How to Communicate in a New Culture with Ease and Confidence

by | Jul 5, 2024 | Moving Abroad

Communicating effectively in a new culture can be challenging, especially when the communication styles differ significantly from what you’re used to. Whether you’re moving abroad or working with people from different cultural backgrounds, understanding and adapting to different communication styles is crucial. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to navigate these differences and communicate with ease and confidence.

As a Brazilian having lived abroad for many years, when I returned to Brazil, I received feedback that my communication style was very assertive and intimidating to others. This made me realize that my straightforward approach, which was effective in some cultures, was not well-received in a high-context culture like Brazil. In high-context cultures, people often engage in small talk and build rapport before getting to the main point. So I had to learn how to adapt my communication style if I wanted to thrive working in this culture.

According to Edward T. Hall, there are two primary communication styles: high context and low context.

  • High Context Communication: This style involves formal communication, many silences, and a non-linear, spiral logic. Relationships and the bigger picture are highly valued. 
  • Low Context Communication: This style is direct and to the point, with informal verbal interactions and linear logic. People in low-context cultures prefer to get straight to the issue at hand without much preamble.

Understanding these styles is vital if you’re moving to a new culture or working with people from diverse backgrounds.

Tip #1: Adapt Your Communication Style

If you find yourself in a high-context culture, it’s essential to adapt your communication style to build rapport and engage in small talk since relationships matter. For example, instead of immediately requesting information or assistance, start conversations with greetings and inquiries about the other person’s well-being. This approach helps in establishing a connection before diving into the main topic. While it may take longer to get things done, the relationships are there for future interactions. 

Conversely, if you’re in a low-context culture, being direct and concise is usually more appreciated. Cultures that are predominantly Low Context will value the interaction, and transactions more than relationships. So getting “down to business” before engaging in conversation is valued positively. 

Understand your own style and be mindful of how it’s perceived by others. For instance, my assertive style was effective in a low-context environment but needed adjustments in a high-context one.

Tip #2: Understand Your Own Communication Style

Knowing your own communication style is crucial. Reflect on your tendencies: do you prefer to get straight to the point, or do you engage in more roundabout conversations? If you feel impatient with small talk, you likely have a low-context style. If directness feels abrupt to you, you might lean towards a high-context style.

Understanding your style helps you recognize potential communication barriers and adapt accordingly. It also aids in not taking things personally if others communicate differently.

Tip #3: Observe and Experiment

When communicating in a new culture, observe how people interact and respond to you. Experiment with different approaches and see what works best. For example, if you’re a low-context communicator, try engaging in small talk before addressing the main topic and notice how people react. Similarly, if you’re a high-context communicator, practice being more direct in certain situations.

Remember, it’s about finding a balance that respects the local communication norms while staying true to your values. Adjusting your style doesn’t mean abandoning your identity but rather enhancing your ability to connect and convey your message effectively.

By understanding and adapting to different communication styles, you can navigate intercultural interactions with ease and confidence. 

If you are moving abroad and want more personalized support, check out my Expat Journey Program. This program offers a comprehensive approach to managing the challenges of moving abroad and adjusting to a new life in a different country. 

Visit the Expat Journey Program to learn more and take the first step towards a smoother transition abroad.


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