Educating globally—

a quick guide for cross-cultural communication

Recognizing cultural peculiarities and acting accordingly is key to a successful international career. When teaching audiences from different parts of the world, getting to grips with cultural diversity can be very challenging, and much can go awry. While people of different cultures may share basic concepts, they might view them from different perspectives and angles, leading them to behave in a manner which we may consider irritating or even contradicting with what we hold dear.


But how can we get things done with colleagues who have different worldviews? Part of your success will depend on your ability to recognize barriers to effective intercultural communication, which include overcoming of language differences, the level of context, eye contact, and facial expressions.


If you’re presenting to a homogenous foreign audience — meaning everyone is from the same cultural background —consider studying the local culture before your presentation to get to cultural norms and relevant local information.


Tips and tricks for teaching and lecturing across cultures:



  1. Pace yourself appropriately - tailor your pace and progression to your audience’s.

  2. Be aware that different cultures have different preferences for receiving information. Local terminology and references will most likely not translate into another culture. Things you are very familiar with may not have any meaning to your audience.

  3. Don’t assume your audience can understand you. Be mindful of language barriers. If you’re speaking in your native language, but your audience is listening to a foreign language, speak slower, use easy-to-understand language and avoid slang to increase comprehension. Always give your audience time to process information that may be new to them.

  4. Be aware that words don't always translate perfectly from one language to the other. The same word in one language may have different meanings when translated into different languages.

  5. Low-context cultures such as Germany, Switzerland and the United States expect verbal communication to be direct and explicit.

  6. High-context cultures such as Japan and Brazil place more importance on nonverbal elements of communication, such as tone of voice and facial expressions, and expect less emphasis on words themselves. A “maybe” or even a “yes” may mean no. Especially in Japan, an outright "no" can seem rude and too blunt.

  7. Modify your nonverbal communication. Be conscious of your hand gestures. Gesticulating doesn’t always translate across cultures.

  8. Be careful when selecting visuals. Also, colors can carry different symbolic meanings.

  9. Be cautious in your use of humor

  10. Maintain etiquette