What Is Culture?

Culture is a shared set of practices and values that are learned from the moment we are born – culture is not genetic, we don’t inherit our culture, we acquire it through all the influences and experiences. We can’t always anticipate every customer situation, but we can prepare ourselves by understanding what impacts how people think and act – and why. Understanding the “why” behind culture is essential.

Impact of Culture on Perceptions:

When we talk about perceptions, it’s not about rights or wrongs, but simply acknowledging that culture has influenced our – and our customers — perspectives and expectations. Our goal when interacting with our customers from different countries and cultures — is to make a point of seeing things from their culture perspective. By understanding that the cultural reference perspective of our customers may impact what they expect from us, our interactions and communications.


The key is to remember that no culture, value or behavior is better or worse than another – just different.


Our goal is not for everyone to think and act alike – but rather, to work towards a healthy level of mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance of both the similarities and differences – and most importantly understanding perspective.

How do Cultures Differ?

One key way that culture impacts our customer interactions. It’s a concept called High Context vs Low Context Communications. High and low context refers to how a message is communicated – whether through words or actions.

Low Context (Direct) Cultures:

In what are called low-context cultures, such as the United States and most Northern European countries, people tend to be explicit and direct in their words and communications.

High Context (Indirect) Cultures:

In high-context cultures, such as Latin America, Asia, and Africa, invest the physical context of the message with a great deal of importance. People tend to be more verbally indirect and to expect their communication partners to decode the implicit part of their message.

It can be tricky when we are interacting with someone who has a different expectation of our communications based on their cultural reference point.


Here are a few quick tips to communicate more effectively across cultures.

  • Everyone is a “customer” in some situation.

  • Global customers expect Purser attentiveness throughout the flight, particularly in service recovery situations.

  • Give our customers a personal touch incorporating their cultural preferences.

  • Manage your tone, words, & body language with customers & colleagues.

  • Be mindful of standing too close; Avoid slouching and looking uninterested.

  • Be mindful of your own facial expressions; smiles not frowns.

  • Be Patient. Customers may not have language fluency to quickly get your attention or feel culturally appropriate to ask for something.

  • Minimize slang, incomplete sentences, or inflight jargon.

  • Confirm understanding with a polite verbal response. Be aware of our word choices.

  • Be mindful of your facial and physical gestures.

  • Be mindful of audio speed and volume for non-native speakers of a language. Remember to speak slowly as well as enunciate and pronounce words clearly. Your tone of voice should convey warmth and welcome.

  • Formality vs. informality

  • Use full sentences. Polite speech expected.

  • Use Please, Thank you, You’re welcome & Sorry.

  • Request our customers; not tell or order with single word questions or commands.

  • Use Mr., Mrs. Dr. and last names — NO first names — or Sir & Madam.

  • NO endearments even if a frequent traveler – NO honey, sweetie, hon, darlin’, etc.

  • No “hey” or “hey there”; always “hello”.

  • Always Keep It Formal & Polite — with a friendly smile.

  • Be mindful that service recovery and apologizing can differ by culture.

  • Engage in pleasant & polite conversation if a Customer engages you.

  • Attentive! Observe closely & Anticipate our customer’s needs. Proactive.

  • Smile! The most effective way to communicate with all our global customers.

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