Bridging the Culture Gap: A Practical Guide to International Business Communication

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Currant, N. (2004), "Bridging the Culture Gap: A Practical Guide to International Business Communication", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 36 No. 7, pp. 295-296.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The title of this book summarises accurately what is being offered – a practical guide to international business communication. The book is an informative read for anyone who deals with different cultures as part of their working life. There is also a lot of useful information for trainers who work on diversity, negotiation and presentation skills training. An experienced trainer in the areas of diversity and culture will probably not find any radically new ideas here, but there are at least a number of examples that may be of use. For readers not directly involved in these areas, it would be surprising if there was not something in this book that would provide you with new information.

The book looks at intercultural communication across six chapters, with a final seventh chapter drawing the ideas together. The first two chapters discuss how people in multinational organisations need to be aware that their colleagues in different countries may see the world differently. The case is made that we all need to make sure that we interpret the things that others are saying correctly and do not let cultural differences get in the way and distort the message.

The third chapter, “Knowing the limits”, and the fourth, “Knowing the form”, discuss the fact that different cultures see truth differently and have different social norms. What is acceptable behaviour in one culture may not be acceptable in another. It is about knowing the limits and adapting to the culture in which you work without compromising your core values.

The fifth chapter deals with presenting to an international audience. From a training perspective, this chapter seemed more simplistic than the other chapters and had less to offer the reader in terms of ideas and useful material. The sixth chapter is about negotiating with people from different cultures. The final chapter gives the message that it is important to understand our own cultural norms in order to then think about how we communicate with others.

There are two distinctive key features about this book. The first is that the authors have drawn upon the work of Edward Hall, Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars to develop a series of cultural preference scales. These are presented as 100‐point diametric scales which can be used to analyse and illustrate how different cultures and people think and act. Useful contrasting examples of high context versus low context are given in the text. For example, in Japan there is usually a need for very high context, meaning that business relationships have to be dealt with diplomatically using implicit and indirect language. In contrast, such relationships in the United States are generally low context and use very direct communication. These scales are used throughout the book to illustrate the message the authors are trying to get across. The scales are then brought together in the final chapter as a neat conclusion to the ideas given in the rest of the book.

The second key feature of the book is that these scales are linked to the use of real‐world scenarios. These scenarios are used to give concrete evidence which enable the reader understand the different cultures. The use of the cultural preference scales and the real world scenarios means that the book presents sometimes difficult ideas with real clarity. This potentially helps the reader to get inside the minds of people from other cultures who may have very different ways of thinking and of doing things.

The book has a lot of information on Western European, Northern American, South East Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. However there is less insight into South Asian, Eastern European and African cultures.

Overall, the book is interesting and very informative, and is written in a clear and readable style. The example scenarios and the preference scales really assist the reader to gain insights into different cultures, particularly differences between cultures that one may not anticipate would be that different. As an information and reference source the book represents good value for money.

Related articles