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10 Tips for Improving Intercultural Communication

In today’s technologically-savvy world, we have the ability to communicate at lighting speeds with people all over the globe. This creates incredible opportunities to learn from people of other cultures. However, it can also create problems if the parties involved are unfamiliar with intercultural interaction. The next time you find yourself in a situation like this, keep these tips in mind.

1. Be open-minded: When we hear about traditions, foods, clothing, etc., that are different from ours, we tend to jump to conclusions about how weird the “other’s” life is. Although this may be the first impression, we have to remember to keep an open mind. Our customs are likely as strange to them.

2. Avoid judging: When at all possible, steer clear from judging the other person. Without understanding their cultural background, it is difficult to recognize why they do things a certain way. Find out about their culture before rushing to judgment.

3. Listen: In order to truly listen to someone, we need to clear our minds and focus on what the person is saying. Without this focus much of what they say goes in one ear and out the other. Stop, focus, and listen.

4. Ask questions: Be inquisitive without interrogating. Ask what the other person does during festivals or how they interact with family members or what foods are typical. Find out about their background and share yours too! These can be the most interesting conversations.

5. Focus on the content: It can be difficult to understand some people due to heavy
accents. This is likely something that the person is aware of and perhaps even embarrassed by. Help the person out. Listen carefully but focus your attention on the content. You’ll be surprised how much more you will understand if you listen beyond the accent.

6. Be patient: Engaging in intercultural communication requires great patience. Messages may be misunderstood, offenses may be taken, but these things can be resolved with patience and sensitivity. Allow the person a chance to explain. Listen patiently without judgment.

7. Create opportunities: To improve our intercultural communication skills, we have to look for opportunities to develop them. Be on the watch for talks, celebrations, books, and more that will put you in touch with people of other cultures. Review your local newspaper, inquire about groups at the local library, or look online for events. Take advantage of such opportunities!

8. Keep practicing: Developing effective intercultural communication skills does not happen over night. It is a long and involved process unless you grew up in a multicultural setting. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Keep at it! Stay positive and don’t give up!

9. Watch others: One of the best ways to learn about another culture is to observe them in their daily activities. Attend a cultural festival, for example, and watch how the dances are done. Pay attention to the costumes, foods, nonverbal behaviors, and general interactions. You’ll be amazed at what you pick up by just watching!

10. Make mistakes: People don’t often encourage us to make mistakes, but that is one of the key elements of becoming effective at intercultural communication. Making mistakes helps us learn. We all are guilty of making cultural faux pas so learn to laugh at mistakes and file away the appropriate action for the next time you find yourself in that situation.

These tips are certainly not the only tips for improving intercultural communication, but they will definitely set you on the right track. Overall, be considerate, polite, and open to learning from others.

For additional tips or information about our wide variety of intercultural communication workshops, please contact Global Perceptions at 787.455.7764. You can also like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter!

8 Tips for Promoting Effective Communication in Your Office

8 Tips for Promoting Effective Communication in Your Office

Have you ever noticed how some offices seem warm and inviting while others appear cold and uninviting? Our physical environment affects not only how we feel, but how we communicate with others. How well we perform given tasks is also affected if we are not physically comfortable. Just think of a time that you have gone to a seminar in a space that was too cold or warm. You were likely unable to concentrate on the message. If you want your office to appear friendly and encourage communication, consider the following tips.

1.) Furniture arrangement: If you want people to interact with one another, put chairs or couches in a semi-circle when possible. Being able to smile at the person across the way can help people relax. Chairs lined up along one wall dissuade communication due to the lack of eye contact.

2.) Room size: Consider how large or small the space is. Few people enjoy being cramped into a small space so make sure there is ample room for customers. On the other hand, a room that is too large can scare people. Think about the needs of your business and decide what is appropriate.

3.) Style of furniture: Major fast-food restaurants have recently begun altering their seats to make them more comfortable than the old plastic booths. Why? They are no longer intent on getting people out the door as soon as possible. Look at the chairs in your office. Do people start showing signs of discomfort after five minutes in them? If that is not the image you want to communicate, invest in something more comfortable.

4.) Color: Some colors relax people while other colors promote anxiety. Consequently, color affects whether or not someone will approach or avoid others. If effective communication is a goal of your office, go with colors like blue, green, or yellow. Use reds and oranges if you want to prevent communication or encourage people to leave quickly. Institutional colors like white or buff also help calm people, but do not stimulate creativity so keep that in mind if you want people to accomplish tasks.

5.) Temperature: Aim for a moderate temperature for your company’s location. People in warm climates typically appreciate the conditioned comfort of the A/C, but keep it within
reason. Jackets or shawls should not be necessary. The same goes for colder climates. Keep the heat at a reasonable level. People should not be sweating in your waiting room.

6.) Odor: As humans, we are cognizant of smells and associate them with certain moments in life. Offices where disinfectant lingers make people think of being in the hospital, recreating unpleasant thoughts. The smell of fresh bread may make them think of home, putting people in a relaxed state. Strong floral scents can feel like an assault to someone who suffers from allergies. Think carefully about the message you want to send via our noses.

7.) Lighting: Well-lit areas give us a sense of comfort and stimulate people to work harder. They also promote communication because everyone can clearly see one another. Offices with dim lights keep people from talking because of the lack of stimulation. They can also promote secrecy if not tended to carefully.

8.) Noise level: Many offices elect to play music or show television programs in their
waiting areas. Keep the volume in mind. Loud noises are offensive. They are irritating and create a hostile environment. Select music that soothes and play it at a low/moderate level. This will help people stay positive and open the lines of communication.

For more tips on business communication, contact Global Perceptions staff today! You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Intercultural Communication and Office Space: How Your Office Communicates Cultural Values


Take a look around your business or home office. What sort of furnishings are there? You likely see a desk or table, chairs, shelves, maybe a lamp or even some artwork. Now look at how those furnishings are placed. Does your desk face someone else or are you enclosed in a cubicle? Is there a door to shut? How much light enters your space? Is it natural or artificial light? How close or far is your space from your supervisor? Whether you realize it or not, all of these questions are based on cultural values that exist in the workplace. With so many people working in non-native cultures, it is worth making note of some of the differences.

The European workplace varies depending on the country. For instance, in both Germany and France laws exist, mandating employee access to natural light. Many U.S. offices however, are filled with fluorescent lights meant to simulate natural light. Germans are also big on privacy and respect. It would be unthinkable to enter someone else’s office without knocking and gaining permission to enter. Dropping by unannounced is considered rude. In Italy, on the other hand, dropping by is much less offensive.

Middle Eastern companies are unique in that multinational corporations located there are designed with the Western mentality in mind. That means that the higher your office is in the building, the more important you are. There are also likely to be multiple cubicles in the middle of the room surrounded by offices with windows for floor managers. Cubicles will offer some privacy and may be personalized with personal pictures or knick-knacks. Smaller Arab companies look at the office as a meeting place where multiple activities take place simultaneously. Little, if any, privacy is afforded. Constant conversation and interaction is normal. That’s how business is done.

Group work is an overriding value in Japanese culture and it shows in the way they design their offices. Many employees work from large meeting tables without any division from the people around them. Although the boss may have his/her own office, he/she often sits at the head of the table with the employees. In other cases, private desks are situated so that everyone faces the same direction. The boss sits behind them. This arrangement would likely drive North Americans crazy because they would feel as if they were under constant surveillance. Without the privacy and perceived trust to do their jobs, they would not likely stay with that company.

As you can see, these cultural differences are significant. For some, the right to privacy rules over their work space. Others would be appalled by the inability to instantly interact with those around them. How communication flows at work is equally impacted by this. Having to go through multiple channels of a hierarchy before a decision can be made, slows the process, whereas having your boss in the same open area may make it easier to communicate ideas or questions.

What does your work space look like? How does that arrangement communicate your values to others? Think about it and let us know!

Global Perceptions is a communication and relocation consulting company based in San Juan, Puerto Rico that offers cultural insights, adaptation training, and language courses. Want to know more? Visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Global Perceptions Celebrates Multicultural Communication Month

April is here and that means it’s time for Multicultural Communication Month. What is multicultural communication? Why should we celebrate it? In our instant access world, we are constantly in contact with people from other cultures. Taking time to celebrate that interconnectedness is worthwhile because it reminds us how far we have come, but also points to how far we still have to go. This month’s posts by Global Perceptions relate to this unique, yet timely topic.

To begin, let’s take a step back in time. If we look way back to the Ancient Greeks, we discover the first formal studies of oratory and persuasion, which have become the foundation of today’s communication courses. As time goes on, communication grows to include written formats due to increased literacy rates. This is largely a result of the growth of religion during the Medieval times and the interest in transferring religious knowledge to non-literate groups.

Speeding ahead to the 1900s, politicians implement communication not only to win elections, but to garner support for war efforts. By the middle of the 1950s, the Foreign Service Institute begins working with the U.S. military and Peace Corps volunteers to look for ways to make U.S. ambassadors, military personnel, and community service workers more effective within their host countries. It is here that intercultural communication or multicultural communication is born.

Today, multicultural communication includes the study of verbal and nonverbal actions, the impact of religion on culture, how to conduct business across cultures, ethnic influences on our identity, prejudices, perception, context, challenges within education for multicultural people, health care, technology, ethics, listening, and so much more. This field of study has grown steadily with support from business, government, educational institutions, and non-profit groups alike. Now intercultural researchers and individuals have the ability to talk and write about their experiences and have those experiences listened to by others.

As we look forward, we will continue to see the importance of multicultural communication and its influence on our everyday lives. The ability to instantaneously impact hundreds of thousands of people with a single tweet, for instance, has already begun to change the way we live. We can now support causes thousands of miles away from the privacy of our own homes and affect change more permanently than we could if we stood in the middle of the town square crying out for change. This is just one of the reasons why celebrating Multicultural Communication Month is crucial for all of us.

Throughout April, Global Perceptions staff will post about intercultural communication topics to celebrate Multicultural Communication Month. We encourage comments about your experiences with these themes. To join the conversation, simply post your comments here or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

Importance of cultural adaptation training in Puerto Rico

window in old san juanThe day has come! Your big move to Puerto Rico is before you! Your entire family, including the family pet have landed on the Island of Enchantment with visions of days spent on the beach in your heads. Just beyond those wishful thoughts, it’s likely that there’s also some uncertainty, confusion, or even disbelief swimming around. Even though Puerto Rico falls under the government policies of the United States, it is not the United States. Things work differently here and if you want to understand how they work, one of the best ways is to participate in a cultural adaptation training program. Cultural trainers, like those at Global Perceptions, offer insight and experience that only those who have been through the adaptation process can really understand.

Take it from me, Dr. Julie Parenteau, President of Global Perceptions, living in Puerto Rico without any cultural or linguistic knowledge makes life very difficult. When I moved here in 2006 communicating with native Puerto Ricans was extremely challenging both because I had trouble understanding them, and because they didn’t understand the words I learned during 10 years of Spanish instruction. Not having a corporate sponsor also forced me to do everything on my own. If I had had a Global Perceptions cultural training program, I would have understood more and had fewer problems during my cultural transition.

Without such a program, I spent the first three years perpetually lost. It didn’t matter where I went, I would get turned around all because I didn’t understand where anything was in relation to anything else. I got in the wrong lines, wound up in areas where a single woman shouldn’t have been, spent much more than necessary for everyday services, and generally felt frustrated.

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This doesn’t have to be your experience! Don’t allow yourself to agonize and lose sleep over your relocation to Puerto Rico. Make the decision today to invest in yourself with our cultural adaptation training programs! Puerto Rico is an amazing country with so much to offer, so let us help you navigate your trip.


For more information about cultural adaptation training programs offered by Global Perceptions, your relocation authority in Puerto Rico, contact us at 787.455.7764 or visit our webpage: We will happily prepare a proposal free of charge!

Learn Spanish in Puerto Rico in 2013!

At this time of year thousands of people make new year’s resolutions to do things that they have never done. Whether 80 or 18, people say they’re going to eat better or exercise more, travel more or manage their money better. But how many of those people truly follow through? The number is strikingly low.

You don’t have to be one of those people! If you act now, you can be on the road to fulfilling one of your goals in a fun-filled, interactive way! By the end of 2013 you’ll be able to say that you learned Spanish that you can apply every day in your life in Puerto Rico! Let me give you five reasons why this should be important to you.

1) You or your family members are sick.

Being sick is never fun, but being in a foreign country makes it even more difficult. Do you know how to find the medicines you need? Do you know how to explain your symptoms to the doctor? Although many doctors are bilingual, their staff usually isn’t, making scheduling an appointment a challenge. In the case of an emergency, you’ll be much happier if you can communicate on some level in Spanish. It will help you understand what they are doing to you and be able to say no in the event that you don’t want some type of treatment or are allergic to a specific medicine.

2) You are lost.

It is very easy to get lost in Puerto Rico because many street names are not included on maps or GPS programs. Many addresses are listed as Road X, kilometer Y, which doesn’t work in a GPS program either. For this reason, knowing how to ask for and follow directions is key. The instructions you get won’t be the customary “take a right on Elm Street and go West for two blocks.” Local people don’t know the names of streets (and many have changed names several times) so they go by landmarks (some of which haven’t existed for twenty years). You may also have to ask several times until you get to where you’re going. Speaking Spanish most definitely helps in these situations.

3) You want to understand what’s happening in your community.

Living a sheltered life in which you have no idea of what’s going on around you is not recommended. Being able to watch the local news or read a newspaper at a level in which you can get the general ideas will help you be familiar with island issues, but will also help you understand and participate in conversations going on around you. Those conversations offer insight into the native culture so pay attention. Without some basic Spanish, you’ll be oblivious to what is going on around you.

4) You are tired of being taken advantage of.

Unfortunately, it is easier to take advantage of naïve people than those who know their way around. Whether you’re getting your car fixed, taking a taxi ride, or purchasing products at the weekend festival, you will be a target for price gouging just because you are not from the area or haven’t lived here for years. To combat this, learning local Spanish words and customs for negotiating prices is helpful. Even if you can only throw around a couple of local words, you’ll have an advantage. Learning such words will save you both time and money in the end.

5) You want to prove to yourself (or those around you) that you can do it.

Feeling a sense of self accomplishment at the end of the day helps people gain self-confidence. Learning to maneuver through a foreign country’s customs builds such confidence. One of the best ways to achieve that goal is to learn the language. With each passing day you’ll see how much more confident you are and how much easier it is to do your banking, schedule appointments, find where you’re going, and generally understand your surroundings. It’s also great for your kids to see you making an effort. They’ll learn too and help you through the process.

So why wait? Make 2013 the year that you learn Spanish from Global Perceptions in San Juan, Puerto Rico! We’ll set you on the path to being confident instead of self-conscious when it comes to speaking Spanish on this beautiful island. Free consultations until January 31, 2013.

Contact us now! Visit, stop by our facebook page: or call us at 787.455.7764. This is another service brought to you by your Relocation Specialist in Puerto Rico. 

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