One of the blogs I read is Pamela Slim’s excellent “Escape from Cubicle Nation“. Her posts are invariably insightful and offer some great tips. But the one from Jan 24, 2007 was exceptionally good, in my opinion: “How not to be a cultural knucklehead in a global business world“.
As an Australian who lived in Canada for a year, who has travelled to the US more times than I can think of right now, who has travelled to other places such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, England and Wales, I related closely to her post and many of the follow-up comments.
Whenever I have presented at conferences in the US, I am very aware that colloquialisms and idioms that are part of my everyday language do not necessarily translate very well. Likewise, I have to slow my speech down a little to compensate for the ‘accent’. Just look for the glazed looks… they’re a sure indicator that you’re either boring, talking too fast, or using expressions that your audience doesn’t understand or relate to.
In the comments on Pamela’s post there were several about the confusion between distinguishing Americans (those from the US – that term was discussed too!) and Canadians. It’s no different to those in other countries confusing Australians and New Zealanders, even in some cases confusing the Australians with those from the UK or South Africa!
And I always find it amusing that those in the US think I have an ‘accent’, yet don’t believe that they do.
One thing though, that does irk me, is this propensity for US sport to have “World” competitions, yet no-one else in the world ever plays… just the US teams. It’s as though that’s the only ‘world’.
Anyhow, spend 5-10 minutes reading and digesting Pamela’s article. You may not agree with everything she says, but she does highlight areas where communication can go terribly wrong.