Linguistic and cultural barriers to intercultural communication in foreign subsidiaries
This study examines the causes and consequences of linguistic and cultural barriers to inter-cultural communication in Nordic subsidiaries in Japan. Interviews with 30 Nordic (Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden) expatriates and 29 Japanese employees show that the main linguistic barriers to intercultural communication were lack of a shared language and low motivation to improve foreign-language proficiency. The main cultural barriers were collectivism, and status and power differences. Combined, the consequences of these barriers were extensive reliance on language intermediaries, information filtering, in-group/out-group categorization, receiver-centred communication and incongruent supervisor-subordinate expectations. The interviews suggest that linguistic and cultural barriers have a differentiated impact on intercultural communication.