HSE Nizhny Novgorod hosted an public lecture "Intercultural Communications: How to Avoid Cultural Shock?”
On November 23, students of HSE campus in Nizhny Novgorod discussed the role of cultural identity in business and personal growth. Christian Callegaro, a senior teacher of the Department of General and Strategic Management at the HSE Faculty of Management in Nizhny Novgorod, and Daniel Rehmann – a business consultant at the Swiss technopark Mobahaus in St. Petersburg were the speakers at the meeting.
We live in a globalized world where barriers for communication have practically ceased to exist. Today it is enough to know English to establish contact with a person from another continent. Is that really so?
According to the pragmatic approach to language, the meaning of a message is determined not only by the meaning of a set of words and their order in the utterance, but also by the context in which this utterance is voiced. Cultural identity is one of the components in this context. Therefore, for mutual understanding, people need knowledge about cultural characteristics of their interlocutors. But what happens if we expand the context of communication in foreign language to the size of a country? How can a representative of Italian culture communicate, work and live in Russia e.g?
One of the speakers, a lecturer at the HSE in Nizhny Novgorod, Christian Callegaro, told us what conclusions he came to thanks to his rich experience of intercultural communication and life in Russia. The speaker defines culture shock as a psychological state in which a person feels lost. This state arises when leaving one’s comfort zone. In the case of cross-cultural communications, native cultural context of the speaker represents the comfort zone. According to the Oberg model (1960), the process of adaptation to a state of cultural shock can be divided into three phases:
1. Honeymoon – a time when all the cultural realities surrounding a person seem extraordinary and attractive.
2. Adjustment – process during which denial is caused by ocurred inconvenient and unusual circumstances.
3. Mastery – a phase, when satisfaction with the position in a new society comes, a person has a positive attitude and is included in a new culture.
According to the speaker, culture shock, is a natural reaction that does not need to be fought – it is worth living through. Christian Callegaro advises treating such an experience as a means of self-development. "Without this, you will not grow," – the teacher says. Thus, thanks to the experience of intercultural communication, a student can get great advantages in their future career. Valuable adaptation skills and ability to read cultural code will help to build effective communication in the professional and personal spheres of their life.
Together with business consultant Daniel Rehmann, the students analyzed the business case of the Swiss technopark Mobahaus in St. Petersburg. Using his example, they found out how cultural differences manifest themselves in the work of Swiss and Russians and by which models different cultures can be classified.
According to the iceberg model, most of the meanings are conveyed by the nonverbal component of the message. It contains about 80% of the information understood by the recipient. Like the base of the iceberg, the meanings contained in nonverbal signs are invisible to person with another cultural background, and therefore can cause misunderstanding.
According to the speaker, the basis for intercultural differences are the key cultural concepts. Daniel Rehmann found out how the working processes of native speakers of Russian and Swiss cultures differ and what reasons lie behind these differences in his research. According to the business consultant, working communication in the Russian-speaking society is influenced by such factors as: centralization, collectivism, rigid hierarchy and caution against novelty. The Swiss paradigm will be characterized by: decentralization, little power distance, priority of working relations over personal ones, individualism, liberalism. A professional communicant should be able to apply the language correctly so as to overcome the communication barriers caused by differences in their approach to work. It is the knowledge in the field of intercultural communication that will help them.
The speaker himself highlights the following ways to overcome cultural shock:
1. To learn a foreign language
2. To get to know the speakers of another culture
3. To study the history, geography and national cuisine of the country whose culture you encounter
4. To do sports
5. To join local business communities
Thus, intercultural communication skills are necessary in business as one of the areas where communication practice is applied. These skills contribute not only to personal and professional growth, but also ensure success in working with foreign colleagues.