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Countries and culture

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Countries and culture

Aim

  • Practice English skills in an aviation context
  • Discuss cross-cultural communication
  • Have fun!

A flight attendant will become familiar with a great number of countries and cultures over the course of her/his career, but the significance of this is more than just the interest value of visiting diverse geographical locations, witnessing different customs or meeting new people; for a flight attendant working with the public from all walks of life and from all over the world, having an understanding of cross-cultural communication is an essential part of the job.

Successful communication is important for reasons of both safety and service standards but there are more factors to consider than just getting the language right. Cultural differences may sometimes means the message is not received the way it is intended. Reasons for this include:

  • Communication styles differ between different cultures
  • A direct translation of a word might have a different meaning
  • What is good manners in one culture might be bad manners in another culture
  • What is acceptable in one culture might be taboo in another culture
  • Body language can have vastly different meanings

For example, in Albania, people nod their heads for no and shake their heads for yes.

Depending on a person’s first language, a question requiring confirmation might receive a yes or a no, both meaning “That’s right.” i.e. “We don’t have any milk, do we?” “No” (from an Australian), “Yes” (from a Korean) – both meaning “That’s right, we don’t have any milk.”

Knowing how to prevent, recognise and resolve cross-cultural communication problems is a valuable skill set. Expect to be asked to demonstrate your cross-cultural awareness at your interview, and be prepared for the question, “Tell us about a time when cross-cultural communication was an issue, and how you solved it.”

Link to resource Fact sheet: cross-cultural communication

Activity

Click and open the link. Read through the fact sheet then answer the following questions.

1. Misunderstandings can occur around the simplest things such as: (give 5)

    2. Techniques for clearer communication include: (give 5)

      3. Language can be influence by culture. For example:  (4)

        Answers

        1. Misunderstandings can occur around the simplest things such as: (give 5)
        • food
        • language
        • greetings
        • gestures
        • facial expressions
        • eye contact
        • touching
        • pointing
        • self expression
        • privacy
        • male and female roles
        • punctuality
        • religion

        2. Techniques for clearer communication include: (give 5)

        • speaking slowly
        • using short, simple sentences
        • paraphrasing
        • avoiding slang, jargon, jokes, irony or sarcasm
        • demonstrating when giving explanations
        • giving instructions in the order they are to be carried out
        • avoiding double negatives
        • showing understanding and patience
        • avoiding raised voices
        • explaining how ‘the system’ works

        3. Language can be influence by culture. For example:  (4)

        • patterns of conversation – taking turns to speak, silence, how much and what we say, attentiveness and listening
        • functions – apologising, inviting, complimenting, requesting
        • expressiveness – facial expressions and gestures
        • personal space – how far or close we stand or sit when talking to others

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