Why Australia makes diplomatic errors in Asia – Article 3

Australians display a remarkable lack of curiosity about the culture of other countries.

Leading trade missions, I find few who really want to dig deep and understand the culture they are visiting. Most are either not interested or overly confident that good old Aussie friendship will get us through. It does not.

mateship

Friendship is overlaid by culture, so what we see as merely being friendly can give offence in other cultures.

Cultural training for businesses rarely goes beyond the “how to greet and exchange business cards” approach which is merely the tip of the cultural iceberg.

diplomacy3

By learning about cultures, including our own, we can work out effective ways to stay true to ourselves while adapting to others. But this is a long way off.

Look at the case of relationships with India – soon to become one of the world’s top five economies and a vital cog in Indian Ocean regional security.

First there was the ban on sales on uranium – but the problem was more than the ban, it was our outspoken and public defence of not selling them uranium until they complied with global protocols.

It came across as a public lecture. It could have been done so much better in private diplomacy.

Then there was the issue of violence against an Indian student in Australia – before any investigation, Australia very strongly and publicly denied that there was any racist element in the attack. Clearly this was a premature claim and it riled the Indians, with hints of a cover up.

Again, a public spat which should have been a behind closed doors discussion and then a considered and cautious public statement. In the end, the relationship and trust were repaired but it took a Prime Ministerial visit and a lot of time to achieve this.

Underneath all these diplomatic errors is lack of cultural sensitivity.

culture7

This is the third in a series on “Why Australia makes diplomatic errors in Asia”.

Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s