Cross Culture in Business: Definition, Application, and Benefits


Cross culture in the business world refers to a company’s active efforts to ensure that its employees can interact effectively with professionals from diverse backgrounds. It recognizes the variances among business people from different nations, regions, and ethnicities and the importance of bridging these differences. In today’s globalized business landscape, mastering cross culture is essential for companies aiming to thrive in international markets.

What is cross culture?

Cross culture in the business world refers to a company’s active efforts to ensure that its employees can interact effectively with professionals from diverse backgrounds. It recognizes the variances among business people from different nations, regions, and ethnicities and the importance of bridging these differences.

The significance of cross culture in global business

Cross culture has gained immense importance in the context of globalization. Companies that seek to expand their markets globally dedicate substantial resources to training their employees in effectively communicating and collaborating with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. This is especially critical for employees working in foreign countries who need to adapt not only to language differences but also to the unique social norms of their host country. Failure to do so can lead to significant challenges within the organization.

Implications for international managers

Cross culture education is now seen as a necessity, especially for employees in managerial roles abroad. Ineffective communication and a lack of cultural understanding can lead to a cascade of issues in business operations. Managers must learn to navigate the intricacies of local customs and expectations, as their leadership often plays a pivotal role in the success of their international ventures.

Cross culture differences

The impact of cross culture extends to how people interpret even the minutest social, societal, and professional behaviors, and this inevitably carries over into the business realm. Some key differences include:

Management styles

In various cultures, the relationship between a manager and a subordinate is perceived differently. In some, it’s seen as a cooperative, symbiotic relationship, while in others, a more hierarchical and distant managerial approach is expected.

Body language and personal space

Cross culture encompasses body language, physical contact, and perceptions of personal space. Some cultures have strict norms governing interactions between members of the opposite sex, even in a professional context. Hand gestures, for example, can have unintended meanings and may be interpreted differently across cultures.

Business and social etiquette

In some cultures, business discussions are separate from social interactions, while in others, such as Italy and the United Arab Emirates, building a personal relationship over a meal is often a prerequisite for making important business decisions.

Real-life cross culture examples

Understanding cross culture isn’t just theoretical; it has real-world applications. Failing to adhere to certain customs can result in cross-cultural faux pas:


In Japan, accepting a business card is a formal and respectful act. The exchange involves a bow, and the card is presented with both hands to show respect. Reciprocating by accepting the card with both hands is a gesture of respect.


In China, giving a direct “yes” or “no” answer, or demanding one, is considered impolite. Meetings are intended for discussion, not for announcing decisions.


In Mexico, business is often conducted within the framework of personal relationships, typically among friends and family. It’s common for visiting businesspeople to seek introductions through intermediaries with local connections.


In India, addressing people by their titles and last names is a sign of respect. Using first names right away may be perceived as overly familiar.

Is cross culture training useful for employees?

Cross culture training is highly valuable as it enhances employees’ awareness and understanding of the values, social norms, gender-related actions, and business behaviors of different countries. With this training, employees can better represent their companies when dealing with international clients and partners.

Why does cross culture awareness matter?

An awareness of the beliefs, practices, and requirements of businesses in other parts of the world is crucial for clear and meaningful communication. It fosters better business, government, and personal relationships among people unfamiliar with each other. Cross culture awareness is the key to smoothing interactions for mutual benefit.

Actions to support cross culture success

To ensure cross culture success, consider the following actions:

Learn the language and communication style

Understanding another country’s language and communication style is essential for effective cross-cultural communication. This includes understanding not only the spoken language but also non-verbal cues.

Observe etiquette rules

Meticulously following local rules of etiquette showcases respect for the host culture. This includes behaviors like punctuality, dress codes, and gift-giving practices.

Active listening

Listening carefully when others speak, without making assumptions, is vital for successful cross-cultural interactions. It’s important to be open to different perspectives.

Respect different behaviors and activities

Show respect for behaviors and activities that may be unfamiliar to your own culture. This includes religious practices, dietary restrictions, and social customs.

Participate when invited

When invited to take part in cultural activities, doing so can help build rapport and understanding. This may include attending festivals, ceremonies, or social gatherings.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of cross culture training:

  • Enhanced global business competence
  • Improved communication skills
  • Stronger international relationships
  • Time and resource-intensive
  • Can be emotionally challenging
  • No one-size-fits-all approach

Frequently asked questions

What is the role of cross culture in international business?

Cross culture plays a crucial role in international business by ensuring that employees can effectively interact with professionals from diverse backgrounds. It involves understanding and bridging the differences in social norms, communication styles, and behaviors among individuals from different cultures.

Why is cross culture education important for business success?

Cross culture education is essential for business success, especially in the global market. It equips employees with the skills to communicate, collaborate, and adapt to different cultural contexts. This is critical for establishing and maintaining successful international business relationships.

How can cross culture awareness benefit international business relationships?

Cross culture awareness fosters clearer and more meaningful communication between individuals from different cultures. This, in turn, enhances business relationships, government interactions, and personal connections. It is a key factor in facilitating mutually beneficial interactions.

What are the challenges of cross culture training?

Cross culture training can be time and resource-intensive. It may also be emotionally challenging, as it requires individuals to confront and adapt to cultural differences. Additionally, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, as the specific needs of each business situation may vary.

Is cross culture training necessary for all employees working internationally?

Cross culture training is particularly important for employees working in managerial roles or in positions that require substantial international interaction. However, its relevance may vary depending on the nature of the job and the extent of cross-cultural engagement required.

What are some common misconceptions about cross culture?

One common misconception is that a superficial understanding of another culture is sufficient. In reality, cross culture involves a deep understanding of values, norms, and behaviors. Another misconception is that all cultures are the same, which can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Key takeaways

  • Cross culture in business refers to a company’s efforts to ensure employees can effectively interact with professionals from diverse backgrounds.
  • Globalization has made cross culture education essential for companies seeking international success.
  • Cultural differences impact management styles, body language, personal space, and business etiquette.
  • Understanding and respecting these differences is crucial for building strong international relationships.
View article sources
  1. Cross-Cultural Business – Thunderbird School of Global Management
  2. 5.4 Cross-Cultural Miscommunication – Oklahoma State University
  3. Cross-Cultural Analysis – The University of Alabama
  4. Cross-Cultural Scholarship (In-State Tuition) – EducationUSA
  5. Multinational Corporation: Definition And How It Works – SuperMoney