Glossary of Terms

Black Swan

A black swan event is an unexpected, rare event which has a huge impact on your business. The term was coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and comes from the historical rarity of the black swan in nature. Examples in project management could be a freak accident at work, an important supplier suddenly going bankrupt, or a terrorist attack.

Collectivist Culture

A culture that values the needs and goals of the community or group above an individual’s. Collectivist cultures also value the importance of belonging to groups that look after you in exchange for loyalty. (McCornack, 52)

Company of One

Also seeks profits, but staying small isn’t a sign of failure. Instead, staying small is a conscious choice and the definition of success. Staying small means being able to achieve and sustain a predefined level of income as well as a high level of freedom and control over your time.


The system of social, ethical, and moral standards characterized by values of hard work, collectivism, reciprocity, respect of elders, hierarchy, discipline, orderly society, good behavior, humility, and ‘saving face.’ ‘Do not do to others that which you yourself do not desire’ is the ‘Silver Rule’ at the center of ethical beliefs. The philosophies of Confucius define the Chinese culture and still have a strong influence on the lives of people in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. These days there are still over 6,000,000 people who follow Confucianism, according to National Geographic. If you are about to do business in East Asia and you need a crash course on culture, a good way to prepare yourself is to read up on Confucianism.


The set of circumstances or facts that surround an event or situation. In terms of intercultural communication, it includes body language, tone of voice, behavior and attitude, non-response, and other factors.

EOR = Employer of Record

EORs manage HR duties like payroll and benefits for your workers in a foreign country. An EOR can employ workers in other countries on your behalf and will officially be the legal employer of your workers. If you did not yet set up a business abroad, working with an EOR is significantly more affordable than opening a new entity in the foreign country.


The belief that your culture is the best one or the only correct one.


Usually works on an hourly wage or gets paid per project, meaning the earnings stop once he/she stops working. Generally doesn’t profit on a product or project after finishing the work.

GRO: Government Relations Officer

This is a person who basically helps you open a business, or helps conduct certain business activities on your behalf, in the Middle East. The name differs slightly from country to country; in some places it is called a PRO (Public Relations Officer). Their job is to visit government offices and make the bureaucratic process easier. They wait in lines, obtain stamps on documents, and they are fluent Arabic speakers. They understand how to carry out certain transactions that would be difficult for expats, and can even help you gain valuable partners and clients in the new market.

High-Context Culture

A culture in which verbal communication is often ambiguous and meaning is drawn from contextual cues, such as facial expressions and tone of voice. (Floyd, G3).


A person who is impulsive typically acts upon emotion, or acts without thinking.

Individualist Culture

A culture that values individual goals over group or societal goals. (McCornack, 52)

Intercultural Competence

The ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds in ways that are ethical, appropriate, and effective. (McCornack, 267)


In business, “leapfrogging” means when companies, organizations, or even societies modernize quickly and skip over some of the tedious steps of development.


Linear-active people tend to be task-oriented, highly organized planners who complete action-chains by doing one thing at a time, with a linear agenda. They prefer direct discussion, sticking to facts and figures from reliable, written sources. Speech is for information exchange and they talk and listen in equal proportions. They are truthful rather than diplomatic and do not fear confrontation, sticking to logic rather than emotions. They partly conceal feelings and value a certain amount of privacy. They are results-oriented and like to move quickly forward, compromising when necessary to achieve a deal. (Richard Lewis,


A person who talks freely, using a lot of words.

Low-Context Culture

A culture that relies on words themselves, rather than on the conversational situation, to convey meaning, resulting in direct verbal communication. In the United States, for example, we prefer directness and clarity rather than what we view as vague hints. (McCornack, 186)


A cultural orientation towards time that values careful scheduling and time management. In the United States, for instance, appointments are important. (McCornack, 233) A concept that treats time as a finite commodity that can be earned, saved, spent, and wasted. (Floyd, G4)


Multi-active people are talkative, impulsive types who attach great importance to feelings, relationships and people-orientation. They like to do many things at the same time and tend to feel confined by agendas. Conversation is roundabout and animated and they try to speak and listen at the same time. Interruptions are frequent, and pauses in conversation are few. Multi-active cultures are uncomfortable with silence and seldom permit or experience it. (Richard Lewis,


An active listening technique in which you state a concise summary of what you just heard.

PEO = Professional Employment Organization

PEOs manage HR duties like payroll and benefits for your workers in a foreign country. PEO’s can’t employ workers on your behalf, so when working with a PEO, you are still the legal employer. With a PEO you need to have your own entity in the country or region, and you are responsible for being compliant with local labor laws.

Pivot factor

In cross-cultural leadership and management, it is the ability to adjust your communication style, work ethic, conflict resolution style, techniques for motivating others, and more to achieve the desired results. Managing a team of people from different cultures is never “one size fits all”.


A cultural orientation toward time, viewing it loosely and fluidly and valuing human relationships over strict schedules and efficiency. In Mexico, for instance, punctuality may be sacrificed to savor a conversation. (McCornack, 236)


A person who speaks many languages.


Reactive or listening cultures rarely initiate action or discussion, preferring first to listen to and establish the other’s position, then react to it and formulate their own. They are the world’s best listeners because they concentrate on what the speaker is saying, do not let their minds wander, and rarely, if ever, interrupt a speaker while the conversation is going on. When it is finished, they do not reply immediately. A decent period of silence after the speaker has stopped shows respect for the weight of the remarks, which must be considered unhurriedly and with due deference. (Richard Lewis,

Save face

To prevent embarrassment of yourself or another person.

Small Business

Seeks profits, and also seeks to grow. Always looking for opportunities to expand, and may be seen as a failure if it never gets bigger.


Someone who starts a business alone, without any other partners.

Virtual Assistant

Someone who works for you from a distance. The work between you and a virtual assistant is managed completely through virtual meetings and communication over the phone and internet.

Word-deed correlation

The direct connection between what is promised and what is done. The act of fulfilling promises. According to cross-cultural expert Richard Lewis, this is an important cultural value in linear-active cultures.

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