Monthly Archives: December, 2012

Localization vs. Globalization

1271131079tbkG56Helping international audiences understand a message is the central purpose of cross-cultural communication. In order to do this effectively, technical communicators need to prepare documents with their audience in mind. Typically, when preparing documents for international audiences, communicators either globalize their message, or they localize it.







As Ugur Akinci wrote in an article about globalization and localization, the difference between these two methods is as follows:

  • GLOBALIZATION requires Cultural Sanitation.
  • LOCALIZATION requires Cultural Adaptation.

Click here to read the full article.



To globalize a document, a communicator must “sanitize” the document by removing cultural references, idioms, metaphors, and language that won’t translate well into another language. Typically this is a cheaper option, but the downside is that this method can create a document that is boring to read.


Localization requires communicators to translate documents in such a way that cultural references are understandable and specific to the target audience. This can be a difficult and expensive process since a document can have audiences that speak dozens of languages. However, this method will create more readable documents

Which one should I use?

When choosing between these two methods, it’s important to consider the audience and situation. How important is your document? Is it just a brief set of instructions? Or is it a manual that will be referenced repeatedly? If it is a very important document, perhaps it will be worth the time, effort, and resources to localize the document, especially if your target audience speaks one language (e.g., an operation manual for a product that is exclusively sold in Germany).

Meanwhile, if you have a simple set of instructions for a cheap watch to be sold worldwide, expending resources on localizing the document is not worth it. It would be better to globalize it so translators will have an easy time preparing it for the target audiences.


Stress in different countries

OECDI wasn’t able to post on Tuesday night because I’ve been very bogged down with the end of the semester. I’ve had to write several papers and complete several projects, all of which have taken up most of my time. I was exhausted last night, but fortunately I’m all done now! That’s a great feeling.

I think stress is a normal thing for students to feel during finals week; it’s practically a universal struggle for all of us, no matter where we’re from. I don’t think stress is any respecter of persons.

Although stress is common throughout the world, it isn’t necessarily evenly dispersed. The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) releases life satisfaction indexes for entire countries, which indicate the level of happiness reflected by a the populace of a country. The results are based on surveys in each country. It’s hard to know how accurate these results really are, or how to interpret them. Nevertheless, they provide interesting insights into how certain people view themselves.

You can view some of the life satisfaction indexes by clicking here.

Apparently European nations are very satisfied with their lives. Countries such as Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland top the list. The United States? We have an life satisfaction rating of 7.6, which makes us 12th on the list.

The report is very thorough, analyzing satisfaction in context with health, education, the environment, income, and other factors.

Of course, this study doesn’t necessarily indicate which country is the best in the world; it’s more of an indicator of who is the happiest in their home country. This rating can reflect much more on the culture and general attitude of a people than the actual living conditions. Some people may be completely content with a modest income and a simple lifestyle. Other cultures might be more demanding of the populace, leading people to be perpetually dissatisfied with their current situations.

No matter what the study, it’s always important to analyze what we can actually safely conclude from the data. Also, it’s always important to remember that this kind of information does not necessarily allow us to make generalizations about people from certain countries. If we see that Estonia has a life satisfaction of 1.9, we shouldn’t assume that all Estonians are depressed all the time.

So why are these numbers even useful at all? These statistics can provide us with a lens with with which to interpret our own data we’ve collected on a country. Say a company is trying to sell a smart phone in a country like Spain, where work-life balance is very high. It’s apparent that the people in Spain value a good work-life balance, and therefore a smart phone company can say that its device will increase work efficiency and give and individual more free time.

This is something you’d want to verify with a cross-cultural analyst since there are so many idiosyncratic faux-pas we can commit in each country. However, these statistics can certainly give us a place to start.

Is the context high or low?

The terms high and low context cultures, according to an article from Communicaid, refer to how people communicate in different cultures.  A high-context culture (such as cultures in Africa, the Middle-East, China, and India) relies more on long-term relationships, cultural associations, and mutual experiences. In a high-context culture, being part of a family or tribe can communicate a lot more than just words can. Word choice is more important in high-context cultures, since a few words can have a deeper cultural and historical meaning. Meanwhile, low-context cultures the verbalization of ideas is much more important.

When interacting with people from other cultures, it is very important to know whether they come from high- or low-context cultures, because you will be able to adapt your communication style and make better friendships. While there are entire books and studies dedicated to this subject, a brief introduction can be beneficial!

Here is a list comparing and contrasting the differences between the two:

High Context Low Context
Indirect and implicit messages Direct, simple and clear messages
Polychronic Monochronic
High use of non-verbal communication Low use of non-verbal communication
Low reliance on written communication High reliance on written communication
Use intuition and feelings to make decisions Rely on facts and evidence for decisions
Long-term relationships Short-term relationships
Relationships are more important than schedules Schedules are more important than relationships
Strong distinction between in-group and out-group Flexible and open

This information will only become more important as we seek to understand people from all different kinds of cultures. Here in the United States, we are considered a low-context culture. However, many of the cultures found in Cache Valley (Filipino, Indian, Mexican, Japanese) are high-context, so it is important to understand their style of communication.

At first it may seem very difficult to try and develop relationships with people from high-context cultures, since they are a little cliquish, but after time, experience, and a little know-how, it becomes very possible! What are some of your experiences with people from high-context cultures?