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To achieve cross-cultural understanding, people living in a foreign land should first become fully aware of the cultural differences they face, then learn to respect them and finally attempt to reconcile the differences using their own culture’s framework.

International business consultant and author Fons Trompenaars gave the advice June 26 during a speech in Tokyo. “It’s important to remember that we can find many of the same seemingly bizarre cultural differences within ourselves,” he said. “Many foreigners in Japan may complain that when the Japanese say yes they often mean no.

“But when you are in love, you often say yes when you mean no because it is the relationship that matters more than the complete truth. Thinking of the Japanese in this way can help you move toward reconciliation, because you see the same behavior in yourself.”

Trompenaars is the president of the intercultural consulting group United Notions and is the author of several books on effective cross-cultural business practices. United Notions recently joined with JAL Academy, a Japanese language and cross-cultural training school, to offer their consulting services to Japanese and joint-venture corporations.

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