If you’re working with people from other cultures, or if you’re looking to set up a company abroad, you will have more success if you increase your cross-cultural knowledge base. The books listed below are the top 20 most-read resources in the subject of cross-cultural competence-building, and will teach you how to live and work successfully with other cultures
If you’re a cross-cultural trainer or interested in becoming one, these resources will give you the information you will need for building up your knowledge base and running your own training program.
To watch my video called “The Top 20 Cross-Cultural Books” in which I describe the different resources for building cross-cultural competence, click below.
Books by Richard Lewis
As a result of his life’s work, Richard came up with the Lewis Model of Culture. This is a cultural model which you can learn from, and—if you’re a trainer—build many lessons around.
Besides being my personal cultural guru, mentor and trainer, Richard Lewis is a cultural anthropologist, linguist and corporate trainer who has more than 50 years of experience studying, living and working with other cultures. He is also a polyglot who speaks 13 languages.
When Cultures Collide
This book is a must-have that lives on my desk. It’s the number one go-to resource for any information about cultural conditioning, bridging communication gaps, leadership and team building, motivating people, building trust, business meetings, negotiating, decision-making, contracts, body language and more.
Cross-Cultural Communication: a Visual Approach
Cross-Cultural Communication, a Visual Approach, is full of diagrams that give a visual picture of communication patterns at meetings, listening habits, audience expectations in presentations, leadership styles, and language of management. It’s a perfect compliment to “When Cultures Collide” and also lives on my desk for me to refer to at any moment.
Fish Can’t See Water
“Fish Can’t See Water” was authored by Richard Lewis and Kai Hammerich.
This book makes a case of how national culture has an impact on corporate strategy, and how cultures effect business success. Using many relevant case studies from multinational corporations around the world, we see how dynamics of culture can impact organizations—both positively and negatively. Even the best business leaders can be unaware of their own cultural tendencies, as well as the impact of culture on the functioning, and ultimately the success, of international business.
Books by Erin Meyer
What makes this book so valuable, for me, is that it’s one of the few resources out that that teaches you HOW to adapt to people from other types.
The Culture Map
In this book, Erin Meyer, author of the global bestseller The Culture Map, reveals how we can overcome the barriers that prevent us from understanding people in other countries and cultures, and what we can do to achieve real, lasting success while working in foreign countries. Meyer offers the reader a toolkit of practical and effective methods to help us navigate and succeed in cultures that are different from our own.
Books by Fons Trompenaars
With over three decades of experience in training and consulting globally, Trompenaars Hampden-Turner is a state-of-the-art, research-driven, niche consulting company with an extensive client list. It is well respected and has a renowned reputation in the area of Culture for Business. It is headed by culture guru, Fons Trompenaars, and supported by a world class network with strong links to academic institutions.
Riding the Waves of Culture
Riding the Waves of Culture offers a culture-specific approach to cross-cultural management, allowing business leaders to identify and understand the different cultural contexts in which they operate. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner have developed a comprehensive toolkit to help managers understand, communicate with, and work more productively with people from different cultural backgrounds.
Riding the Waves of Innovation
In Riding the Waves of Innovation, bestselling author and world-renowned expert on cultural differences, Fons Trompenaars, takes a new look at innovation – a concept that has become a buzzword but remains poorly understood.
He provides a compelling insight into the crucial role of cross-cultural understanding and communication in the successful management of innovation.
Business Across Cultures
In a global economy, working successfully with people from other countries is crucial to our success. But is there a common set of business practices that work in every country? In other words, can we truly “do business across cultures“? In this fascinating book, internationally renowned management consultant Fons Trompenaars makes a compelling case that a company’s ability to succeed in global markets depends on its attitude and approach toward other cultures.
Books by Geert Hofstede
Geert was a Dutch social psychologist who did a pioneering study of cultures
across modern nations.
His ideas about dimensions of culture were so outrageous that seventeen publishers refused the manuscript before a visionary boss at Sage accepted it. The book appeared in 1980. The rest is history.
Culture and Organizations: Software of the Mind
Software exists in the minds of people. Culture is the set of software that is used by a group of people. This book shows the power of Hofstede’s paradigm to improve intercultural understanding, cooperation and innovation. It covers the calculation of scores, their relevance and the use of scores in action.
Books by Edward Hall
If you want to go back to fundamentals, read the books by Edward Hall, who was one of the first interculturalists and coined the terms low-context and high-context. These are topics that should be covered in every cross-cultural training course, and the terms were first mentioned in Edward Hall’s 1959 Book The Silent Language.
The Silent Language
“The Silent Language” is an examination of the subtle body language signals that are used to communicate what we really mean, despite what we say, and often without our knowledge. The book also explores the differences between cultures and the signals used to communicate meaning and attitudes, giving pointers on how to communicate more clearly with people from other countries.
The Hidden Dimension
This book is about the dynamics of interpersonal space. It explains how we interpret distances between people and the way that we use space to manage our relationships with others.
The author explains the nature and origins of the social perception of distances and the meanings that are attached to these distances.
Beyond Culture explores the cultural nature of human beings and the fact that a person’s culture will have a profound effect on the way that person acts, thinks, and behaves throughout their life. People across different cultures have different ways to perceive and use time, resolve conflict, and view the world. The contrasts of cultural behavior are highlighted in this book, which emphasizes the need to understand people by looking beyond culture.
Books Recommended by
In addition to the above resources already mentioned, the following books were recommended by other fellow cross-cultural trainers.
Jean-Pierre Coene and Marc Jacobs
Negotiate like a Local
Negotiating across cultures is one of the most important challenges that business people face today. The authors have extensive experience and some illuminating anecdotes, but more importantly, they have filtered their experience through established research into cultural differences, and distilled useful negotiating lessons for those working and living abroad. This book delivers insights, explanations, and practical advice for the global business community.
Shelle Rose Charvet
Words that Change Minds
Words That Change Minds is not exactly a cross-cultural book but was recommended because it is a game-changing communication tool that reveals the patterns of persuasion and influence. It teaches you how to communicate with clarity, power and purpose so that you can get what you want, both in your personal and professional lives.
Say Anything to Anyone, Anywhere
Whether you’re traveling overseas or just heading over to your neighbor’s house for dinner, the ability to communicate effectively can make or break a trip. Gayle Cotton, a renowned cross-cultural trainer, has identified five key techniques that make all the difference.
She shows how to manage the expectations of others, how to avoid insulting others, how to manage the power-plays that come with business relationships, and how to be persuasive in a variety of situations.
The Intercultural Mind
The Intercultural Mind helps people get more out of their intercultural journeys. It provides a new way to understand culture and shows how people can adapt to new cultural situations.
The author examines what happens when people encounter different cultures and how culture affects the unconscious mind.
Cross-Cultural Business Behavior
In this day and age of globalization, people are doing business across cultures more and more. When making important business decisions, they must make sure that they understand the cultural differences that may exist in the country in which they operate.
Richard Gesteland’s Cross-Cultural Business Behavior provides readers with an in-depth understanding of important cultural differences.
Uncommon Sense in Unusual Times
The concept of “common sense” may be not common at all. What we think is “common sense” is relative to the culture we were raised in, and everyone has a different idea of what is “common” sense. Maybe you have had an experience in which you were aware of talking to someone in the same language, but you were understanding things from a totally different perspective? This book helps you make sense of the cultural differences in the world around you in these modern—and very unusual—times.
Culture has an impact on business, and likewise, business has an impact on culture. Globalization, leadership on a global scale, marketing across cultures, and negotiation across cultures are given critical analysis in this book. Also, management of bias, management of diversity, motivation strategies, and managing change are covered, given leaders strategic insight into these very complex and relevant issues of modern international business.