According ninth month of the Islamic calendar). The fifth

According to Zheng (2015) “The first step in effective
intercultural communication involves self-analysis, self-awareness, and
understanding.” (p.1) But to understand others I first need to understand
myself. If I don’t understand my own religion how can I understand another
person’s religion? During this trip, I learned a lot about Arabic people and
culture. Especially when we went to the Jumeirah Mosque. Fatima taught us about
the five pillars of Islam through the “Open doors. Open Minds” program.
Listening to her made me think a lot about myself and the religion that I
identify with, which is Catholicism. I began to ask myself the question, what
are the differences between Catholicism and Islam? I found that there are more
differences than similarities. For example, Catholics believe that Jesus was
the son of God. On the other hand, Muslims believe that Jesus was a great
prophet whose message was ultimately rejected. So God sent another, final
prophet, Muhammad. A similarity is that both believe in Heaven and Hell, and
both believe in a number of Old Testament figures, i.e. Abraham. Both religions
also have their own rituals: Catholics have The Sacraments (Baptism and
Communion, Confirmation, etc.) and Muslims have the five pillars of Islam. I
gained a great understanding of the five pillars. The first pillar Shahada
means faith, which is a brief prayer proclaiming the oneness of God and faith
in Islam. The Second pillar is Salat, which requires Muslims to pray five times
a day facing Mecca. The third pillar is Zakat, which states that Muslims are
expected to give to the poor and sick. The fourth pillar is Sawm, which
requires Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic
calendar). The fifth pillar is Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca that
every Muslim must make at least once in their lives. Through this learning
process, I found that there are things that I agree with and some things I
don’t agree with, but that’s the beauty of it all. Understanding and accepting
of the differences between the two religions.

Furthermore, understanding and accepting of the
differences is a vital step to good Intercultural business communication,
understanding another culture’s viewpoint or values does not mean that I have
to agree with them. Although, it does mean that I have to examine my beliefs
and values, determine how they will benefit or hurt me in a situation and
prioritize them in a way where I and whatever other party is involved can work
together. This is how one adapts to the cultural conditions of the country
business is being conducted in. This doesn’t mean forgetting one’s own culture
but learning about the other cultures priorities, values, and attitudes which
are important to great relationships and successful business. Zheng (2015) says
it best “This approach means adding to one’s own culture, not subtracting from
it.” (p.2) An example of something that I’ve learned and added to my culture is
bargaining. I got the first taste of this in Dubai when we went to Dubai City
of Gold or the Gold Souk. When you go to a store in the United States
bargaining doesn’t exist. When I get to this place where bargaining is
encouraged it was a bit of a shock. Just like everything else it took some
failures to get it right. You could probably tell how it went at first. I ended
up overpaying for a keffiyeh and an agal. A keffiyeh is a square of cloth,
traditionally worn as a headdress by Arab men and an agal which keeps the
keffiyeh in place. The whole bargaining process was completely new for me
because in Miami if I go to a store whatever the price tag says is what I’m
going to pay. Even though I got duped, it was one of the first things that I
learned about the culture there. On the bright side, now I have some experience
bargaining.

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According to Zheng (2015) “The third step in
developing Intercultural business communication skills is to use categories or
tools for understanding how cultures compare.” (p.2) Now that I have an
understanding of not only my culture but of the other as well, I can now use
tools to compare both cultures. Through this, I was able to understand and
adapt to certain practices. One such practice was the modesty in the Emirates.
In the United States, people are very direct, people have a business first
relationship later mentality. In the U.S., we can talk about any topic no
matter the place or time. This is completely different in the Emirates. From a
business perspective, the US and the Emirates are very opposite. In the US,
business owners just want to get things done as fast as possible with very
quick interactions. As long as there is a benefit to both parties it doesn’t
matter how many times they have seen each other. On the other hand, in the
Emirates business is more personal. You don’t really get down to the numbers
until multiple meetings in, there is a period of building relationships.
Another way that shows the modesty of the Emirates is through the clothes
people wear. Emiratis usually wear veils and long-sleeved robes. Most women
wear abayas while most men wear a thawb or a dishdasha. This is an important
part of their culture, they do not wear revealing clothing. Something that I
noticed when I was there, some foreigners didn’t really care about these rules
that are in place. I saw women wearing short shirts revealing their stomach and
saw men wear short shorts. I found this appalling because I wouldn’t go to someone’s
house and do things they told me not to do. Which is exactly what these people
did, there are signs in malls and laws in place that should be followed. This
was something that I had to deal with. In Miami, I never wear long pants unless
I’m going to an interview or to a presentation. But instead of disregarding the
laws, I adapted to the culture. Clothes were one of many things that I had to
adapt to once I was in the Emirates. Public displays of affection are another
example. In my culture, it is customary to hug and kiss when you greet and when
you say goodbye. In the Emirates, this is not socially acceptable. Holding hands,
kissing and even posing for pictures (in some areas) can get you arrested and
hit with a fine. I could have easily said take me as I am or don’t take me at
all, but what good is that going to do anyone. I am in someone else’s house so
I must respect their rules.

The last step is enacting what one has learned. As a
new-comer to the Emirates, there were many things that I had to adapt to. They
weren’t life-changing but necessary so that I could have a good time there.
Once I got accustomed, these changes became effortless. What once was a
dilemma, became easy to the point where I was walking in the shoes of the
culture. This is the ultimate goal in learning and understanding of another’s
culture. One such example is when I had to adapt to eating with my hands more.
Honestly, did not have a hard time with this. The one thing that I did have a
problem with was how to make that little rice ball.  Our taxi driver from Oman tried to teach me
but I just could not figure it out.

Intercultural business communication skills are of
extreme importance for people at all levels of any industry to properly
interact with people of different cultures. One of the definitions of culture
is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes
an institution or organization. A few decades ago, most Americans would only
work with people of similar background. Today everything has changed. Thanks to
the fast development of technology, local and global business transactions have
increased. So the ability to effectively communicate and work with other people
from different parts of the world has become a necessity. On a daily basis, we
work with people from different parts of the world and with different business
practices. Intercultural business communication is essential for building
effective teams that work at all times and throughout the world. But there are
also great challenges to ICBC. Different worldviews, experiences and language
barriers are some of the challenges that we face. These challenges can be very
costly to the organization because it can prolong projects for extended periods
of time. Communicating through a global lens effectively greatly augments your
success when working and negotiating with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
(Zofi, 2017).

    Studying
abroad was an amazing experience that open my eyes to new worldviews, increased
my cultural curiosity and has energized my willingness to explore. Culture
shock is very common when traveling abroad and it affects people at different
times in different ways. Culture shock can still happen after you’ve become
familiar with a new culture. Zheng (2015) says that there are four different
phases euphoria, frustration, adjustment, and integration. I experienced these
in different ways and they don’t all correlate with each other. I experienced
euphoria on the first two days. I was meeting new people in the group, going to
Frankfurt, and arriving in Dubai are some examples. Before the study abroad the
only places that I had been outside of the United States were all in the
Caribbean. This was the very first time I was going across the Atlantic. The
euphoria was so serious I did not sleep the first night in Dubai. I had just
met my roommate Rob and neither one of us could sleep. I also experienced some
frustrations, I could tell there were people who already knew each other and
who started to clique up. It was a bit intimidating at first to go and talk to
those people. Whenever we would go to a new place they would always do things
on their own, never inviting anyone else from the group. But luckily everyone
else was really friendly and open. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way and
so someone brought it up. This was the adjustment phase. From that day on the
cliques started to integrate a bit, people from their respective groups started
to talk and hang out with others. By the mid-end of the trip, the integration
phase occurred, it didn’t matter who you knew on day one because everyone knew
everyone at this point. This was really important because communication with
different people from different cultures is how we expand our worldviews.

    Now that we
have an understanding and have adapted to other cultures there are a few steps
that we can take to ensure we continue to have success in the future. There are
also two very important questions that we should ask ourselves. What have we
learned? And, how can we improve for next time? The first step is keeping it
simple, avoiding long complex sentences, language and presentations. By using
simpler language going at a slower pace and using visual aids. All of these
examples will help the transaction go smoother. The second step is cultural
knowledge. I had the most trouble with this because I didn’t do extensive research
on the culture. If I would have done my research before going I would’ve had a
better understanding of their culture and their reasoning for doing certain
things. Having an understanding of the cultures history and business practices
of that region are vital to successful ICBC. Practices, such as knowing how to
properly dress to different occasions for both men and women. Knowing how to
properly greet and who to greet. Also having an understanding of how to
properly build a relationship and develop trust. Engaging in active listening
is the most important one in my opinion. I uncovered how important active
listening was on the trip because it allowed me to learn from the various
guides we had throughout our time there. The goal is to listen with the intent
to understand their needs and how we can meet those needs. It’s really
important to have the ability to hear what people are saying, know what they
are trying to say and predict how they will react.

Intercultural competence is “the ability to
communicate and behave in appropriate ways with those who are culturally
different-and to co-create shared spaces, teams, and organizations that
inclusive, effective, innovative, and satisfying.” (Cultural Detectives 2017)
ICBC is a skill that is extremely important in a variety of areas, such as,
education, negotiations, building relationships, healthcare, etc. Being
sensitive to differences and accepting the influence that they may have will
improve relationship in all facets of life.