cues together with the norms within their cultural setting.

Keles (2012) emphasises that ethnocentrism is also another barrier to effective cross-cultural communication. Ethnocentrism is the aspect of negatively judging another person’s culture based on the standards of their own culture. The people who are ethnocentric do not realise that each culture has their unique values. It is important to note that there are two stages of ethnocentrism. The first stage is denial where the person who is confronted by a different culture or exposed in a different cultural environment denies whether there is any form of difference (Leonard, Scotter & Pakdil, 2009). The second stage of ethnocentrism occurs through defence where the individual justifies their position that there exists no cultural difference and emphasises on their to fit into the cultural context.

Cultural stereotypes is another factor that prevents effective cross-cultural communication. These are perceptions and beliefs which people hold about the culture of other people based on the previously informed attitudes or opinions (Fiske, 2017). Stereotypes are developed over time based on the level of exposure that the individuals have. Moreover, some people believe that their culture is superior compared to the others. Other individuals have an inferior stereotype which then makes them demean their culture over others. Stereotypes prevent effective communication since people may not respond adequately to gestures or even non-verbal cues as they may interpret them to be negative.

The language barrier is also an excellent challenge for effective cross-cultural communication among the students. People who do not share a language have a challenge in communication. Moreover, failure to effectively master the language of the native people, prevent international students from effectively communicating with the natives. The specific problems which are presented by language during the communication process are mainly on conceptual equivalence, experimental equivalence, idiomatic equivalence and vocabulary equivalence (Yeung & Kashima, 2011).

Vranceanu & Leca (2015) focused on a look at cultural barriers by studying the cultural obstacles encountered by foreigners who work in a multinational company from Romania. Culture affects the thinking, feeling and acting of different people. As a result, even people who are of the same nationality could still experience challenges in communication mainly because of the cultural differences that they have. The three main ways which culture interferes with effective-cross cultural communication which are primarily emotional constraints, behaviour constraints and cognitive constraints. Each culture determines and influences how people communicate mostly in the language and even non-verbal cues. The research that was conducted by Vranceanu & Leca (2015) focused on interviewing ten employees who were from Romania and were working for multinational companies.

The focus of the interview was on the issues such as the ways of reducing the effects of cultural barriers on communication and collaboration, the organisation’s sensitivity, stereotypes, dealing with misunderstandings and the perceiving differences between cultures. The focus of the study was to determine how communication and collaboration are influenced in the different work environment. The findings revealed that if cultural differences in the work environment are not addressed, they can lead to confusion in the workplace. As a result, Vranceanu & Leca (2015) emphasise that it is critical for the employees at the workplace to understand the cultural differences in the workplace so that these diverse individuals can collaborate and work together.

The article by Vranceanu & Leca (2015) emphasises on ways in which people can overcome these cultural barriers and effectively communicate. One of the critical ways of overcoming these barriers is to ensure that every individual appreciates the different cultures that other people have. Through the recognition and appreciation of the differences and similarities, most of the individuals will be sensitive especially on how they communicate to ensure that they understand both the verbal and non-verbal cues that enhance effective communication. Moreover, either at the workplace or even in the institutions of learning, while communicating with people of different cultures should ensure that they show respect and empathise with foreigners of a different culture especially when they are trying to learn a new language. Moreover, the culturally diverse employees and students would benefit from attending cultural workshops and courses for them to understand the foundation of the different cultures for them to effectively communicate.


In conclusion, culture defines the way of life, as a result it directly affects communication. The report has revealed the cultural barriers which prevent effective communication such as anxiety, ethnocentrism, cultural stereotypes and language barriers. However, despite the cultural barriers, these challenges can be overcome when people appreciate the diversity and cultural differences. Moreover, students and employees in a foreign country should ensure that they make deliberate efforts of learning the culture by attending workshops and also spending time with the natives who can practically teach them the language and culture. As a result, in as much as there are many cultural barriers preventing cross-cultural communication, the people who have the interest can overcome the barriers and effectively communicate.


Fiske, S. (2017). Prejudices in Cultural Contexts: Shared Stereotypes (Gender, Age) Versus Variable Stereotypes (Race, Ethnicity, Religion). Perspectives Of Psychological Science, 1(1), 8-15. doi: Prejudices in Cultural Contexts: Shared Stereotypes (Gender, Age) Versus Variable Stereotypes (Race, Ethnicity, Religion)

Keles, Y. (2012). What intercultural communication barriers do exchange students of Erasmus Program have during their stay in Turkey, Mugla?. Procedia-Social And Behavioral Sciences, 70(1), 1513-1524. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.219

Leonard, K., Scotter, J., & Pakdil, F. (2009). Culture and Communication Cultural Variations and Media Effectiveness. Administration And Society, 1(1), 4-8. doi:

Vranceanu, C., & Leca, I. (2015). A look at Cultural Barriers. Cross-Cultural Management Journal, 17(1), 2-6. Retrieved from

Yeung, V., & Kashima, Y. (2011). Culture and Stereotype Communication Are People From Eastern Cultures More Stereotypical in Communication?. Journal Of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 1(1), 3-8. doi: Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology

September 11, 2023

Culture Sociology



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