International Communication The Problem With Robert's Shoes 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 Important? Economic Growth and Development Academic Growth and Development Diplomacy 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 anything. • 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... Frustrating! • 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 us. 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 explanations. 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. *(http://translate.google.com/) Technologies Phone Pros: Cons: E-Mail Skype Convenient. Low-Cost. Immediate. Not Time-Sensitive Most Reliably Available. Documentable Both parties can see and hear each other. Immediate Can demonstrate visibly demonstrate products and information. Can’t see body language. Time-Sensitive. Connections Occasionally Unreliable. Requires reliable Broadband Internet connection. Least Secure. Both parties can see and hear each other. Can’t see body language or hear verbal inflection. Not Immediate. Can’t verify receipt. Armed with this knowledge he re-worked his sign to one that looked like this: Success!