Cross-Cultural Communication:
Going Southern

Your organization, with its diverse workplace and clients, needs cultural competence to succeed and that means expertise in cross-cultural communication. The demand for this expertise continually increases, especially in The South, whether by international companies, healthcare organizations, or education institutions. Learning to communicate across cultures can be complex and demanding, so I begin by teaching the 3 CCD strategies: 1) Context,  2) Cultural Expressions, and 3) Directness.

My academic background in cultural anthropology and the teachings of Claude Levi-Strauss forms the basis for these strategies, but it’s personal experience that makes my strategies practical, including my life-altering transition from British Bermuda to New York. When my job brought me to Chattanooga 20 years ago, I saw another major cultural shift. Companies like Volkswagen made the State of Tennessee #1 in foreign investment according to its Dept. of Economic and Community Development.

Were the newcomers confused by the Southern culture? Were Southerners confused by the Newcomers? Yes, and that’s why I do cross-cultural communication coaching for both.


I begin with their number 1 source of confusion: Context. In the High Context (Bermuda and the South), the tone of voice, and gestures say as much as the words. In the Low Context, (Germany and New York) “Yes” means just “Yes”. Context Shifting requires practice and some help.


That help can come from the 2nd strategy, Cultural Expressions which include food, music, and sports as well as idioms. These expressions are short hand for cultural themes and styles. I use Cultural Expressions to create a positive learning environment where both Newcomers and Natives can learn to adapt more efficiently.


The third strategy, Directness, can be a make-or-break communication mode. For those who are Indirect, directness can be insulting. For those who are direct, indirectness is annoying. Anger over each other’s supposed stupidity or meanness are common. But if you learn how to match directness to context, you can minimize this culture clash.

Don’t let mis-managed cross-cultural communication derail you, or your team. Learn the CCD strategies: Context to manage confusion, Cultural expressions for a positive learning environment, and Directness to avoid culture clash. Begin by assessing you PERSONAL context Level. Self-awareness will ease the learning curve and give you allies rather than adversaries. Need help? Contact me through the CONTACT FORM below. I look forward to assisting you.


It was a pleasure having Deborah Levine as the keynote speaker for our annual College of Liberal Arts Diversity Symposium, in March 2018.  Deborah is, not only a charming and emphatic individual, but also well versed in the topic of interest to us here in the south, where we are starting to see a wonderful increase of international individuals and companies especially in the automotive industry.  She gave useful tips and insights on similar developments in the geographical area where she lives and operates.  She was very mindful in structuring her talk by starting with an academic/ intellectual context, bringing up sociological/anthropological theories and remarks and finishing with practical examples and things experienced to connect well with our student population in attendance.  The reception showed that not only her talk resonated with the audience but that the speaker was well liked and her expertise appreciated.  Students felt comfortable in asking questions and approaching the speaker afterward. Will definitely consider having Deborah back to our campus in the future.
~ Dr. Giovanna Summerfield, Professor and Associate Dean for Educational Affairs. College of Liberal Arts: Auburn University.

Deborah Levine Enterprises LLC