Exercise 1

A. Listen to three people with experience of working in other cultures and match the speakers with what they say (a-i). One of the items is not used.

Speaker1 (Luis), talking about working in India: ………, ………, ………

Speaker 2 (Marcus), talking about working in Kenya: ………, ………

Speaker 3 (Shivani), talking about working with a U.S. manager: ………, ………, ………

a   The boss was too direct.

b   Employees didn’t want to say ‘no’.

c   The meeting started in a surprising way.

d   The speaker was embarrassed and offended.

e   The speaker saw the positive side of an unusual custom.

f   The speaker had an argument with the boss.

g   The speaker explains the meaning of ‘loss of face’.

h   The speaker left his/her job because it had been too stressful.

  The speaker was working with optimistic colleagues.

B. Listen again and decide if these sentences are true (T) or false (F). Correct the incorrect sentences.

Speaker 1

1   Luis once went to a meeting in Mumbai where there was a religious statue and the smell of food cooking.

2   The Indians wanted to create a positive atmosphere to help the meeting process.

3   ‘Loss of face’ means embarrassing someone, or offending him/her.

Speaker 2

4   In Kenya, ‘Hakuna matata’ is an expression that means ‘we shouldn’t worry’ but this optimism can lead to workers not finishing tasks by a given time.

Speaker 3

5   Shivani had become ill because she was working so hard, so she sent her boss an angry email, copying in all the team.

6   Shivani’s boss was insisting on having the latest figures by the end of the month, so when Shivani didn’t sent them, she sent her boss an apologetic email.

Answer & Audioscript


Speaker 1, talking about working in India: b, c and g

Speaker 2, talking about working in Kenya: e and i

Speaker 3, talking about working with a U.S. manager: a, d and h Item f is not used.


Speaker 1

 False – there was a smell of incense burning



Speaker 2

4   True

Speaker 3

5   False – Shivani was working hard because her colleagues had fallen ill and she was covering for them. When she didn’t send the figures, her American boss sent her an email with a red flag, copying in all the team.

6   False – Shivani’s boss wanted the figures by the end of the month, so when Shivani didn’t send them, her boss sent her an ‘angry’ email. (Shivani hadn’t explained the situation to her boss because she didn’t want to give a bad impression.)



Let me tell you about my experience of working abroad. At the time, I was working as the Regional Financial Director of a construction company with a division in India. Part of my job consisted of meeting senior bank executives to arrange bank guarantees and credit facilities. Once, I went to a meeting with the chairman of a bank in Mumbai and when I went into his o­ffice, I was surprised to see a shrine set up on the table where discussions were going to take place and incense was burning in the room. After the customary greetings and introductions, the chairman then turned on some chanting music. I asked what the music was and he told me that it was Indian mantra music to help create a good atmosphere in the meeting. The Indians believed it encouraged a positive outcome. It was quite a different experience to doing business back at home. I had never seen this kind of thing before!

Another thing is that in countries like India, employees will hardly ever tell their bosses that something is not possible. Saying ‘no’ is often considered ‘loss of face’. By ‘loss of face’, I mean embarrassing a person in front of others, or offending them, and this can of course lead to problems in the workplace. While I was working in India, I often experienced this problem first hand. For instance, employees didn’t report problems because they didn’t want to give a bad impression to their bosses.


While I was living in Kenya, I discovered that optimism is highly valued in Kenyan society. It’s reflected in the popular catchphrase ‘Hakuna matata’, which means ‘No worries’. This idea of ‘Hakuna matata’ sometimes caused conflict at work and led to missed deadlines, you know, people didn’t finish a task or a report by a given time.

When I was working in the o­ffice in Nairobi, workers preferred to agree to deadlines without questioning them. Later, they admitted that they couldn’t meet the deadline, even if they had previously agreed to it. I found it very frustrating. On the other hand, being surrounded by optimistic people helped lighten the o­ffice atmosphere and often diffused stressful situations. So, that was the positive side of ‘Hakuna matata’.


While I was working as a supervisor in a call centre in Delhi for a multinational, I had to report to my boss in Los Angeles. It was very stressful working in customer service. We had to deal with complaints on a daily basis. The last week of the month my American boss was insisting on me sending a report with our latest figures for resolving complaints, and I had promised to send them to him. But then we got very busy. A lot of my co-workers had fallen ill with a virus that was going round and I was working really hard: I was going to work early and I was leaving late at night to cover for them. So I didn’t have time to reply to my boss. It was unlucky because he had wanted the figures by the end of the month, but I had to prioritise. Then he started sending me urgent emails with red flags and written in big, capital letters and that was the equivalent of shouting at me. He had also copied in my colleagues. I mean, he shouldn’t have written in capital letters, right?

He should have picked up the phone and talked to me. Of course, that wasn’t easy because of the time difference. And I know Americans are stricter about time, but he didn’t have to shame me like that! Thinking about it, I wanted to create a good impression because the company culture was very competitive, so I didn’t explain all the problems we were having. That was my mistake. But the worst thing was he had copied in all the team – it made me look really bad. It was so embarrassing. I couldn’t work there after that, so I quit my job. I didn’t go in the next day.

Exercise 2

A. Look at the list of strategies for building relationships with new people and discuss which you think are the most important.


1   Be interested and ask questions.

2   Be careful your interest doesn’t sound like interrogation.

3   Don’t make assumptions about people from the first impressions you have of them.

4   Take time to get to know the other person.

5   Think about how they behave and the possible reasons why.

6   Find out and talk about things you have in common, e.g. interests, family, etc.

7   If possible, adapt your usual communication style to be closer to the other person’s.

8   Try to talk about things the other person wants to talk about.

B. Listen to the beginning of an informal dinner at an international networking event.

1   Which topics does Peter try to talk about with Tadashi?

2   What topics do Peter and Pilar mention?

3   Which strategies from Exercise A does Peter use?

4   What first impression do you think Peter has of Tadashi and Pilar?

5   What impression do you think they have of Peter?

C. Listen to the next part of the conversation.

1   How does Peter adapt to make the conversation more comfortable for both Tadashi and Pilar?

2   Which topics do they talk about?

3   Which strategies from Exercise A does Peter use?

D. Listen to Peter later that evening, talking about what happened.

1   What conclusion does he reach about first impressions?

2   Which points from the list in Exercise A did he think about?

Answer & Audioscript


 work, politics (elections)

 work, hobbies/interests, family

 Strategies 1 and 6

 Suggested answers

Tadashi gives very short answers and doesn’t ask follow-up questions so Peter may think he is unfriendly, shy or that he isn’t confident speaking in English.

Pilar gives very short answers about her job but offers more information about her family and hobbies. Peter may get the impression that she is not very interested in or serious about her work.

5   Suggested answers

They may feel that they are being interrogated by Peter. He asks a lot of questions and asks follow-up questions on the same topic even when they have indicated that they are not comfortable discussing it. He doesn’t adapt his style to theirs or express interest in the topics they raise. They may therefore think he is uninterested or has poor communication skills.


1   Peter ties to take an interest in the others’ interests. He gives Tadashi more time to think, reflect and talk. He tries to identify something Tadashi is passionate about and then lets him talk. He then brings Pilar into the conversation by asking her about her family.

2   They talk about Tadashi’s work, Peter’s holiday and family.

3   Strategies 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8.


1   He concludes that first impressions are often based on assumptions and they can often be wrong.

2   His reflection included evidence of strategies 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8.



T = Tadashi   Pe = Peter   Pi = Pilar

T:   Hello.

Pe:   Hi, I’m Peter. I’m from D2 Logistics.

T:   I’m Tadashi.

Pe:   Nice to meet you, Tadashi. So … I’m a finance specialist. What do you do? Are you working on any interesting projects?

T:   I’m in marketing. I design marketing campaigns.

Pe:   Oh. … Er, so what do you think of the elections? Who do you think will win?

T:   I don’t know.

Pe:   But you must have an idea. What do you think?

T:   I’m not sure.

Pe:   Oh.

Pi:   Hi, I’m Pilar.

Pe:   Hello Pilar, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Peter.

Pi:   It’s nice to meet you too, Peter.

T:   Hello, I’m Tadashi.

Pe:   So, Pilar. What do you do?

Pi:   I’m an accountant during the day and I play in a local band at weekends … in Mexico City … that’s where I live at the moment … We practise a lot during the week which doesn’t give me too much time with my family. I have two brothers, and we all still live at home.

Pe:   You’re an accountant. Really? I’m a finance specialist. Who do you work for?

Pilar:   Oh, er … I work for ACC Products. I’m a property accountant.

Pe:   OK. I … er … don’t know much about property. Well, I think I’ll go back to the buffet to … get some more …


Pe = Peter   T = Tadashi   Pi = Pilar

Pe:   So, Tadashi, you’re in marketing. What sort of campaigns do you design?

T:   I’m working on one at the moment for a hotel chain. We’re making ads that will run in planes, on the little screens. Er, is that OK?

Pe:   Er, sure. That project sounds really interesting. I saw ads like that the last time I flew on holiday.

T:   Maybe they were my ads.

Pe:   Yeah, maybe … It’s a very good place to run ads, everyone on the plane sees them.

T:   Yes. We try to make the ads specific to the country, if possible, and we always try to put in a little humour.

Pe:   Yes, flying and going through airports can be stressful. It’s good to have a little humour.

Pi:   So Peter, where did you go on holiday?

Pe:   I went to Brazil. It was a very long flight, but I had a really nice time with my family. It was a special trip for my father’s 60th birthday.

Pi:   Great!

Pe:   You know, I also have two brothers, like you. One older and one younger.

Pilar:   So you’re in the middle, then?

Peter:   Yes, that’s it.


That was a really nice evening. At the beginning it felt a bit awkward, it wasn’t that easy to talk to Tadashi or Pilar. I thought that Tadashi’s English wasn’t very good and that he was shy and insecure. But I was making assumptions and I was wrong on both points. He was quite fluent, and very enthusiastic when we were talking about things he likes and he’s good at. He thinks a lot about what other people say before he reacts. When I realised that, I stopped talking so much. Then he had more time to think, and he spoke more too. And Pilar?

I didn’t really take her seriously at first; I thought she just wanted to talk about her free time. But when I stopped talking about work and talked about my family and travel, the conversation really developed. We connected more, and then it was easier to find out more about her job and what she does. I guess first impressions can often be wrong, especially with people from different cultures. Anyway, I’m glad I adapted my approach and got to know them a bit better.

Exercise 3

A. You are consultants for Connecting Cultures. You are interviewing international staff from Betker Finance about working with their colleagues in the Netherlands. Match the ideas (a-g) with the speakers (1 and 2).

 business relationships are based on trust

 face-to-face meetings are preferred

 family members often work together

 it is rude to say ‘no’

 they’re not very punctual

f   they are multi-active

 they believe in first impressions

Answer & Audioscript

Speaker 1: c, a , d

Speaker 2: b, e, f, g



Oh, when the Dutch managers visited our o­ffice, it was very nice. We had good conversations about our respective traditions, our families and food. They loved our Indian food. Regarding business, I would say that we’re like one big family here. I have cousins, uncles and aunties in the office working here, and so we work very well together. I realise it’s different in Europe but this is how we work in this country. We trust each other. It’s just the way it is. Our business relationships are based on trust. The only thing is that they kept insisting about the report for the latest sales figures. And I said, it wasn’t a problem, no problem at all. We’ll have the report ready soon. I told them not to worry about that. You can’t say ‘no’, or ‘that’s not possible’ to a visitor, can you? That would be terribly impolite!


We got on very well with the managers from Betker Finance. It was great seeing them face to face. Perhaps here in the south we’re not as punctual as they are. But that doesn’t mean we’re less productive. In fact I think we’re much better at multi-tasking. I find Northern Europeans tend to do only one thing at a time. You know, they’re only focused on one thing, which seems a bit limiting if something important suddenly comes up. For example, as the Sales Manager in my region, I have to manage a large team of people and juggle different tasks at the same time. So, it’s normal that when I’m in a meeting with a colleague, I might have interruptions, like an urgent phone call, or someone from the office comes in to ask me something. It’s the way we work. But I don’t think our Dutch colleagues had a good first impression of us. And we’re great believers in first impressions.

B. Listen to interviews with speaker 3 and 4 and correct the summary notes about their experiences. There are six errors in each.

SPEAKER 3 says the manager seemed very indirect. She thinks it’s good to have an agenda to a meeting, but in their culture, they always make coffee before getting down to business. It’s important to get the number of the other person to establish a conflictive atmosphere and they like to do business with people they don’t like.

SPEAKER 4 thinks the Dutch sales representative didn’t talk a lot and didn’t understand Japanese. The visitor thought they had finished the meal, when they had only started! The sales rep seemed a little emotional when he said he would check with his boss. He was surprised that she quickly confirmed points that they had agreed on. Hopefully, the next meeting will be more musical.

Answer & Audioscript

Speaker 3 says the manager seemed very indirect direct/ abrupt. She says it’s good to have an agenda a purpose to a meeting, but in their culture, they always make coffee conversation / small talk before getting down to business. It’s important to get the number of to know the other person to establish a conflictive good/positive/relaxed atmosphere and they like to do business with people they don’t like.

Speaker 4 thinks the Dutch sales representative didn’t talk talked a lot and didn’t understand Japanese their market. The visitor thought they had finished the meal meeting, when they had only started! The sales rep seemed a little emotional annoyed when he said he would check with his boss. He was surprised that she quickly confirmed points that they had hadn’t agreed on. Hopefully, the next meeting will be more musical harmonious.



When the sales manager came from headquarters, he just said: ‘Hi, how’s it going?’ and he got down to business right away, talking about figures and KPIs. You know, key performance indicators. Actually, there was no time to reply, or even for me to ask him the same thing. It was very direct and abrupt, which surprised me. I know it’s good to be e­fficient and have a purpose in a meeting, but in our culture, we always make conversation before getting down to business. I often ask the visitor about events in their country, and find out about their interests and maybe their family. It’s important to get to know the other person to establish a good atmosphere. I mean, we all want to do business with people we like, don’t we?


When the sales representative came from Betker Finance , it was quite erm, quite di­fficult because she talked a lot about the new products which were very erm … interesting, but I had the impression that she didn’t understand our market so well. And at the end of the first meeting, she thought we had finished, we had just begun! She also asked me many questions, which I couldn’t answer because I needed to get approval from my boss. So when I said at the end of our conversation that I needed to check everything with him, she seemed a little erm … annoyed. I felt bad about that. And we thought she was staying for the week, so we would have time to discuss the new products with the team, and adapt them for our market, but she left after a couple of days. Then she sent me an email confirming points that we hadn’t agreed on. I tried to explain that we do business as a team, and everything has to be confirmed by my bosses. I hope our next meeting will be more harmonious.


1. Listen to the speaker and choose the correct answer a, b or c.

1   a   b   c

2   a   b   c

3   a   b   c

4   a   b   c

5   a   b   c

Answer & Audioscript

1 b   2 a   3 c   4 b   5 b


 What do you do?

      A   Very well, thank you.

      B   I’m a manager.

      C   Write a report.

 Tell me about yourself.

      A   I’m from China, but I work in Brazil.

      B   I’m pleased to hear that.

      C   Would you like to help me?

 What are you working on at the moment?

      A   I’m working on one at the moment.

      B   Yes, it was a good game, wasn’t it?

      C   On a new video game, actually.

 I’m going to work in New Zealand next month.

      A   So you work abroad?

      B   Really? Why’s that?

      C   You’re working in New Zealand?

5   What do you think of the new engineer?

      A   You must have an idea.

      B   I don’t know.

      C   I know the new engineer.

2. Listen to a man arranging a training course for some staff and complete the notes. Use one or two words, a number or a letter.


Caller:   Frank Hausmann, Frist Holdings

Reason for call:   to add (1)…………… more people

Course:   (2)……………

Name/position of participants:  

      Samantha (3)……………,

      Sales Manager

      Felix Gastrell, (4)……………

Action required:   

      Send invoice immediately;

      Participants must fill in (5)…………… by the end of the week

Answer & Audioscript

1 2/two   2 leadership   3 Bexington   4 Operations Manager

5 registration form


Listen to a man arranging a training course for some staff.

A:   Hello, this is Frank Hausmann from Frist Holdings.

B:   Hello, Mr Hausmann. How can I help you?

A:   It’s about the new course next week on Tuesday, 5th May.

B:   Yes?

A:   There are two other people I’d like to add. Is that possible?

B:   Well, the maximum number on the Presentation course is eight and we’ve already got seven people. We can’t accommodate nine.

A:   Actually, they need to attend the leadership course.

B:   Oh, sorry, let’s see. Mm, you’re in luck, we’ve only got five on that course.

A:   Great.

B:   Can I have their names, please?

A:   Of course. The first is Samantha Bexington. That’s B–E–X–I–N–G–T–O–N.

B:   What’s her job at the moment?

A:   She’s a Sales Manager.

B:   Okay, got that. And the other one?

A:   Felix Gastrell.

B:   And his current position?

A:   Well, he’s just been promoted from Production Supervisor to Operations Manager.

B:   We’ll need payment for the extra two by the end of the week.

A:   Send me an invoice and I’ll get the Accounts department to settle it immediately.

B:   Thanks, Mr Hausmann. You’ll also need to ask them to complete the registration form by the end of the week, too.

A:   Okay, no problem.

3. You will hear five people talking about problems they had working abroad. For each person decide which problem they mention. Write A–H. Do not use any letter more than once.

Speaker 1: …………

Speaker 2: …………

Speaker 3: …………

Speaker 4: …………

Speaker 5: …………

a   the hot weather

b   the language barrier

 the accommodation

d   the traditional food

e   the working environment

 the working hours

g   the lack of free time

h   the journey to work

Answer & Audioscript

1 c   2 e   3 f   4 b   5 g


You will hear five people talking about problems they had working abroad.

1   I loved working in Malawi, but it was very different from my home country. The weather was hot all the time, but I didn’t mind that at all. However, I wasn’t impressed by the living conditions. We were working out in the bush and I had to live in a tent because the journey from the nearest town would have taken us at least two hours each way. And that’s if it didn’t rain or there weren’t any accidents.

2   I lived and worked in London for a year. Although I spoke English quite well, I still found communicating difficult sometimes. I hated the open-plan office I had to share with ten other people. It was so noisy, not like back home. Everyone was shouting all the time, even when they were on the phone, and I couldn’t concentrate. I asked my colleagues if they could speak more quietly, but they just looked at me as if I was crazy.

3   I had a great time working in Ecuador. I learned to speak Spanish and made lots of good friends. I stayed in a hotel for the first three months until I found someone to share a flat with. My colleagues took me out to traditional restaurants and invited me to their homes. The job would’ve been perfect if I hadn’t had to work such long days. I often just wanted to sleep at the weekends.

4   My experience of working abroad was six years in Bangkok, Thailand – wonderful city and country. I loved the whole experience except for the fact that I didn’t speak a word of Thai and many of my colleagues didn’t speak English. They were very kind and helpful but I knew I couldn’t get to know them and always needed an interpreter at meetings. I worked long hours, but that was okay because I love my job.

5   The company sent me to Norway to work at Head Office. We all communicated in English and had very few problems. Getting to work every morning was easy because I had a flat very near to the office. The cold weather was a shock at first, but all the buildings are well-insulated so that was okay. What wasn’t okay was that I seemed to work every evening and weekend so I didn’t have the chance to get out and see the country.

4. You will hear another five recordings. Decide what the speakers thought about a cross-cultural training course they attended. Write A–H. Do not use any letter more than once.

Speaker 1: …………

Speaker 2: …………

Speaker 3: …………

Speaker 4: …………

Speaker 5: …………

a   it was too long

b   it was well-run

c   it was ineffective

d   it was too expensive

e   it was very informative

 it opened the mind

g   the venue was unsuitable

h   it tried to cover too much

Answer & Audioscript

1 c   2 f   3 e   4 h   5 d


You will hear another five recordings. Decide what the speakers thought about a cross-cultural training course they attended.

1   I found the course a complete waste of time. When I arrived in Columbia, it wasn’t at all how they’d told me it would be. I guess some of the information was useful, but I was working for a U.S. company in Bogota, so I’d have benefited from learning more about American culture. I’ve told the company how unhelpful it was and they’ve asked me to design a more practical course.

2   I attended a course before I started my job in India. I’d been there on holiday once but I wasn’t sure about business culture and all the traditions. I must say that without the course, it would’ve been harder for me to fit into the organisation. These courses are not a waste of time because even if the information isn’t interesting, they help you to become more aware of how other people do things.

3   I’ve attended a lot of courses and they can be extremely expensive, especially if they are in luxury venues. But this course for my job in Rwanda was different from a lot of the others I’ve been on. It was only one day and was presented by an amazing woman from Rwanda. She told us about everything we needed to know. We all felt that we had a good idea of what to expect when we arrived in the country.

4   I got a job in South Korea and had to attend a cross-cultural training course before I went. I was really looking forward to it, because they were going to teach us some basic language, too. However, I think they tried to do too many things in one course – there was far too much information to take in. After the first two days, my mind was full and I couldn’t remember anything.

5   We were booked into a very nice hotel where the course was taking place. We met the other participants the night before the course started, which was very interesting. All of us were going to work in China and none of us had been before. It was a four-day course, not too long, because there was a lot to learn, even some Chinese phrases. Unfortunately, it cost more than we expected and I’m not sure it was worth it. However, the trainer was excellent.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This