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Cross-Cultural Communications in Business

Were Going To Talk About.


is Culture? Cultural Diversity High-Context Cultures Low-Context Cultures

What is Culture???
Shared system of symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations and norms for behavior May be based on. Nationality Race and Religion Historical Roots All of the Above

Ethnocentrism-tendency to judge all other groups according to ones own group Xenophobia
Stereotyping- Distorted views of other cultures or groups

Cultural pluralism- practice of accepting multiple cultures in our own group

Cultural Diversity
IBM International = Intercultural 325,000 employees from 175 countries 165 languages

High-Context Cultures

Rely highly on environmental setting

Prefer indirectness, politeness & ambiguity. Prefer spoken language

Asian Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Israel

Rely heavily on nonverbal signs.

Low-Context Cultures

Rely more on Verbal comminication Explicitly spell out information.

Value directness. See indirectness as manipulative. Value written word more than oral statements.

European Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway U.S., Cuba, Canada, Haiti, Mexico

EX 3.1 High Context and Low Context Countries

High Context: Meaning Implicit Languages Japanese Arabs Surrounding Latin Americans Information Italians Necessary for Understanding British French North Americans Scandinavians Germans Swiss

Low Context: Meaning Explicit in Language

Some Cultural Scenarios





To help her American Company establish a presence in Japan, Mrs. Torres wants to hire a local interpreter who can advise her on business customs. Ms. Tomari has superb qualifications on paper, but when Mrs. Torres tries to probe about her experience, Ms. Tomari just says, I will do my best. I will try very hard. She never gives details about any of the previous positions she has held. Mrs. Torres begins to wonder if Ms. Tomari's rsum is inflated.

Stan Williams wants to negotiate a joint venture between his American firm and a Beijing-based company. He asks Tung-Sen Lee if the Chinese people have enough discretionary income to afford his product. Mr. Lee is silent for a time, and then says, Your product is good. People in the West must like it. Stan smiles, pleased that Mr. Lee recognizes the quality of his product, and he leaves a contract for Mr. Lee to sign. Weeks later, Stan still hasnt heard anything. If China is going to be so inefficient, he wonders if his company should try to do business there.

Gloria Johnson is proud of her participatory management style. Assigned in Bombay on behalf of her U.S.-based company, she is careful not to give orders but to ask for suggestions. But the employees rarely suggest anything. Even a formal suggestion system she established does not work. Worse still, she doesnt sense the respect and camaraderie that she felt at the plant she managed in Texas. Perhaps the people in India just are not ready for a woman boss.

Alan Caldwell is a U.S. sales representative in Mexico City. He makes appointments with Senr Lopez and is careful to be on time, but his host is frequently late. To save time, Alan tries to get right to business, his host wants to talk about sightseeing and about Alans family. Even worse, the meetings are interrupted constantly with phone calls, long conversations with other people, and even customers children who come into the office. Alans first report to his home office is very negative. He hasnt yet made a sale. Perhaps Mexico just isnt the right place to do business.

Legal and ethical differences

Low context culture adhere to the law strictly and vice versa in high context culture
In U.S. and U.K. someone is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty and vice-versa in Mexico and turkey Bribing allowed in China, Kenya, Russia to Government officials and vice-versa in U.S.

Apply four basic principles

Actively seek mutual ground

Trust each others culture

Fully aware of personal and cultural biases Show respect for cultural differences

Social differences

Failure of Wal-Mart in Germany (Smiling issue) Formal rules (table manners, clothes) are well defined but informal rules (tone n pitch of speech, Proper distance) are learned through observation Formal + informal = overall behavior

Social rules

Attitudes towards work and success (Max. working hours, self dependent) Roles and status ( Mr. and Ms. in U.S. and official titles in China to show respect) Use of Manners (Asking about weekend common in U.S. but is intrusive in other cultures, No gifts for other mans wife in Arabian cultures, offer wine in Germany after dinner to the guests) Concepts of time (low context cultures follow flexi timings, working from home)

Non verbal Differences

use of a finger and hand to indicate come here please, used to beckon dogs in some cultures and is very offensive. While patting a childs head is considered to be a friendly or affectionate gesture in our culture, it is considered inappropriate by many Asians to touch someone on the head which is believed to be a sacred part of the body. In the Middle East, the left hand is reserved for bodily hygiene and should not be used to touch another or transfer objects. In Muslim cultures, touch between opposite gendered individuals is generally inappropriate.

In mainstream Western culture, eye contact is interpreted as attentiveness and honesty

In Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American, eye contact is thought to be disrespectful or rude Women may especially avoid eye contact with men because it can be taken as a sign of sexual interest. In Vietnamese cultures, complimenting babies is avoided for fear that these comments may be overheard by a spirit that will try to steal the baby or otherwise cause some harm to come to him or her.

Walking differences between U.S. and Japan The Japanese walk in short quick strides and drooping shoulders, in contrast, Americans view walking tall with longer strides and a more upright posture as having confidence and strength
It is very rare that Japanese people entertain in their own homes and it is customary to go out the hand gesture we use for "come here," in Spain means that you are very romantically interested in the person A genuine SMILE works everywhere

Age differences

In U.S. looking younger matters a lot, age is associated with declining power In Asian cultures, age and seniority is valued, not to interrupt when a senior person is talking

Gender Differences

Men emphasize on content

Women focus on relationship management and expression part more

More opportunities for women in Western countries as compared to Asian and African cultures, glass ceiling

U.S. Business Culture

Individualism: Individual competition and success Equality Privacy and personal space ( knock the office door, no personal questions at workplace) Time (punctuality) Communication style (direct, focus on content and transactions rather than relationships or group harmony)

Work ethics: good, honest, hard work is rewarded Religion : No official state religion

Improving Intercultural Communication Skills

1. Studying other cultures :

Understand the social customs Learn about clothing and food preferences Assess political patterns Understand religious and folk beliefs Learn about economic and business institutions Appraise the nature of ethics, values, and laws

2. Studying other Languages: IBM, 165 languages Demand for multilingual communicators E.g. Netherlands Outsourcing in India Chinas official language ; Mandarin learned by U.S. professionals Two countries speaking the same language not necessarily speak it the same way E.g. French spoken in Canada is different than France E.g. In U.S. and U.K., elevator-lift, gasoline-petrol, colour-color

3. Respecting Preferences for Communication Style: Level of Directness Degree of formality Preferences for written Vs spoken language U.S. ; open and direct communication Sweden; Directness taken as efficiency sign Japan, China; less direct communication

4. Writing and Speaking clearly: Use simple, clear language-rich and wealthy Be brief- simple sentences and short paragraphs Use transitional elements- in addition, first, second Address international correspondence Cite numbers and dates carefully- U.S. :12-05-07 means Dec 5,2007 but also taken as May 12, 2007. Japan, China : 2007-12-05, U.S., U.K., India:1.000=1, but means 1000 in few European countries

Avoid slang and business jargon (e.g. big guns, have big mouth, blown away; SOP, EHS) Avoid humor and other references to popular culture

5. Listening Carefully Tone, speed, volume E.g. in China word ma different meaning of mother, pile up, horse, scold Regular Arabic speech seems excited and angry to an English listener Japanese more softer than Westerners Ask to repeat before concluding to meaning

6. Using Interpreters, Translators, and Translation Software

Difference between Interpreter and translator Back translation (once a translator encodes a message into another language, a different translator retranslates the same message into the original language)
Machine translation Dedicated software tools and online services; offer some form of automated translation

7. Helping others adapt to your culture