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If you communicate internationally – it’s vital that you try to avoid embarrassment.
On a recent trip working in Singapore – I had two hearty chuckles at two examples of cross-cultural communication challenges.
The first was when I read about how a Japanese university was changing its name – because the name (though spelled differently) sounded like something “undesirable” in English.
See for yourself:
The second example:
One of the people I was helping was of Chinese background and Westerners were constantly getting his name wrong or finding it hard to say.
He decided to be known by his initials of his two given names – and they were KY.
As you may know – KY Gel is the name of a lubricant made by Johnson and Johnson.
In Australia, the name is often shortened to KY – AND it is often associated with use as a sexual lubricant.
Knowing Australians, if someone was to refer to themselves to an Australian audience as KY – they would probably get lots of smirks and laughter.
As a communication consultant, I often help “pre-test” cross-cultural presentations – to see if there are any potentially embarrassing words.
A South African executive I was helping told me how one of his important business presentations was damaged by his repeated use of the word “hooters”.
He was referring to sounding a car horn – but his snickering audience was thinking of “other hooters”. It was one of those scenes where they were trying to not giggle and act like naughty school children.
The more the audience members tried to suppress they laughter the more they made each other laugh – and the less they were concentrating on the content of the presentation.
Maybe the audience members were just a bit Kinki 🙂
Anyway, my advice to you – if you are presenting or communicating cross-culturally – check with someone from the same culture as your target audience if there are any problem areas.
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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication etc. I like to help people COPE.