Books and Online Resources for Cultivating Cultural Awareness

The best way I know to cultivate cultural awareness – in addition to traveling to a foreign market to experience it on your own – is to read.  I particularly recommend the following books and online resources.

•  Roger E. Axtell’s Gestures: The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World (1977) is a simple, amusing, and informative survival guide to understanding cultures other than your own.


•  Dr. David Livermore’s Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success (2009) provides solid academic research and years of experience on how to become more adept at managing across cultures. He’s also written The Cultural Intelligence Difference: Master the One Skill You Can’t Do Without in Today’s Global Economy (2011), which is also worth a look.

•  Axtell’s Do’s and Taboos of Hosting International Visitors (1990) is another good guide to everything from entertaining, to business protocol, to what overseas guests find peculiar about the American way.

•  Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway’s Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands (The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More than 60 Countries) (2006) discusses cultural overviews, behavior styles, negotiating techniques, protocol, and business practices in sixty countries. They also have books in the same series for Asia, Europe, Latin America, and on sales and marketing.


•  Jerome Dumetz and colleagues’ Cross-Cultural Management Textbook: Lessons from the World Leading Experts (2012) helps people develop the behaviors and skills necessary to adapt to a culturally diverse world.

•  Richard D. Lewis’s When Cultures Collide, 3rd Edition: Leading Across Cultures (2005) provides an enlightening global guide to working and communicating across cultures and countries.

 His insights could mean the difference between winning and losing valuable orders in overseas markets.

•  Erin Meyer’s The Culture Map:  Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business (2014) guides you through the subtle, sometimes treacherous terrain where people from starkly different backgrounds from all over the world are expected to work harmoniously together.  It’s an important read for those engaged in global business.

For more country-specific cultural information, you might also try the following online sites:

1.  National Geographic (

The National Geographic Society, inspiring people since 1888, is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

2.  Lonely Planet (

Reading something written by a Lonely Planet author, you can guarantee they've been there, had a look for themselves and are telling you what they really think.

It's trusted advice from a trusted source.

3.  Fodor’s Travel guides (Ireland’s guide, for example, can be found here:

In the case of Ireland, you can discover why you should go (in case you are debating!), where to stay, an Insider’s Tip, when to go and how to plan your trip.  Here’s an example of an Insider’s Tip:

“"Sligo has some nice shops and pubs," notes Fodorite Padhraicin. "Hardogans is a lovely pub to drop into during the day. Visit the woodcarver Michael Quirke in his shop on Wine Street.""

4.  US Commercial Service “Market Research Library” 

You can search reports by industry, region, country, date and keywords. 
5.  Central Intelligence Agency’s “World Factbook” ( offers information beyond a country’s culture, including on geography, the people, government, economy, and transportation.
Conducting a search under All Industries (industry), Japan (country), Country Commercial Guide (Report Type) and 2011-2014 (date range), leads you to, “Doing Business in Japan:  2013 Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies" 

Enjoy the reading – then, put it to work in your import/export activities.

Photo courtesy:  Laurel J. Delaney

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