It is important to be aware of cross-cultural communication barriers in the United Kingdom in the context of business because if you are looking to get your message across and are unaware of their sensitivities, then it could end up badly for both parties.
Being aware of such communication barriers is also useful as it serves to improve productivity, as well as promote a sense of overall harmony within the team and working environment.
About the United Kingdom
The UK is a constitutional monarchy and comprises four countries - England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The country includes the island of Great Britain, the northeastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands.
The total population of the United Kingdom is over 67 million people. The capital city of London is England's most populous city, while Dublin is the most populous in Ireland, Edinburgh in Scotland, and Cardiff in Wales.
United Kingdom's culture-based communication style
- In the United Kingdom, there are many different dialects and accents that can make it hard for other countries to understand what they're saying, especially if they're not familiar with these dialects or accents. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, which can hinder effective communication between the two parties involved in the conversation.
- The United Kingdom has a lot of idioms that are unique to the country. These idioms can be hard for people from other countries to understand because they have a different meaning from what one might expect based on their literal translation.
- The British place a great deal of importance on honorifics, titles, and formality. They are unlikely to call someone by their first name unless they are very close friends with that person.
- British people have a different sense of humor, they tend toward sarcasm and dry wit rather than loud laughter or boisterous jokes.
- British people do not like confrontation or conflict; they will try to avoid it if possible. If you need something from someone, try being indirect about it instead of asking directly for assistance (e.g., "Could you tell me where I can find the bathroom?" instead of "Can you show me where the bathroom is?").
- Indirectness and euphemism are two cultural barriers that tend to be prominent in United Kingdom's communication. For example, when giving bad news, a person from the UK is more likely to say "I'm sorry" instead of "I have bad news." This is because they believe the former is more polite than the latter.
- The British are not as direct as some other cultures. Rather than giving you a straight answer, they may be more likely to tell you what they think you want to hear or avoid answering your question altogether. For example, instead of saying directly that they do not like something, a British person might say "That's not really what we're looking for." or if someone asks if you want to go out for dinner and you're too busy at work, you could say: "Maybe next week?"
- The United Kingdom is a high-context culture, which means that people can read between the lines and infer meaning by using nonverbal cues (i.e., body language), rather than explicitly stating everything that needs to be said out loud. It can sometimes be difficult to understand the true meaning behind something an English person says—because they're giving off nonverbal cues that aren't being verbally expressed!
Non-verbal communication in the UK
- Gestures: In general, British people don't use many gestures like other cultures do; however, if you do use a lot of gestures while communicating with them then this could make them feel uncomfortable or even offended.
- Eye contact: The United Kingdom is a country where eye contact is very important in communication. In the UK, people look at each other when they speak to each other. They do not look away from the person speaking or even look at other people while talking.
- Personal Space: In the UK, there is a large amount of personal space between people. You should make sure that you do not invade this space by standing too close or moving into someone's personal space without asking first.