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How to be a Cultural Communication Guru

Posted on: 21.05.18

Communicating with people from other cultures whether it’s on a boat, or at work, abroad or through study can sometimes be a daunting challenge.

The world is increasingly becoming more and more accessible, which means the need to communicate with other cultures is increasing.

To help you overcome cultural barriers, we’ve got some advice so that you can become a communication guru.

Learn some key phrases from a new language.


Check what languages you might come across and learn some key phrases and greetings. This can make the other person feel more comfortable and they will often be grateful that you took the time to learn some of their language. It also makes it easier for you to communicate with each other, from working together in the galley to making small talk during your watch.

Be Patient and Understanding

Whoever you are communicating with may not speak much of your language, so not only is it important to understand some of theirs, it’s also important to be patient and understanding. Interacting with people from other cultures is a learning experience, so if you get something wrong make sure to apologise and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Offer to help too, with anything they don’t understand. It will make communicating easier and they will be more likely to extend the same courtesy to you.

Body Language

Body language can communicate just as much as words can, so it’s important to know what’s acceptable and what isn’t depending on who you’re talking to. In some cultures for example, it is unacceptable to make eye contact whereas in others they expect it. Introductory greetings can also differ depending on where someone is from. In the US and the UK, it’s a firm handshake and in some European cultures it’s a kiss on each cheek – sometimes twice and sometimes three times! Making sure that any gestures you use are appropriate in another person’s culture will make a good impression and will avoid accidental offence.

Ask questions and show an interest in their culture.

Learn about new cultures

Barriers to communication are not always language based. They can sometimes simply be a lack of understanding about a particular culture. Be open minded to learning more about other cultures and finding out about their origins. If you’re meeting someone who comes from somewhere that you’ve never been to before, or if you’re meeting them in a place you’re visiting for the first time, ask questions. Show an interest and ask where the best places to visit are or what food you should try. This will make conversation more comfortable and will make communication easier.

Over 6,000 people joined took part in the Tall Ships Races & Regattas in 2018. Learn how to overcome any cultural barrier and enjoy the experience of lifetime by signing up to take part in 2019!

See our events for 2019

Confidence is key

Be confident in approaching someone, even if they are from a different country. If they have come over to your country for the first time, they may feel scared to approach anyone. Make the first move, say hello and try to make them feel as welcome as possible. Be open minded about their culture and offer to answer any questions they might have about yours.


Nuances and hidden barriers

Cultural differences can be unexpected. Sometimes even if you come from countries that speak the same language, you may still experience difficulties communicating. For example, American English and British English have differences in meanings for certain words. One example is types of potato, in America deep fried potatoes are called french fries whereas in the UK they are called chips.This can cause confusion and misunderstanding. To overcome this make sure you are willing to explain further if someone doesn’t understand you.


After reading our blog you should now feel more confident about how to communicate with other cultures.

Inspired to put our top tips to use? Take a look at our find your adventure page to find a sailing voyage that’s right for you.

Want to take part in one of our events? In 2018 we’ve got the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta, the Tall Ships Races and the SCF Far East Tall Ships Regatta. All these events will visit lots of different destinations providing plenty of opportunities to use your new-found knowledge. You can also find out where a vessel sails to on their vessel pages.

Featured image courtesy of MichaelGaida.

Banner image (cropped) courtesy of Angelgreat.

UK/USA Flag image courtesy of Clker-Free-Vector-Images.

‘Learn some key phrases from a new language’ image courtesy of Geralt.

‘Ask questions and show an interest in their culture’ image courtesy of Terimakasih0.