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As businesses become global, limitations between cultures and environments crumbled little by little. However, within the vastly developing globalization, business observers discovered many 'unpredictable' phenomena. These phenomena come to the scope of observation, only after globalization is widely accepted by firms all over the world.
One of these phenomena is the success of corporations from unfamiliar cultures, which were previously never expected to generate notable business growth or extraordinary innovation. Some of those companies are IKEA, Volvo, Electrolux, Scania, Hennez and Mauritz, etc. All of these mentioned corporations are Swedish in origins. Nevertheless, there are also significant developments displayed by those cultures which are predicted to dominate future global markets, like the Chinese market.
The Chinese business culture and the Swedish business culture represented two different business cultures in terms of common expectations. The Chinese culture has been long predicted to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world due to the size of its markets. The Swedish culture on the other hand, represented a culture which is not predicted to become one of the dominant players in the global economy. This report is comparing these two business cultures in order to discover their differences and similarities, and thus understanding the origins of their competitive advantages.
The comparison between the two cultures will be performed by observing studies that have been previously published and professional websites that develop business guidance to foreign countries. The comparison between the two cultures will be performed by comparing these specific traits, which are: decision and deal-making, conversation, making appointments, perspective regarding profit.
If we are using a specific research method, then within this paper, we are using the qualitative research method, in the sense that the research will not involve numbers and other objective measurements and the results will not be simply defined.
In a qualitative research, the purpose is not to generalize an answer to other circumstances, but merely answering a specific question within a specific condition and context. Thus, the answer would be in the form of deep and meaningful explanations and contains discussions that would generate bias if the readers are not diligently capturing the context. As mentioned previously, the comparison between the two cultures will be based on the similarities and differences that are exist between China and Sweden. The specific traits that will be discussed in the differences are:
Implementation of Regulations
Both the Swedish and the Chinese culture treat outside information very cautiously. Nevertheless, after proven that the information and the person or the organization providing that information is reliable, than the person or the organization will most likely by a long-time friend of the company. In terms of relationship with the government, both cultures have high respect toward the authority of their government. Thus regulations are highly respected in both countries. Another similarity is the tendency to preserve the dignity of others by avoiding conflict as much as possible (Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, 2008; China Window, 2008)
In terms of deal and decision making, the Chinese people have a weaker respect toward the language English compare to the Swedish. Swedish businessmen generally speak English and ones that do not have the capability to speak English are considered lacking a competitive advantage. In China however, such a perspective has weak powers or even the perspective does not exist at all. Thus, businessmen generally bring an interpreter to China to prevent conversational stuck during negotiations or lobbying. In Sweden, due to the fact that most of their end-customers are American in nationality, English is accepted as a language of business conversation (Alexander, 2006; Bary, 2005; China Window, 2008).
Another reason that adds to the importance of taking into account of cultural characteristics of a country is the issue of communication. Different cultures have different styles of business communication. For instant, western managers are generally recognized in their expertise for assembling words. Western managers are generally more talkative than any other. On the other hand, managers from Asian countries do not share the same trait. They prefer actions rather than words. If they choose to say anything, it would generally be short and to-the-point (WIN Advisory Group, 2005).
Other communication differences might lie in body languages like nodding, smiling and other manners of speaking and listening. Managers of eastern countries generally have a unique manner of speaking and listening. American managers unaccustomed with these differences usually find it hard to comprehend the meaning of each gestures. Furthermore, politeness in some cultures might involve reversing the meaning from 'yes' to 'no' or the opposite. In regard of the importance of communication in the business realm, understanding these differences is an important requirement of a good manager (King, 2008).
Another cultural aspect that created the differences of managing in different regions is the issue of gender. Surveys indicated that American companies are more liberal in nature, where women had more access to managerial positions rather than any Asian companies like Japanese or Chinese that just performing programs that encourage female leaders to take their stand (WIN Advisory Group, 2005).
In addition, the Chinese business culture is also very much hierarchical. In a sense, they prefer that people respect them in accordance to their position within an organization. Thus, businessmen promoting a product or an agreement must generally performed presentation in different levels of the organization. In Sweden on the other hand, such a troublesome process is most likely avoided. Business presentation is generally performed only once or twice because all officers from different levels within an organization do not have problems with sitting side by side to each other (Los Angeles Chinese Learning Centers, n.d.).
Chinese people tend to make decisions using subjective point of view and personal feelings. This is the common design of a high context organization, where respect and unwillingness to confront with leaders slow down quality development. In Sweden on the other hand, decisions are made by both objective and subjective point of views and using both rationality and intuition, however, the basic difference is that the Swedish culture does not have a value of high respect toward leaders that will hamper democracy or objective considerations of the fact ('Background to Business in China', 2008).
Despite having the same feeling of respect toward the authority of their government both cultures implement their regulations in different intensities. In order to suppress corruption that has been plaguing the country several decades in the past, the Chinese government decided not to go half way in punishing people who broke Chinese business laws. Some punishments are even performed in public to prevent similar occurrences. That is why there is a saying in China that most companies in China use logic, evidence and common sense, only if they do not contradict with the government' doctrines and rules. In Sweden however, even though the regulations about breaking business laws are clear, the implementation still much 'softer' that it is in China (Alexander, 2005; Los Angeles Chinese Learning Centers, n.d.).
Implementation of Regulations
In terms of decision making, the Chinese business culture generally recognize a collective decision making process. The leader will only be decisive and harsh in implementation the collective decision. Before any decision has been made, Chinese leaders have only a slightly higher decision making power compare to their subordinate. Nevertheless, even though the decision has been approved collectively, individuals within the group are still held accountable for his/her suggestions. In the Swedish culture on the other hand,
Leaders in China are meant to lead and even though they have the full right to punish their subordinates, they are expected to take full responsibilities when facing a higher authority. In Sweden on the other hand, leaders are not meant to tell people what to do, they meant to listen and than decide based on the collective decision. This example can be discovered in many types of organizations in Sweden. Even in the sport environment, a Sweden trainer would understand that his/her job is to work with the athlete and performing the trainings his/her way. On the other hand, a Chinese trainer might be furious if the athlete refuses to follow any of his/her orders Gernet, 1996).
As mentioned previously, the China business culture is actually a high context culture, in which people are accustomed to be very subtle and shoring very little emotion when expressing a rejection, or a new claim. Sweden on the other hand, is basically a low-context culture, in which managers would prefer that every managerial activity is performed as informal as possible. Not like the United States however, in Sweden people strive more to avoid looking as an individual person, although he/she might have great ideas, it is till the collective thought that would prevail in most meetings.
According to the previous researches, Sweden and China has quite huge differences, mainly in how they perceive the role of the authority and leaders. Further studies are required to understand the true correlation between these differences and business development in the future.
*Alexander, J. (2006). Swedish Message. Retrieved August 21, 2008
*WIN Advisory Group. (2005). American-Japanese communication 101. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from http://www.winadvisorygroup.com/AmericanJapaneseComms101.html
'Background to Business in China'. (2008). World Business Culture. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from www.glo-bis.com/china.htm
*Bary, T. (2005). ""Constructive Engagement with Asian Values"". Columbia University.
Los Angeles Chinese Learning Centers . (n.d.). Chinese business culture. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from chinese-school.netfirms.com/deal.html
Gernet, J. (1996). A History of Chinese Civilization. 2. New York: Cambridge University Press
Los Angeles Chinese Learning Centers. (n.d.). Making Appointments. Retrieved August 21, 2008 http://chinese-school.netfirms.com/appointments.html
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. (2008). Kingdom of Sweden. Retrieved August 22, 2008, from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2880.htm
*China Window. (2008). Doing business in China. Retrieved August 20, 2008, from http://www.china-window.com/china_business/doing_business_in_china/index.shtml
*King, G. (2008). Doing business in China - Body language, lost in translation. EzineArticles. Retrieved August 22, 2008, from http://ezinearticles.com/?Doing-Business-In-China---Body-Language,-Lost-In-Translation&id=646965