What makes your culture different from other cultures?
I think we emphasise on being polite and saying “Hello” and “Thank you”. We open the door and look behind if there is somebody I can hold the door open for. People in Vienna have the reputation of being unfriendly, sometimes I understand that opinion. This is different when you are in the countryside. People say “Hello” whether they know you or not. And for example, they tell you the way or whatever you like to know.
What do you think is important with regard to intercultural experience?
I think you have to be patient and double check if there are any misunderstandings. You have to speak clearly and try to avoid an accent. If it’s possible get information about the foreign culture you are dealing with first. Sometimes you expect a “thank you” and you won’t get it because they won’t say it in that case in their culture. Or for example in English, there is no word like “Mahlzeit”. Maybe they would say “enjoy your meal/food” but it’s not that usual. Or like in Korea it’s a compliment if somebody says: “You look old”, older people have more wisdom than younger. And if you make business on the Bazar in Istanbul you have to drink mint tea with the Turkish seller first.
Have you ever felt shocked by an intercultural misunderstanding?
Once I spent my holidays with my boyfriend in Israel. In my bikinis close to the southern city Eilat we got to know some Palestinian people. One of the three men, Jamal, a diving instructor, went diving with me and I really enjoyed it a lot. On their way home, they gave us a lift to Nazareth. A week later we were invited to go with Jamal’s whole family to lake Genezareth. I wanted to get undressed like in Eilat but Jamal told me to wear my shorts when I like to go swimming, because of some parasites in the water. He said this because his Palestinian family was with us and the women wear their whole dress for swimming. But when I saw, how they polluted the lake with gas from their jet ski I didn’t want to go into the water anymore!
What do you know about intercultural communication?
International communication is the communication practice that occurs across international borders. The need for international communication was due to the increasing effects and influences of globalization. Currently, international communication is being taught at several colleges around the globe. Employees who possess the ability to effectively communicate across cultures are in high demand. International communication embraces political, economic, social, cultural and military concerns. Be aware that international communication is not only the spoken word also the body language may be different.
What do you think are the most important things professionals should know about intercultural communication?
Companies look for personalities. I’ve talked with a lady who worked in many different places in the world. She adviced: “Get out of your comfort zone” and she meant: “Do something that you find difficult”. As in our own culture with some people, it’s easy to get on from the start. English is spoken worldwide but nevertheless, politeness and pronunciation can be totally different. Getting ready for working international means becoming intercultural competent. Be prepared for the unexpected: If you like to work and study in a foreign country get prepared for difficulties, misunderstandings or unexpected behaviours. Be aware that international communication is not only the spoken word also the body language may be different and also how close somebody stands to you. Ask for is eye-contact: a must or a taboo, and is it used to shake hands?