Communicating with 'Asian' Customers: It's A Matter of Context

11 October 2001
Cross-cultural communication is without doubt the biggest ordeal for executives in today's global environment. Dealing effectively with individuals from diverse cultures challenges the deepest core of one's conditioning. It involves trying to decipher unconscious embedded meanings, the very things we take for granted when communicating intra-culturally. Dean Barnlund, a respected scholar in cross-cultural communications, writes, "Communication … is a multichanneled and multidimensional process for handling meanings. Meanings are implicit not only in the words one utters but also in who one speaks to, how they are approached, what one talks about, how one manages time and space, how differences are regarded, and myriad other bits and pieces of behavior. Where there is no consensus on the rules of meaning, communication falters or fails. Intended meanings elicit unintended conclusions." What provides consensus on the rules of meanings is culture, which one sociologist defines as the collective mental programming of individuals in a society as a result of common background, education, and life experiences. Because culture and communication always work in tandem, a majority of anthropologists and linguists assert, "Culture is communication." It is difficult to decide "which is the voice and which is the echo." Understandably, intelligent casino executives are looking for ways with which to improve cross-cultural interaction skills among their troops.

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Sudhir Kalé is Associate Professor of Marketing at Bond University in Australia. He is also a marketing trainer and consultant for several types of companies including gaming. Sudhir’s research on marketing, social psychology, and cross-cultural communication has been published in leading international journals. Top companies the world over have benefited from his holistic approach to issues in marketing and management. Sudhir’s e-mail address is Address for correspondence: School of Business, Bond University, QLD 4220, Australia.