Norms And Value Differences Between Australian & Indian Cultures
Communication Competencies In Cross Cultural
Researchers and cultural
authorities have put forth many such differences, differences based
on beliefs of time, relationships, age, gender, face (status), belonging,
fate etc. But we will look at only a few of the important ones.
Australians place greater emphasis on the self, cherish
their independence from group. They give high value to self-serving
goals and practices and have personal control over their
choices. They readily accept blame and take credit. Respect
is always earned through personal efforts. They also believe
in doing their own thing and hence have dignity of labor
as part of their normal culture. So a manager’s wife can
very well be a ‘cleaner’
Indians rely greatly on the family, or groups, for they
are influenced by the group thoughts and pledge allegiance
to the group. Indians even address themselves in the collective
pronoun. e.g. ‘aap’, hum, etc. A great value is placed on
duty and tradition. We respect people for their status,
like elders, rich, high caste, boss etc.
Work and alignments
is derived from group status, so it is very rare to find
a garage mechanic in a family of engineers.
we may not be successful in selling products to an aussie
if we prevail upon his emotions towards his family. Whereas
appeals to his own benefits will weigh heavily on him.
||Whereas many Indians
can be influenced if we urge him to buy a gift for his mother
or other elders. A benefit to the family, or group can influence
their buying styles.
communication culture. Australians rely on language
to mean just exactly that. A direct and logical inference
can be derived from their speech patterns. There’s no ‘beating
about the bush’
For example an Australian will turn around and say, “Look
I’m not happy with your call. Please do not bother me again.”
Here we can see the aussie belief in individual opinion
communication culture. Indian messages are very subtle
and heavy with implications. The decoder has to sift through
the context to understand the underlying meaning.
Whereas an Indian will say ‘Look I’m certainly interested,
but can you please call me later? I’m busy right now.’
Indians like to save face and are taking care of the collective
face of the caller and self, to avoid humiliation.
power distance culture Aussies believe in one person as
being just as good as the other, and therefore have done away
with differences in social, work, education, and etc groups.
Thus they prefer to call and be addressed with their first
names rather than titles.
There is very little distance between the CEO and the cleaner
and no intimidating hierarchy to hinder constructive communication.
Since there are many classes, in an Indian society and since
it’s imperative to keep them distinct, high power distances
are very strongly adhered to.
For example even while talking to an unknown child we tend
to use the collective pronoun. To convey news or views, we
always follow the proper channels rather than approach the
head honcho directly.
we can see, it might seem that Australians are rude, and insensitive,
and lack self-control, because they express their views freely.
||On the other hand
Indians with their pregnant and subtle conversational gambits
appear as evasive, cunning and underhand to the other culture.
are preferred with others of similar likes and orientations.
carefully chosen to blend with self-status and part of group
embrace change as inevitable and novel.
adhered to with great tenacity.
tend to deal head-on with conflict and clear the air instantly.
avoid, ignore, or tolerate conflict.
don’t bring work home, and keep it distinct and separate,
as part of their lifestyle.
work as their god and are involved deeply in carrying it out.
tend to believe in creating own destiny and are sole battlers.
believe in fate with a “what can I do?” attitude.
can be seen as materialistic with very little religious input.
materialism second to their spirituality, more are god-fearing.
As we can see it’s
easy enough to list the differences in norms and values of the
two cultures, but the important task is to look to ways of bridging
this gap and achieving competent and successful communication.
Some of the conversational strategies that can be used to overcome
these value differences are.
Approximation. By this we approximate or copy
the other party’s language use, which includes language structure,
accent, dialect, speech rate and lexical diversity. It enables
us to get accepted plus close the distance considerably. It
puts the other party straightaway in their comfort zone and
creates a common platform for interaction. And since we are
the initiators it puts us well ahead of the resulting outcome.
2 Interpretability or picking up
clues: It is the attention to other’s interpretative
competence or ability to understand. As an initiator the agent
should be able to regulate the conversation to ensure its
Agent should modify
speech processes, use other’s culture specific responses, other
party’s vocabulary, increase clarity by changing pitch and tempo,
clarifying, and repeating, and choosing topics which are safe, not
controversial for better rapport and note it for future reference.
3 Discourse management. It involves judging and responding
to the conversational need of others. Rather than sticking to a
script all the way through, which can sound stilted and mechanical,
agent should go with the flow. By thus forming decisions, managing
conflict, responding, sharing and generally facilitating tactful
conversation, agent will always be in control of conversation.
Interpersonal control. It relates to role relations
with the other party. When an agent is a good communicator,
she can dictate her role. What this means is by being in control
she can manipulate role relations to be positive or negative,
assertive, dominating, or submissive. She could swap roles
midstream, decide to disclose real self, or create a persona,
all towards greater communication.
As these above
strategies for the agent already in place, there need to be
more detailed training program for the brand new recruit.
observation: of cross-cultural communication in action.
This can be real call center communications, or watching movies,
documentaries and other media productions involving two cultures.
2. Active strategy
of role playing, reading up on language variations and usage.
by sharing own culture and influences with others of a different
culture, exchanging information and learning from the encounter.
Finally since culture
is always evolving and despite exhaustive awareness there might
still be some aspects of others culture that we are not aware of,
we need to ensure a continuous input. A competent trainer can do
a lot of different things. A few are listed here.
1. Proactively customer profile
2. Record or anecdote interesting conversations.
3. Ask call recipients/clients to provide feedback through surveys.
4. Listen to staff and empower them with knowledge.
5. Have group discussions on experiences.
6. Subscribe to periodicals from other culture.
The views and thoughts expressed in this article are purely
those of the contributing writer.
Writer: Lalita Bhalerao I've a Masters
in Communication and have worked in customer facing roles more than
a decade in Australia. November 2007