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he Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow, Bill Gates.
In the globalized world that is ours, maybe we are moving towards a global village, but that global village brings in a lot of different people, a lot of different ideas, lots of different backgrounds, lots of different aspirations, Lakhdar Brahimi.
The term was coined by Marshall McLuhan and refers to information and communication technologies (especially the Internet and mass media) which have shortened distances amongst people. We live in a world where information can be exchanged easily, and it is also increasingly interconnected, what happens “there” affects things over “here” and vice-versa. For example, the mortgage crisis in the United States has spilled over into all of the credit markets.
What shall we do about it?
- Recognise that we live in a complex, global, interconnected, and interdependent world, with its blessings and curses. An increasing amount of goods, capital, and people move between different regions and nations whether we like it or not.
- Being fluent in many languages is an absolute advantage. If we want to be productive and effective in interdisciplinary teams, with global audiences, the first requirement is to be able to communicate efficiently.
- Even when all team members can communicate in a common language, you should be aware of cultural differences:
- The sense of time: It is a scarce resource for western countries, time is money. It must be rationed, controlled, and well managed. For other cultures, time is a flexible resource, it should be subordinated to being kind, friendly and polite to others.
- Physical contact: Depending on the culture and the intimacy between people, a greeting can be a handshake, a hug, a kiss, two or three kisses, a nose rub, etc. We are hard-wired to need touch, especially in the earliest development stages. However, some people can become very uncomfortable when been touched: Asian people don’t like been touched and kissed, people use a bow or the nod of a head as a greeting instead ― Don’t hug or kiss strangers in Asian countries, especially those of the opposite sex!; some women don’t like people touching their pregnant bellies; and some African-Americans dislike people touching their hair.
- Silence: Talking is the only right way to communicate in western countries, silence is almost intolerable. However, other cultures value silence. It is advocated over redundancy, rude language, and idle talk. They distrust talkative people and prefer the quiet ones.
- Eye contact: This is a sign of confidence and sincerity in western culture. Direct eye contact is indeed culture specific. Some cultures view direct eye contact as indicating hostility, rudeness, anger, and even sexual harassment.
- Physical appearance: Muslim women are obligated to cover themselves up in the Middle East. For instance, wearing a veil is compulsory in most Islamic countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and Arab world.
- If you communicate in your mother tongue, you should try to speak slowly, use simple vocabulary and grammar. Avoid idioms (“I smell something fishy,” “This task is a piece of cake”), localisms, slang (“Ain’t,” “Who blew off?,” “He’s talking bollocks”), and double meanings (“It’s a wonder I’m here at all, you know. My pussy got soaking wet. I had to dry it out in front of the fire before I left,” Are You Being Served?).
- Be wary of political (“Margaret Thatcher and other Tories let grammar schools go into ruin”), cultural (“The Big Apple is my single most favourite city in the country”), and sporting references (“Three or more strikes and I’m out”) and, of course, avoid taboos. For example, consider that there are foods (cows in Hinduism or pork for Jews and Muslims), beverages (the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Islam) and topics (money, death, religion, sex) that are taboos. Avoid swearing (“he is f***ing hilarious,” “Not to mention that she is a b*tch”), humour (“What’s the best part about living in Switzerland? Not sure, but the flag is a big plus.”), and using indecent, obscene, and vulgar language.
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