27 Apr
2006

Official Intercultural Tips

Speak softly, don’t argue and slow down” – this is a title by Telegraph Newspaper Online on April 16th reporting that under a programme starting next month, several leading US companies will give employees heading abroad a “World Citizens Guide featuring 16 etiquette tips on how they can help improve America’s battered international image.”

Speak Softly and Carry A Big Stick : How Local TV Broadcasters Exert Political PowerIt is also reported that Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA), a non-profit group funded by big American companies, has also met Karen Hughes, the head of public diplomacy at the State Department, to discuss issuing the guide with every new US passport. The goal is to create an army of civilian ambassadors’.The guide offers a series of “simple suggestions” under the slogan, “Help your country while you travel for your company”. The advice targets a series of common American traits and includes:

  • Think as big as you like but talk and act smaller. (In many countries, any form of boasting is considered very rude. Talking about wealth, power or status – corporate or personal – can create resentment.)
  • Listen at least as much as you talk. (By all means, talk about America and your life in our country. But also ask people you’re visiting about themselves and their way of life.)
  • Save the lectures for your kids. (Whatever your subject of discussion, let it be a discussion not a lecture. Justified or not, the US is seen as imposing its will on the world.)
  • Think a little locally. (Try to find a few topics that are important in the local popular culture. Remember, most people in the world have little or no interest in the World Series or the Super Bowl. What we call “soccer” is football everywhere else. And it’s the most popular sport on the planet.)
  • Slow down. (We talk fast, eat fast, move fast, live fast. Many cultures do not.)
  • Speak lower and slower. (A loud voice is often perceived as bragging. A fast talker can be seen as aggressive and threatening.)
  • Your religion is your religion and not necessarily theirs. (Religion is usually considered deeply personal, not a subject for public discussions.)
  • If you talk politics, talk – don’t argue. (Steer clear of arguments about American politics, even if someone is attacking US politicians or policies. Agree to disagree.)

In Praise of Slowness : Challenging the Cult of Speed (Plus)Interestingly, “slow down” is given as one of the suggestions here. I guess it could quickly remind you of the book In Praise of Slow by a Canadian journalist Carl Honore, in which the author advocates living a slower, more measured existence. The popularity of the book may suggest that slowness is indeed a part of some of the cultures in some places in the world.If you happen to be an international/intercultural person, the tips and suggestions, however, could probably be taken as your useful references. In fact they are useful guide for anyone in/from any country/culture who goes intercultural!

So, what do you think?

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