International Communication

International Communication
The Problem With Robert's
Robert had developed a successful
business selling refurbished old
sneakers to hipsters and other retroenthusiasts.
He noticed on the evening news that
people around the world seemed to be
into wearing things like old Levi's, old
band t-shirts, and other Americana, so
he decided he could sell his product to
the world as well.
Why is International Communication
Economic Growth and Development
Academic Growth and Development
Humanitarian Relief
Increased Awareness of Life and Culture
The number of companies that operate internationally has
grown tremendously in recent years as companies have
begun to realized how much potential revenue was
being ignored by not servicing such an enormous
potential customer base.
International business is expected to continue to grow in
the coming years as technology continues to help with
eliminating barriers that previously occurred such as
high shipping costs and long shipping times.
He sold his product through the
Internet, but he had come up with a
slick and cheap billboard ad campaign
with retro-style billboards that looked
like this:
Over-all, the ad campaign was a
wild success. Robert saw his sales
rise and he was soon struggling to
keep up with demand.
There was however a
perplexing exception. For
some reason his ad
campaign seemed to be
completely failing in the
Middle East.
He decided to investigate. First he did some market
research. He verified that there was in fact a demand
for Americana-type clothing. Sure enough, used
Levi's and old baseball caps were selling like crazy.
Then he tried to determine
whether or not someone
was out-competing him.
He scoured the Internet for
anyone moving in on his
market, but couldn't find
Either people in the Middle
East didn't want shoes, or he
was missing something.
Next he tried calling the billboard company he had
purchased the advertising space through. This proved
to be a rather unhelpful experience.
First he had to wake up in the
wee hours of the morning just to
get ahold of the company.
Then the phone connection was
shoddy at best, and the call kept
cutting out.
Finally, even though the
company had advertised
themselves as English-speaking,
he found that this was only in
the remotest sense. The whole
experience was... Well...
Worst of all, after a long, frustrating
conversation, he learned that not only
were his shoes not selling, but people
had been vandalizing and tearing
down his ads!
Small group members time difference may vary widely
depending upon the location the members. For example,
initially we had a member in our small group partner who
was from China with a time difference of 16 hours from
We need to be aware of any potential time differences and
plan accordingly.
Robert turned to the
Internet to see if he
could find any
information. Searching
for Arabic news or
information with a
roman-style keyboard
proved difficult.
With a mix of Google Translate and some luck, he finally managed
to piece together that the billboards had been deemed offensive.
He then tracked down a chat website and managed to connect with
a young man in Egypt who informed him that the signs were
indeed offensive: specifically showing the bottom of one's foot was
considered an insult in most Arabic cultures.
Avoid using words and phrases that individuals from other
countries may not understand. We may use some words
and phrases like this and not even be aware of it. We
should make a effort to think about how what we say may
be perceived and avoid possibly confusing words and
phrases whenever possible in favor of more literal
Ex. “American as apple pie”
“I’ll be back in a jiff”
Football may be understood to be what we consider soccer
Be aware of customs of the international regions that members
of the small group are from so as to not offend other
members inadvertently.
For example, it may be in poor taste to tell a group member
from India how great the hamburger you had for lunch was
as the cow if often held in high regard in India.
As we learned in chapter 5 of Communicating in Small Groups some
international small groups may have different culture in regards to
individualism, context, contact, conversational style and more!
For example Asian cultures tend to:
• Respond to nonverbal cues
• Share information freely
• Rely on physical context for information
Take environment, situation, gestures and mood into account
• Maintain extensive information networks
As opposed to Swiss cultures which tend to:
Be less aware of nonverbal cues, environment and situation
• Lack well-developed networks
• Need detailed background information
• Tend to segment and compartmentalize information
• Control information on a need-to-know basis
We need to be aware of these differences so we can communicate better
with each other and avoid alienating other members of the group.
One may find themselves in a situation
where you will be working with someone
that is not fluent in your language, nor you
in theirs. Sometimes you may have the
benefit of having a translator, but
oftentimes you may not.
In cases such as this, it may be beneficial
to communicate electronically as you can
take advantage of available tools such as
Google Translate* which will translate each
of your messages.
Not Time-Sensitive
Most Reliably Available. Documentable
Both parties can see
and hear each other.
Can demonstrate visibly
demonstrate products
and information.
Can’t see body
Occasionally Unreliable.
Requires reliable
Broadband Internet
Least Secure.
Both parties can see
and hear each other.
Can’t see body
language or hear verbal
Not Immediate.
Can’t verify receipt.
Armed with this knowledge he re-worked his sign to one that
looked like this: