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In order to improve intercultural communication it is most important to be knowledgeable about the culture you wish to communicate (Samovar & Porter, 2001).  It is necessary for a person to get to know their own culture as well as others, not to judge from an ethnocentric point of view, but to make sure you are educated enough to openly evaluate and make observations of other cultures.  For example, the team members of this page understand and live in the American culture.  Therefore, without making a judgment about a correct way of living, we can observe through research and other observations that Portugal is a collectivist culture that follows the norms of society and highly regards and values family and family traditions.

As Samovar and Porter (2001) discuss, the best way to improve intercultural communication is to improve your own communication styles.  In the previous paragraph we have stressed the importance of knowing your own culture, but on top of that it is even more important to become aware of your surroundings.  For example, be able to adapt to the customs and social setting of the culture you interact with (p. 283).  For example, when visiting Portugal you would like to understand their beliefs on death and the customs that follow those beliefs.  As stated on our traditions page, it is important to recognize that black is the color of mourning and family members where black for as long as they mourn the death of a loved one.  This could cause an inappropriate and uncomfortable moment if a comment was made towards a family member because there was not a recognition of customs and beliefs of the Portuguese culture.

In closing, we feel the most important aspect in understanding and improving intercultural communication involves Samovar and Porter's (2001) thoughts on developing a flexibility in communication (p. 291).  If this skill is acquired it is easy to respond and adapt to various situations that may be unknown or unfamiliar to you. Since the world is becoming more interdependent through globalization and technological advances, more emphasis is being placed on competent communicators.  Awareness of intercultural communication is necessary for smoother relations world wide.  This can all be achieve by a higher awareness level of the world view, customs, traditions, language and different cultural contexts with those cultures that we interact and communicate with daily. 


E-mail questions or comments to mkfinney@depauw.edu
  February 16, 2001