Serving Diverse & Multicultural Customers

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  • 0:03 Being Different
  • 0:36 Communication
  • 1:35 Cultural Etiquette
  • 3:18 Best Practices
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nick Chandler
As the world gets smaller, we meet more people from other countries, and more often. This lesson examines what can be done when faced with customers from different cultures with different communication styles.

Being Different

When you travel to a foreign country, it takes some time to get used to the way everything is done, doesn't it? Different food, different language, and different ways of behaving.

Now let's see things from the other point of view. Imagine you work in a shop in that foreign country and each day your shop is full of tourists from all over the world. You want them to feel comfortable enough to buy something, but they think, communicate, and act differently. What do you do? The answer is that you have to adjust your behavior and communication to suit the customer.


Communication can be split into two forms: verbal communication and non-verbal communication. Let's have a look at each of these.

People from different countries communicate verbally to different extents. In a high context culture, a lot of information is communicated without words, or non-verbally. In a low context culture, on the other hand, most of the information is verbal; that is, it's in the words used in a message rather than hidden or implied. What does this mean for you as our shop owner? Well, if you have a customer from a high context culture, such as Japan, then you'll need to pay attention to gestures, pauses, and facial expressions or there could easily be some misunderstandings. If the next customer is a tourist from a low context country, such as Germany or the US, then all the information must be given in the message. This will mean a lot of explaining and giving extra background information, if necessary, to avoid the chance of misunderstandings.

Cultural Etiquette

Cultural etiquette involves the way people do things; what's acceptable and not acceptable to people from different countries. Let's have a look at a few examples.

Non-verbal communication includes the movements and gestures we make. The hand signal for 'perfect' in one country might mean 'terrible' in another. So you, as our shopkeeper, have to be aware of these differences, and it's no easy task. Imagine a Bulgarian tourist walks into the shop. Bulgarians shake their heads for 'yes' and nod for 'no,' which can be pretty confusing when you're trying to find out what your Bulgarian customers like and don't like!

As our shopkeeper, you also need to be aware of more than just the gestures. Personal space also varies across cultures. When chatting with someone, the English prefer to keep people at an arm's length away from them, whereas people from Spain might think that keeping this distance would be rude and unfriendly. You need to know this, especially if you have a very small shop where it's pretty hard to keep people at arm's length!

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