Ben Donnell What is it that businesses are builton? Relationships. Relationships are a cornerstone that a price cannot be placedon. How you survive, adapt, and expand are all based on who you trust and whotrusts you. A few decades ago, relationships in a business sense were all basedaround who was in your country, or more specifically, state, or city.
Now, inthe year 2018 relationships have spread worldwide. As these relationships havespread, so have the markets and the potential influence of a company. Now, youcan take your company to any country that will allow it. For example, accordingto Business Insider, Apple has almost 500 stores in 19 different countries.With this, Apple has also has become a top 40 retailer in the world, plus oneof the fastest growing retailers.
(Business Insider) As large companies like McDonald’s, Coca- Cola, and Apple havespread into other countries, so also have small companies. But with all this opportunitythere is one big problem. How are you, as a business, going to bridge the gapbetween two different cultures and ideals? This can be very difficult,especially between a high context culture, such as China, and a low contextculture, such as The U.S. Knowing the difference between the two and how tobring the two together is a sought after skill and is totally priceless intoday’s business world.
It will open doors for you, like the chance to travelthe world, experience another culture, and to make a big impact for yourbusiness. It also will allow you to not only have a deeper understanding ofanother culture, but also your own. (Barton) Before you can do that, however, youmust learn the basics. For starters, a high context cultureis defined as cultures that rely heavily on situational cues for meaning whenperceiving and communicating with others. Examples of this are China, Korea,Japan, Vietnam, Mexico, and Arab cultures.
(Kinicki, 69) In other words,nonverbal communication speaks louder than verbal communication in thesecultures. Using body language, gestures, and the tone of your voice is key. Beadvised, people in these cultures may come off as analyzing you and not betalkative in your first meeting with them. They are not trying to be rude, itis just of utmost importance to them because they want to see how youcommunicate nonverbally. Additionally,there are more unspoken and unwritten rules that people follow.
People in thesecultures like to also get to know people personally before agreeing to anythingwith them. According to Jennifer Beer on culture-at-work.com, there isdefinitely more of a familial aspect to it than low context cultures and it isdefinitely slower moving too. A low context culture, is the opposite. Writtenand spoken words speak loudest in these cultures. Examples of a low contextculture are The U.S, or European countries.
Some of these countries like towrite out everything in terms of laws, and agreements can be made purely offsomeone’s word. How to act in these cultures may also be more spelled out thanhigh context cultures. Now the difficulty comes when acompany, like Coca-Cola, may send an expatriate to another country to bridgethe gaps between two countries. They may lay the foundations for a newCoca-Cola plant in Korea, or run the plant itself. In order to do that,however, you’re going to have to establish business relationships with peopleoverseas.
With the clashing of cultures, this can become quite difficult. Thatis why this skill is so needed by companies. And it is why I decided to writethis paper.
Now, I will go through an example of both a high context cultureand a low context culture, comparing and contrasting the two. First up, the high context culture I will focus on is Japan. Accordingto Alan Frost, a blogger on Kyoto Restaurant, a blog about Japanese culture, “Japanis considered one of the highest context cultures in the world.” With thatcomes the idea of polychromic time, which is the idea of viewing time as fluidrather than sequentially. Deadlines to the Japanese, therefore, are not as bigof a deal to them as to us Americans.
We as Americans, are used to the idea ofmonochromic time, where time is linear, deadlines rule our lives, and beinglate or interrupted is frowned upon. Frost also mentions how they “like tojuggle multiple tasks and prefer unstructured work environments.” While all ofthis was fascinating to me, the most interesting thing I have discovered fromreading Frost’s works is that the Japanese do believe in polychromic time, butwhen it comes to technology and foreigners, they believe in the monochromicapproach. In order for them to have respect for you, you must earn it.Interruptions will not be tolerated when they are dealing with someonedifferent from them or new technology.
There are many other aspects I can get into, but sticking with thehow it affects the workplace, these are some other things I have discovered. Frosttalks about how the workplace in Japan is more communal, meaning the managersdo not separate themselves from other employees. They believe they are in ittogether as a team, and will share the same struggles together.
I reallyrespect that because it seems to me that they approach it almost like a familywould. This must certainly cause a more closely knit, harmonious workforce. Tostrengthen their relationships even more, the Japanese do not separatesocialization from work. This is another aspect of polychromic time. They havetime in their day where they socialize with each other, strengthen theirrelationships and become a single unit.
Being like a single unit is somethingthe Japanese pride themselves on. They are considered a homogenous society,meaning they have a strong identity and little diversity within their nation.(Columbia University) On top of this, the Japanese do not like change. If theydo change something, it will take a long time to accomplish it.
They willdiscuss and discuss and discuss some more until it is resolved. They do notrush into decisions or conclusions. In terms of decisions, it is about what thegroup collectively wants rather than individual opinions. So it is important toknow your place in a high context culture.
If you do become an expatriate inJapan, do not expect to win over Japanese businessmen so quickly. They preferto establish a relationship with you before they reach any agreements with you.You also must stay within the confines of their traditions and rules. Highcontext cultures, specifically Japan, is all about following rules and not”thinking outside the box.” (Barton) Next, the culture I will be talking about is a little morecomfortable and familiar to us, America. America is the prime example of a lowcontext culture, just like Japan is for a high context culture. We, asAmericans, like to communicate verbally. We really like to talk, unlike theJapanese, who are keener to listening.
Low context cultures hate silence. Ipersonally attest to this, as someone who lives in America. I take silence asrejection, avoiding, or awkward, but high context individuals take silence aspondering a situation, sometimes silence is necessary, and sometimes there is noneed for words due to context of the relationship. “The words we communicate withare so important to us because they are foundations for our behavior.” (Kelm)We also prefer spelling everything out in terms of rules and customs.
Lowcontext cultures love writings, numbers, and data. (Kelm) Without these aspects,business leaders in America see no support for a decision. Business leader arealso less communal, typically separating themselves from the rest of theworkers. Privacy is of utmost importance in America and other low contextcultures. (Neese) There is less of a sense of community, rather it is all aboutaccomplishing objectives.
Unlike high context cultures, there is more of an individualisticview on life in general. A person in a group in America is more comfortablestating their opinion rather than just going with the status quo. This meansthat there is less unity among people in a low context culture, but there is agreater chance for a more efficient or better method. There is also morevariety of ideas, change, and diversity. America, is of course, known for allof this, being called a melting pot.
This helps them in some relationships,like Britain and France, but hurts them in others like China and Saudi Arabia,who like to stay with a more homogenous identity. On top of that, speed is thename of the game in low context cultures. “While high context cultures takelonger to establish relationships and make decisions, low context cultures aremuch quicker.
” (Beer) They want to be as fast and efficient as possible. As you can see from the information you just read, Japan and TheU.S are incredibly different culturally. The two cultures have their own prosand cons, with Japan being about conformity, harmony, and nonverbalcommunication, while The U.S is about individuality, privacy, and verbalcommunication. I have experienced both cultures, living in The U.S all my life,going to Costa Rica in high school, and will be going to Israel this summerwith Union University.
While I was in Costa Rica, I discovered that they do notcare near as much about time as I do, nor are they as organized as a nation asthe U.S. When we had church at one p.m. it did not matter, everyone showed upat three p.m.
They live by the phrase Pura Vida, which means relax and live thesimple life. Instead of worrying about the time the service started, theyworried about the quality of worship, and everyone going around and meetingeach other and embracing. To me, I cannot decide whether I prefer high or lowcontext culture. Who am I to make such a huge judgement, especially when Iclearly have a bias to low context culture and have only lived on this earthfor twenty one years. To me, I do not think that every country should try to beone type of culture or the other. I think each culture should improve by beingin relationships with other countries. Lately, The U.
S and the other lowcontext cultures have been at odds with high context counties like North Korea,The Middle East, and Russia. We should be learning from one another andrespecting each other, not trying to show who the superior culture is. Forexample, The U.S needs some more discipline, while China needs moreindividuality. This can only happen if these countries work together and wantto make each other better. And not just working together politically, but in abusiness sense. This can help the world not just financially, but just simplymake it a better place.It is important to note that just because you are in a high contextculture does not mean you do not use low context culture.
How you communicatewith someone depends on your relationship with that person, according toToughNickel. For example, I communicate differently with my best frienddifferently than with someone I just met. With my best friend, I do not have tospell everything out for them, and we do not feel pressure to talk to eachother every hour of everyday, because we know our relationship is establishedWith someone I just met, I cannot make the same inside jokes with them as Iwould with my best friend, I have to spell out my thoughts because they do notknow me. I experience high context culture with my best friend, but low contextculture with a new person. So I do not control when I embrace high or lowcontext culture, my situation does. So this whole idea of separating high andlow context cultures and one being better than the other is simply impossible.
Since we all have both cultures in us, in my opinion, we shouldtake it upon ourselves to learn other cultures and bring two countriestogether. Like I said before, companies want this, and it can bring you manyopportunities. Learning this skill is not just a want, it is a need. Everyoneneeds to learn that people are different from them and it is ok. (ReachOut.com)Learning other cultures can help us all not stereotype, be more accepting, andbecome more self-aware.
(ReachOut.com) This will help us avoidmisunderstandings, conflict, and stereotyping. And like I said before, it willsimply help make the world a better place. In the end, whether we like it or not, the business world haschanged and will continue to change. We live in a world that is all aboutexpanding businesses as far as you can. We live in a world where there are twodistinctly different kinds of cultures, high context and low context.
Ratherthan trying to determine which is better and being closed minded, we, asbusiness leaders, should jump at the opportunity to learn more about differentcultures. It will help us in the long run in terms of profit, productivity, andjust simply broadening our horizons. We as humans should work togetherglobally, not just wall ourselves away from each other. To quote Sam Walton,the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club; “We’re all working together; that’s thesecret.” Works CitedKinicki, A.,& Kreitner, R. (2009).
Organizational behavior: Key concepts, skills andbest practices (5th ed.). London: McGraw-Hill.Beer, J. E.(n.
d.). High and Low Context. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from http://www.culture-at-work.com/highlow.htmlFrost, A.
(2013, March 9). Japan: A High Context Culture. Retrieved January 22, 2018,from http://restaurantkyoto.dk/blog/en/japan-a-high-context-culture/Barton, D. W.(2016, October 05).
Japan’s “High Context” Society – Tips on ReadingBetween the Lines. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from http://japanology.org/2016/10/japans-high-context-society-tips-on-reading-between-the-lines/Columbia, U.(n.d.
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htmlKelm, O. (2011,April 15). Texas Enterprise: Big Ideas in Business from The University of Texasat Austin. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from http://www.texasenterprise.
utexas.edu/2011/04/15/workplace/americans-hate-silence-they-love-wordsInterculturalCommunication: High and Low Context Cultures. (2017, May 16). Retrieved January23, 2018, from http://online.seu.edu/high-and-low-context-cultures/M.
(2016, April22). High-Context vs. Low-Context Communication. Retrieved January 23, 2018,from https://toughnickel.com/business/High-Context-vs-Low-Context-Communicationmqjeffrey is ausernameUnderstanding adifferent culture. (n.
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