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Cross Cultural Interactions

As a growing international society, we are constantly adapting to cultural differences and changes. In doing so, we are creating an environment that values diversity and welcomes change. However, as we observe and learn about the changes, we may often find ourselves confused. For instance, when was the last time you were in a store or at a fast food restaurant and found yourself, asking, "What just happened?" In this article we will try to unpack a few of those "what just happened" moments for you.

As most of us know, the LPGA has golfers from 29 different countries which means there are many different cultures represented on the tour. In an effort to help you adjust, assimilate, and understand such differing cultures, you must first understand that every culture interacts differently with one another. And because interactions between people happen within a given context, each situation is different.

Many cultural misunderstandings occur because of non-verbal behaviors, so let's put non-verbal cultural differences into practice. Let's say you want to reach out to one of the LPGA golfers, initiate an interview, or sponsor a player - what would be the most culturally appropriate way to converse with any one of the girls?

While making initial contact with a professional athlete may be unnerving, there is no cultural aspect that would guide you toward an appropriate way to reach out to any of the LPGA players. However, once engaged in conversation, non-verbal cultural differences, such as nodding of the head, the use of silence, the use of eye contact, and the practice of bowing may throw you off balance. The following information will allow you to find your footing and smoothly move past the "what just happened" moments.

In some cultures, nodding of the head may be a sign of acknowledgement rather than agreement. Usually, when a person disagrees, their response is silence and noncompliance. Therefore, nodding and silence may mean that the person is listening but does not agree. The only way to decipher between cultural nodding is to politely ask for clarification - don't walk away thinking, "What just happened?"

Usually, eye contact signals the turns in a conversation, but many cultures view a direct gaze as confrontational and is therefore purposefully avoided. Such a lack in eye contact may make it awkward for Americans to pass conversation back and forth. Being generally uncomfortable with any period of silence in conversation, Americans tend to rush through pauses.

Being a task-oriented culture, Americans tend to want conversation to get to the point, where other cultures use conversation to build relationships. In most other cultures, silence or pauses suggest really hearing, considering, and valuing what is being said by the other person.

In short, do not rush through what may feel awkward to you as an interviewer. Take a moment to breathe, gather your thoughts, and then if silence continues, move forward with the conversation.

It should be noted that an easily misconstrued non-verbal response often occurs through eye contact. You may or may not know that Americans typically look directly into each other's eyes when talking. When eyes shift and avoid meeting those of the other person, Americans may sense disinterest or perhaps even deception, allowing room for personal judgment and leaving you feeling like, "What just happened?"

However, a lack of consistent eye contact may be a sign of respect or humility in other cultures. In some Asian cultures, for example, eyes may be downcast or sweeping. In Hispanic cultures, direct eye contact is used far less and direct disagreement is uncommon.

In addition, bowing is an important custom in most Asian cultures, but can also be uncomfortable when you aren't sure what to do. Bowing is primarily used as a sign of respect - a respectful greeting, apology, or expression of gratitude, much like a hand shake in other cultures. In Asian culture, there are three different angles in which you can bow.

• 15º bow represents a casual greeting and can also be a simple nod of the head.
• 30º bow is most common and signifies a business situation.
• 45º bow is the most formal and is a symbol of deep gratitude or respect.

When bowing to a LPGA player, you should bow at a 30 degree angle - bending from the waste with your head down. When in doubt, follow the initiators lead by returning their bow.

As you continue to adjust to cultural differences, knowing these aspects of conversation will allow you to be more observant - enabling you to read non-verbal facial expressions and conversational body language and allowing you to easily reach out to one or many of the LPGA players. If you would like to learn more about cross cultural differences, contact Language Training Center at 888-456-1626. We look forward to speaking with you!

Topics: Cross Cultural

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