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Today we are talking about Intercultural Communication – the art of communicating across cultural boundaries …     

Expats are so often strangers in a strange land.  Foreigners can easily find themselves frustrated in their business or social interactions in Mexico.  

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that seemed simple and straightforward but then quickly digressed into something inexplicable?  Welcome to culture clash, where just because something is different does not mean it is wrong…and just because something does not seem logical does not mean that it isn’t.

Cultures have been clashing, probably since the very first humans left their homes and went exploring. Every country has its stories of invaders coming in and finding the natives to be uncivilized. (The natives—it should be no surprise to find out—felt exactly the same way about the intruders.) History tells us, that these early cultural clashes often resulted in wars, but even in our modern non-violent culture clashes we can cause a lot of damage.

Intercultural interaction, especially in this age of globalization, is a modern reality, and not only for people who choose to live outside of their native countries. The world has gotten a lot smaller and our business and social interactions are now being played out on an international field—a playing field full of invisible obstacles and mysterious rules, it would seem.  But rest assured, there are rules to every game—even if these rules are not the same rules that you learned at home.

Venturing out into this totally new territory, you would do well to do a little research beforehand.  Whether you live in Mexico, do business in Mexico, or are considering doing either, a little guidance will go a long way.

Communication barriers are often thought to be language-based, but language is just the tip of the iceberg.   It is not merely language fluency that allows you to communicate effectively, but cultural fluency as well.  

In our home environments, being able to share ideas and effortlessly communicate one’s thoughts or wishes is something we take for granted.

The amount of misunderstanding routinely faced in foreign environments, whether they are language-based, culture-based, or both, can be overwhelming. This miscommunication can leave you feeling isolated on the personal level, and can cost you money and opportunity on the professional level.

The most important lesson to remember is: just because you don’t understand it, does not mean that is wrong. 

Whether your interactions in Mexico are for business or for pleasure, a little understanding of the cultural forces at work under the surface can go a long way to limit the amount of frustration and friction you experience (or cause).

May I suggest reading the excellent book, Intercultural Communication a Practical Guide, by Tracy Novinger, available on amazon.  You can read a review of the book in the ADIP archives for  December 2007.

That´s all for today, thanks for listening.


This is Catherine Krantz for Another Day in Paradise.