Importance of cross cultural sensitization in International Business

Friday, July 08, 2011 Posted by Pratheesh

Author: Nupur Gupta(2011-2013 batch)

Cross cultural sensitivity is the quality of being aware and accepting of other cultures. This is important because what seems acceptable in some countries can be rude or derogatory in others. A person who is culturally sensitive is aware that there could be differences between their culture and another person’s, and that these differences could affect their relationship and the way they communicate with each other. A culturally sensitive person would understand other countries’ traditions and ways of life, or attempt to learn and apply new understandings.

Cross cultural sensitivity is seen as an essential skill in today's world. Cross cultural awareness is important when dealing in international relations or trade. It can mean the difference between a brand succeeding or failing in international market. Some cross cultural barriers are body language, etiquette, establishing trust, religious beliefs and social habits.

The success or failure of a company, venture, merger or acquisition essentially depends upon people. If these people are not cross-culturally aware then misunderstandings, offence and a breakdown in communication can occur. The need for greater cross-cultural awareness is heightened in our global economies. Cross-cultural differences can lead to cross cultural blunders. Having a poor understanding of the influence of cross cultural differences in areas such as management, PR, advertising and negotiations can eventually lead to blunders that can have damaging consequences.

A company having understanding of cultures in other countries can manipulate marketing strategies accordingly and use them effectively. For example- the main slogan of coke is open happiness. But happiness is defined differently in different cultures. So it targets that and has different types of advertisements for different countries/cultures

Examples showing the importance of Cross Cultural Sensitivity and awareness are:

An American Company that manufactures golf balls packaged the balls in packs of four. They were successful and began selling internationally. However they were not so successful in Japan, where the number four holds the meaning of death.

When a soft drink was introduced into Arab countries, the Arabs didn’t buy it because the label had six-pointed stars on it and they interpreted it as pro-Israeli. When they printed another label in ten languages, the Arabs wouldn’t buy again because one of them was Hebrew.

Recognising the importance of cross cultural sensitization will help the company to understand the needs, preferences of customer for a product. A company won’t sell a product that would not be accepted by the people on cultural grounds. For e.g.-. if a package food company tries to sell beef in India, it might not be as successful as expected because cow is considered the sacred animal to Indians.

Communicating and working across cultures often presents huge risks for international businesses. Understanding culture of other country can help prevent wasted time, lost revenue and damaging misunderstandings which occur as a result of a lack of knowledge and understanding of the target culture. Understanding how people think and why they behave the way they do will help employees work more effectively, which in turn, will give the organisation a competitive edge over other organisations who lack this intercultural competence.

Cross culture sensitivity helps the company to understand the implications of cultural difference on business, understand how they are perceived by their international counterparts, communicate effectively across cultures and build successful cross cultural relationships.

We can impart the idea of cross cultural sensitivity to the employees by cross culture awareness training. This training offers participants with two types of training- One looks at a specific country or culture and how to do business with them. Cultural awareness training can make an important impact on any business or organisation wanting to maximize their potential internationally. With staff that can deal sensitively and effectively with clients, customers and colleagues from other cultures a business becomes more competitive and more profitable.

Thus, the idea of cross cultural sensitivity is inevitable in international business. For a company to be successful in international business, it should help the employees to be culturally sensitive. If different cultures are accepted by people of different parts of the world, then it leads to successful and profitable venture.


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