Understanding and Dealing with Local People Effectively – Using cross-culture communication skills for the exchange visitor (J-1), fiancé visa (K-1), permanent resident (green card) or business executive (L1, or E2 investor).

You’ve come temporarily to study or work in the United States or permanently reside with your spouse. You’ve completed the legal process of obtaining a visa (F-1/J-1 for students, L1 for Executive, E-2 for Owner/investor, or green card) and your visions of accomplishment of your venture look within your reach. But there is still one obstacle to your success and that is to acquire the skill of cross-culture communication.

No one goes to school or works without interactions with other students and employees, teachers and service providers, suppliers of books, equipment, landlords, mechanics, bus drivers, instructors, care-givers, sales people, and fellow sojourners from other countries abroad. In these interactions between “there’s bound to arise one or more of these obstacles to successful communication: 1) confusion,2) misunderstanding, 3) misinterpretation.

It’s natural, even if you are native to the locality, to slip up with your communication signals. What is a “culture” anyway? It’s the uniqueness of a group of people (usually from same location) — it’s their differences, how they are different, distinct from one another in their “deeply held beliefs and instincts about what is natural, normal, right and good.”(see Stroti ref.) Sounds like what would be called “common sense” in any language. And, that’s true: what we’re dealing with here is two different interpretations of what is common sense.

“To succeed in an overseas assignment, expats have to interact effectively with the local people.” Craig Storti goes on to say in The Art of Crossing Cultures, “Cross –cultural encounters don’t always go wrong, of course, any more than same-culture interactions
always go splendidly, but, all things being equal, they are certainly more likely to end badly.” Mr. Stroti goes on to explain why this happens and offers guidelines on how to prevent cultural mishaps.

My future writing plan is to deal more thoroughly with the subject of cross-cultural skill building. But for an overall summary of theory and practice, I recommend Mr. Storti’s book, with its many humorous quotes, as a balance of entertainment with enlightenment.

[Craig Storti, The Art of Crossing Cultures, 2nd Ed., Intercultural Press, Maine; Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, 2001]

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