What Is Cross Culture?

Cross culture in the business world refers to a company's efforts to ensure that its people interact effectively with professionals from backgrounds different from their own. Like the adjective cross-cultural, it implies a recognition of national, regional, and ethnic differences in manners and methods and a desire to bridge them.

A field of study, cross-cultural communication, has emerged to define and understand the many ways the different peoples of the world communicate with each other verbally and non-verbally.

How Cross Culture Works

The concept of cross culture is becoming critically important with the globalization of businesses. Many companies that seek to expand the markets for their products devote substantial resources to training employees on how to communicate and interact effectively with those from other cultures.

Key Takeaways

  • Cross culture is a concept that recognizes the differences among business people of different nations, backgrounds. and ethnicities, and the importance of bridging them.
  • With globalization, cross culture education has become critically important to businesses.
  • Business people working abroad need to learn subtle differences in style and substance in order to be effective.

For example, when employees of an international company transfer to another country, they need to master the cross culture. They must not only learn the language but adapt to its social norms.

Today, cross culture education is considered imperative for employees acting in managerial capacities abroad. Failure to effectively communicate with subordinates or understand their actions can lead to cascading problems within the business.

The Disadvantages of Cross Culture

Every culture shapes how the most minute social, societal, and professional behaviors are interpreted, and that inevitably carries over into business. Some cultures view the association between a manager and a subordinate as a symbiotic relationship. In others, the manager is expected to rule as a bureaucrat.

In some cultures, casual touching is common, while in others it would be viewed as disrespectful or worse.

Cross culture extends to body language, physical contact, and perceptions of personal space. In cultures that adhere to strict religious standards, interactions between members of the opposite sex, even in the business sphere, may be complicated.

Body language such as hand gestures may be frowned upon or, worse yet, may have meanings that were entirely unintended. In some cultures, casual touching is common, while in others it is viewed as rude, disrespectful, or worse.

Examples of Cross Culture

Accepting a business card from a Japanese businessperson is not a casual action. The person presenting the card will bow and present it with both hands. The recipient takes it with both hands, indicating respect. 

In China, giving a direct "yes" or "no" answer, or demanding one of anyone else, is considered very rude. Meetings are for talking things over, not announcing decisions.

In Mexico, business is done primarily among friends and family. Visiting business people often seek an introduction through an intermediary with local connections.

Failing to observe any of the above customs would be a serious cross culture faux pas.