Culture has often been cited as one of the biggest barriers to successful offshore outsourcing. While we all know and agree that that is the case, and often \n\ntalk about it, not all of us understand specifically how different cultural aspects show up in \n\noffshore projects and how the resulting barriers can be addressed. To know more about how culture differences show up, one can either rely on research \n\nstudies or on first hand observations and experience. When it comes to research, Geert Hofstede's \n\nwork in identifying cross-country cultural differences based on five measures: power distance, \n\nindividualism, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation and masculinity, is a good starting \n\npoint. A few examples: Western countries like U.S. and U.K. are more individualistic compared to \n\nthe collective culture in Latin America and Asia; Asian countries like China and Japan score high on long term \n\norientation while western countries are more short-term oriented. Richard Nisbett, a social \n\npsychologist, found that Easterners perceive objects holistically through a wide-angle lens whereas \n\nWesterners perceive them in isolation, through a narrow lens with sharper focus. Another study \n\nlooked at culture and mum effect, which occurs when one or more stakeholders who have information \n\nindicating a project is failing decide to remain silent and let the project continue. It indicates \n\nthat the risk of mum effect is higher in Asia than in the West. Of course, there are caveats and \n\nassumptions in these studies so they should serve only as initial anchors rather than absolute \n\ntruth. First hand observations and experience bring out much more specific aspects. For example, \n\nUtkarsh Rai, author of Offshoring Secrets highlights specific aspects of the Indian \n\nculture that show up while managing offshore projects\u2014the compare and contrast culture, the \n\nworkplace socialization practices, the importance of age and seniority, the sensitivity to \n\ncriticism and the difficulty in saying no. This is in stark contrast with some elements of the \n\nwestern culture\u2014the directness of criticism, the slightly circumlocutory style of communication and the focus on productivity in U.K. and the informality of work culture, the \n\ndirect but sometimes overbearing style of communication and the "it's all about time and money" approach in the U.S. These cultural differences impact interactions, communication, interpretation, understanding, \n\nproductivity, comfort and commitment. So how can we address them? Companies have adopted two routes so far: cultural awareness and \n\nculturally compatible resource deployment. Cultural awareness involves conducting workshops and \n\nsessions both offshore and offshore to make both sides aware of each other's cultural practices. In \n\nfact, such sessions are now included as a freebie in many large outsourcing programs. Culturally \n\ncompatible resource deployment involves having local, native onsite persons manage the onshore \n\nclient relationship or even having a culturally compatible offshore workforce (example U.K. and South Africa). The \n\ntwo things to be kept in mind while doing this are firstly whether the cultural barrier is \n\naddressed internally within the service provider's organization and secondly if the erosion of cost \n\nadvantage is worth it. Beyond the above, obvious solutions, companies need to keep three principles in mind to fully \n\naddress cultural barriers. The first principle is that it is a two-way street. A director of a \n\nleading cultural training institute in U.K. once told me of an incident where his (not yet then) \n\nclient in U.K. was complaining "the Chinese don't know how to work with us. The Indians don't know how to work with us". The director retorted, "Have you ever considered \n\nthat you may not know how to work with them?" So it's as much about the buyer understanding the \n\nsupplier's culture as the other way round. The second principle is that it takes conscious effort, intention and patience for cultural \n\nawareness to show up in our behavior. There are two systems in our mind\u2014System 1, the \n\nintuitive part, and System 2, the reflective part. Our native cultural factors are in System 1, and \n\nwhen we learn about a new culture, it gets slotted in System 2. So unless we practice and reflect \n\nabout the new culture, the intuitive aspect of our own culture will still be the only driver. \n\nScientists have also found that our childhood cultural experience plays a major role in shaping the \n\nway we think and as we grow older, the neuroplasticity of our brain actually reduces, making change \n\nmuch harder. The third and most important principle is that addressing the cultural barrier requires a shift \n\nin individual thinking. Each culture brings in its unique perspective, and that's what is required \n\nto solve today's complex problems. But we listen to other cultures through our own judgments and \n\nprejudices. We have to be willing to let them go, to accept another. How we see other people and \n\ntheir differences is merely a point of view. And no one point of view is the only true or correct one.Arpit Kaushik runs the London-based outsourcing service design firm, Crystals, that helps forward-looking companies to realize \n\nthe promised benefits of outsourcing.