10 Tips for Communicating Across Cultures

students walking through uptown Oxford eating ice cream cones and smiling

By International Student & Scholar Services

Starting August 12, International Student and Scholar Services is expecting new and returning international students from more than 60 different countries to begin to arrive on campus, ready for their Miami University journey.

To help welcome them to campus, here are some tips for communicating across cultures:

1. Be patient when speaking.

Everyone has an accent (It’s all a matter of perspective)! Sometimes people need time to process what is being said and form a response. Asking someone to repeat something, or being asked to repeat something is not a bad thing. Remember that lack of fluency in English does not indicate poor intellect!

Communicating across cultural and language barriers requires patience and understanding.

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2. Speak clearly and avoid slang, idioms, acronyms and cultural references.

When in doubt about whether you understand or are being understood, remember to SCORE:

  • Simplify and Specify
  • Clarify and Confirm
  • Organize and Outline
  • Rephrase and Reframe
  • Explain with Examples

3. Take time to learn names.

Be proud of your name and share the correct pronunciation. Make an effort to learn the proper pronunciation of new friends’ names. Even if takes a few tries, keep at it.

It can be interesting to hear the story about why someone has their name. Names can reveal a lot about our personal and cultural heritage.

Be clear on what you want to be called and what you should call other people.

4. Be sensitive to students who come from a different culture.

Try to be understanding when students want to stay connected to those from their own culture, or make decisions based on their friends or families.

It’s ok to be curious and ask genuine questions about something you don’t understand in a different culture.

5. Cultural sensitivity does not simply mean understanding another culture, but also requires an understanding of one’s own cultural background and biases.

Try not to assume that your way of doing things is the “correct” way, and that another student’s way is “wrong” or “backwards”. Learning about another culture can teach you a lot about your own.

6. Do not make assumptions on appearances.

Miami has students from all 50 US states and 65+ countries.

We have students from Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other Asian countries, including China. Domestic students represent local cultures across the U.S.

Never assume nationality, culture, language, etc. before talking to someone. The intersectionality of identity is a complex subject.

7. Go beyond just “where are you from?” and ask about their local hometown.

If you do not know much about the country or city that someone is from, ask more questions about if it is urban, rural, big, small, etc. A student from Beijing will have a very different life experience than a student from a town in rural China, just as an American student from New York City will have a very different life experience than a student from the rural Midwest United States.

8. Share stories about yourself.

Talking about your family, home, personal life, etc. will make it easier to connect with you.

9. Talk about food!

Everybody eats and has opinions on food. Talk about the food you will miss the most from home, your favorite cuisine, Uptown restaurants you want to try, etc. Food is one of the most difficult adjustments for college students wherever they are coming from. Make plans to share a meal and adjust together.

10. Remember that we come from many places across the world but are all part of the Miami University and Oxford, OH community

“Sharing toasted rolls, rubbing turtle heads, and sidestepping the seal – beloved traditions. The finest traditions of all being the Love we hold in our hearts for our college days and the Honor we feel in continuing our support of Miami.

We’re all connected through the Miami logo and our experiences with this great university.

Highlights of 2019's Global Friendship Day