Intercultural Communication

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Intercultural communication

Intercultural communication


The spirit catches you and you fall down by Anne Fadiman is a remarkable book, explaining the difficulties faced by Hmong refugees in the United States. Most importantly, Fadiman explains the complications of a system where two cultures try stepping on each other. Although the book describes some very depressing and extraordinary situations, the characters in the book seem very realistic, and are shown in their true form of goodness. The Hmong, like most other Asians, have a very old medical heritage which runs parallel to their religious beliefs; this cultural aspect was one of the many complexities which were involved in their blending into the American style of living. In this book, Fadiman enlightens us on this and many other troublesome situations the Hmong people faced through the story of Lia Lee, a young Hmong girl who is diagnosed with epilepsy. Lia's Hmong family is among a group of new refugees in California. (Fadiman 1998)


Intercultural communication refers to the communication between people from different cultures. According to Samovar and Porter (10:1991) “intercultural communication occurs whenever a message is produced by a member of one culture for consumption by a member of another culture, a message must be understood”. In other words intercultural communication looks at how people, from different cultural backgrounds, endeavour to communicate.

Instead of depending entirely on interpreters and financial support from the agencies, the Hmong should have been helped with jobs and communication skills. The doctors especially should communicate with the patient and the patient's family effectively and clearly. (Fadiman 1998) I also think that if the Hmong were more aware of the situation they were being thrown into, it would have been much easier for them to make a transition into a living in the United States.

Skilful intercultural communication involves learning from the experiences of others and avoiding major mistakes. (Martin, Nakayama 2004) Business negotiations, for example, particularly those involving investment decisions, require deep understanding of the socio-economic and political situation of the host country. There may also be considerations involving political or cultural sensitivity. In general, the process of centralized planning adopted by many developing countries will require the approval of contracts be several functionaries at various subtle centres of power and authority. In many senses, this concept will require patience and an ability to deal with ambiguity. The fact of the matter is that decision-making is apt to be slow, without any demonstrable rational pattern. Of course, as has been noted elsewhere, there is always rationality at stake; it may simply be unnoticeable to one unfamiliar with the host culture. Finally, there is a need to build personal relationships with key people during the process. Trust is usually an important matter and a formal business-like negotiating style may not be sufficient to establish the kind of trusting relationship required in other cultures.

A basic requirement for effective conflict management and negotiation is to know as much as possible about the other ...
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