Cross Cultural Communication In Global Businesses Cultural Studies Essay

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Nowadays, learning culture has become an activity that can not be missed in the process of integration, especially when a company takes its business global. Because culture is different from one country to another, in order to be successful in the international market they must understand the culture of the countries they are going to do business.

To begin, let us define what a culture is. Culture refers to all the knowledge and values shared by a society and it is transmitted from generation to generation through learning. Misapprehension of Vietnamese culture and beliefs may lead to a lot of unfortunate circumstances when German (European) entrepreneurs do business in Vietnam. They have to be careful and aware of the cultural background of the Vietnamese such as the philosophy of life and the influence of religion and beliefs on their characters.  

Key elements that define a culture include behavioral factors, language, beliefs, values, norms and attitudes. The Oriental cultures and values are different substantially from those of European. Value is what the members of a culture decide what is expected and what is right, good or desirable. Due to the strong influence of the Confucian code and ethics, Vietnamese people have the spirit of respecting the teacher that used to rank the second place after the king and above the father. Teaching is regarded as one of the most respected jobs in the society. Furthermore, the elders are always respected whether people know them or not. Unlike in the US or Western culture, we never use their first names even we know them.

Following is define of Cross-cultural communication: Cross cultural communication tries to bring together such relatively unrelated areas as cultural anthropology and established areas of communication. Its core is to establish and understand how people from different cultures communicate with each other. Its charge is to also produce some guidelines with which people from different cultures can better communicate with each other.

Cross-cultural communication, as in many scholarly fields, is a combination of many other fields. These fields include anthropology, cultural studies, psychology and communication. The field has also moved both toward the treatment of interethnic relations, and toward the study of communication strategies used by co-cultural populations, i.e., communication strategies used to deal with majority or mainstream populations. (en.wipedia.org)

All communication is cultural -- it draws on ways we have learned to speak and give nonverbal messages. We do not always communicate the same way from day to day, since factors like context, individual personality, and mood interact with the variety of cultural influences we have internalized that influence our choices. Communication is interactive, so an important influence on its effectiveness is our relationship with others.

The challenge is that even with all the good will in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators. Miscommunication may lead to conflict, or aggravate conflict that already exists. We make -- whether it is clear to us or not -- quite different meaning of the world, our places in it, and our relationships with others. This term paper discuss in deep about "Avoiding Cross cultural communication" in organization. Organizational culture can improve organization performance and in the same time make it different than others organization.

Understanding culture is a very important point for a global company to operate its business overseas successfully. According to a recent survey, there are up to 49% of failure joint-ventures caused by a reason of cultural differences. In an international society, the company must adapt to, relate to, and understand the culture of local country where it conducts business.

Culture refers to learned norms based on the values, attitudes, and beliefs of a group of people. People belong to different groups will have different cultures. The groups based on nationality, ethnicity, religion, language, gender, work organization, profession, age, political party membership, and income level. Culture is indelibly a part of each person's identity, but individuals also influence culture. It defines how we see ourselves and how we perceive others. One problem B.Braun Vietnam must avoid is cultural collision that likely occurs if the company implements practices that do not reflect local customs and values and/or the employees are unable to accept or adjust to foreign behaviors and customs.

Local culture is shaped by local attitudes, values, customs and beliefs. Cultures are systems of behaviors and customs transmitted from one generation to the next, teacher to pupil, as well as from one group of people to the others. Cultures consist of societies, i.e., relatively homogeneous groups of people, who share attitudes, values, beliefs, and customs. It is very important to aware that every culture with a set of values and beliefs that shape cultural behaviors and practices is the primary stage in knowing and understanding other cultures. The attitudes, values, and beliefs that determine why people do what they do, they want and the way they do it. Cultural value systems are set early in life. However, even culture is difficult to change but the change may happen through choice or imposition or contact to other culture. One example from B.Braun Vietnam, many production workers come from the countryside where they are familiar with farming job. Now they move to Hanoi for their new jobs and contact with the foreigners as their direct managers, so that they can change their attitudes, values, daily job patterns… to adapt new culture. This can also prove that the attitudes of the people toward work and changes in their life can shape the culture. Some other factors can also give its contribution to shape the culture such as leisure time, family, social mobility, and religion. In Vietnam, it will be not easy in daily practices for a company to make appointment with governmental authority after 4 pm because it is considered leisure time of officials. In the family, the parents will pass the culture to their children especially in Asian country like Vietnam. Moreover, the social mobility can educate the behaviors of the people. Nowadays, in Vietnam where the business as widely accepted, the perceptions of the people are step by step adjusted. Religion can be a factor of culture stabilizer. Religion is also a major source of both cultural imperatives and cultural taboos. In Vietnam, the people mostly follow Buddhism and Confucianism, so that knowing the taboos of these religions will help the manager to avoid the religious problems.

In addition, in order to avoid cultural miscommunication, the manager also needs to know the verbal and nonverbal communication on cultural understanding. Sometimes, it needs to be translated by an experienced local people. For example in Vietnam, when a manager discuss with the director of the hospital for a project, the director of hospital always says YES for every thing. The reason is he or she wants to get support or sponsorship from a foreign organization. However, in fact, the promises from these directors are not reliable. Why? The director in governmental hospital is not powerful enough, because above him or her, there are few more levels of control from local health service or ministry of health, so he can not decide everything himself. Further, body language or gestures as silent communication are described with the way people walk, touch, shake hands, and move their bodies are also different from culture to culture. In fact, very few gestures are universal in meaning. In Vietnam, tightly handshaking shows positive meaning but handshaking with a young lady should be avoided. Beside these factors, the perception of time also proves some meanings. If a person or corporate arrives punctually for a business appointment, it shows the seriousness of the company. Being present on special events of the partners such as wedding of their sons, daughters, or funeral of their passed-away parents will show your interest in the relationship and be highly appreciated.

Nevertheless, every culture could have its ethnocentrism, so an international company needs to know how to overcome ethnocentricity. Ethnocentrism reflects the conviction that one's culture is superior to other culture of other countries. To conduct international business, the manager must not ignore the differences in cultures. In order to avoid the possible problems of ethnocentrism, the manager should consider the importance of cultural factors, because they have become accustomed to certain cause-and-effect relationship in the home country. The manager also needs to check this ethnocentric attitude, and to ensure they are not wearing ethnocentric blinders. Moreover, the manager must recognize the environmental differences and pay attention to the overseas business objectives as an integrate objectives of home country. This will help the expatriate to focus on local business and keep the in-country competing ability; otherwise the company performance will be worse than that of local competitors. Next, even recognizing the differences, the manager should not underestimate the complexity of the problems involved in new product launching, introduction or new way of marketing and selling them.

One more important point that a global company needs to do is to set the effective strategies to adapt to a local culture. Considering that adapting a new culture as cultural differences or changes, the company needs to analyze the following aspects in order to design strategies successfully:

One of the most effective strategies is the MNE needs to utilize local people as key managers. Of course, the CEO must be an expatriate selected and sent abroad by Mother Company. These key local managers will strongly help the international company to adapt the local culture faster. In B.Braun Vietnam, some managers at very high level such as production manager, CFO are foreigners, all the rest managers such as sales and marketing, accounting, logistics, quality control, quality assurance, IT… are all Vietnamese. With this strategy, B.Braun Vietnam has been very successful in combining foreigners and local people to actively contribute to the adaptation of local culture. Moreover, all these local managers work very well with much lower salaries than foreign managers at the same level.

A share value system is another strategy: The more something contradicts the value system, the more difficulty you accept it and vice versa. In Vietnam, the core values are rather neutral inclusive of foods, people behaviors, customs and religion as well. For example, even a western foreign company like B.Braun, when it wants to do ground breaking ceremony for the new factory, it also needs to have a prayer to pray something good for the safety and prosperity of B.Braun in the future. This is also necessary to satisfy the spirits of Vietnamese people inside the company.

Last but not least strategy is participation of local key people in decision-making. There is a good way to keep away from cultural problems; the open issue is needed to be discussed amongst stakeholders or local managers in advance. The company may face with the strength of the resistance. The stakeholders would be encouraged to recognize the need for adjustment or adapting new thing. In this case, the employees may satisfy that, the management has listened to them regardless of the decisions it ultimately makes.

The next point a CEO needs to analyze about the elements of other culture. An international company must be aware of in order to run its business well. It is understood that, there are important cultural differences between nations that might affect to the company's operation. However, according to Hofstede in "theory of the cultural relativity of organizational practices", Hofstede argues that national cultural differences are not changing much at all. Even though more superficial work-related norms, and values might be. He feels that, national cultural will continue to have a strong influence on the effectiveness of various business practices. According to Hofstede, cultures differ in at least five elements and I think that he has right reasons to claim so. The following are his cultural dimensions: Individualism versus collectivism: culture differs in terms of the relationship of a person to his or her relatives; Power distance refers to the general relationship between superior and subordinates. Cultures also vary in their view of power relationship; Avoidance of uncertainty as the people do not know what future will be. If the culture with high avoidance of uncertainty, the people wants to predict, control and influence the future events, whereas the culture with low avoidance of uncertainty, the people will take thing day by day basis; Masculinity is next element in culture. In Vietnam, it can be said that, there is not much difference between male and female in normal jobs. However, in fact, there is still more male being CEO than female; the last dimension is long-term versus short-term orientation. In Vietnam, especially in Northern region, many people prefer being a staff of governmental organizations to private companies because their jobs will be secured for a long time. However, I think differently, it is reason why I work for a foreign company with unstable environment and focusing now on short-time only. Considering these factors, the manager can design right strategy on human resource programs then based on those, the company can operate profitably and successfully.

Nowadays, the globalization in economy leads to globalization in culture. As a result, the education and technology can also influence to culture. For example, the students who study overseas will bring home country not only scientific knowledge but also the ways people behave to each other overseas. Therefore, the education is able to help local people to aware, adapt new cultures and step by step harmonize these cultures. In addition, the technology also helps people to change or modify the culture. For example, with the presence of internet, mobile phone, people can change the ways to contact each other just by dropping an email or a SMS. The modern technology in health care industry to improve the ability of treating diseases makes the people confident in their life. From that, they can change their behaviors, perception, and expectations.

The physical environment will also influence to culture. In Vietnam, the people living in mountain area will have different living styles, habits, norms, values, and beliefs with the people living in coastal areas. In these different regions, the different weather can impact to these cultural factors. Every day, they have different types of foods; live in different house styles do different jobs. Doing different jobs can make them different in thinking, perception, tradition and even beliefs. Therefore, these affect to the people behaviors.

Nowadays, parallel with economy development, the growth of mass media like TV, internet can shape culture, public opinion and business operation such as marketing and advertising. Many foreign companies take advantages of television to advertise their products or services because they understand that, the people will be influenced by mass media. For example in Vietnam recently, the Korean MNEs like Samsung, LG, Daewoo, and Hyundai used the Korean films in Vietnam TV in order to orient the consumers' behaviors especially young people. These companies are quite successfully on this marketing and advertising strategy. In addition, some companies can use key opinion leader on mass media to influence to public opinion and behavior. I think that, using mass media is a good way of advertisement to make consumer aware about the company's products and sometime it strongly impact to users' behaviors.

In my thinking, culture awareness is very important and a major factor for international companies to consider in today's global marketplace. A MNE just wants to enter a new overseas market, the company must know that it can overcome the culture differences or not. As one recent study mentioned at the beginning shows that, there is up to 49% of joint-venture failure due to cultural differences. Overcome the cultural differences is a compulsory primary step for international companies before they can focus on the business operation. In order to understand and adapt the local culture, the company needs to know the norms, values, religion, beliefs, customs, tradition, habits, behaviors...For example a business man comes to an appointment late, he can be considered as an impolite person or not respect the partner and there would be no chance for him later. The way of people greeting each other is also important for businessman to avoid unnecessary problems. The local taboos such language and religion are utmost important. In order to keep away from such problems, the manager needs a consultancy from a good local people. The problems that can hinder managers' cultural awareness are subconscious reaction to circumstances, and the assumption that all societal groups are similar. Therefore, it is necessary for the manager to learn how to do the right thing at the right time so as to win over the cultural differences especially culture shock.

Beside all cultural factors, the CEO also needs to scan the business operation environment of the country. Political and legal systems across countries both converge and vary. They can create benefits, costs, and challenges of the business environment in a country. Making a decision to invest into foreign country with different political and legal system is never easy for a MNE. Political system is the complete set of institutions, political organizations, and interest groups, the relationships amongst those institutions, and the political norms and rules that govern their functions. The politics and government legal system will for sure strongly impact on international companies. Politics and legal system is one of major external forces the company must analyze and understand all related laws, regulations, policies influencing to the company's business. This system will be a major part of a company's business environment and in navigating different markets. Companies must understand how and where national business environment converge and diverge. The firms also must pay attention to following points of view: Discard the belief that companies can directly transfer to foreign environments the principles and practices they have developed in the home country. Accept the fact the politics and legal systems are different amongst countries. Acknowledge that the differences impact how companies capture opportunities and deflect threats. In addition, the company must aware that the legal systems are also different from country to country, primarily because of differences in tradition, precedent, usage, customs, and religious precepts. The purpose of every legal system is to establish a comprehensive legal network to regulate social activities. An example of B.Braun Vietnam, its business operation is now in healthcare industry. It is supported by the governmental laws and legal system in aspect of the government wants to support not only FDI but also to develop domestic pharmaceutical industry. As a result of this policy, the Vietnamese patients will be treated with good IV solutions and medical devices. Parallel with this, the government set a protection policy on imports, that makes same kinds of products more difficult to get in Vietnamese market by either tax or regulation on tender favoring local products…In this way, B.Braun gets positive impact from governmental regulations. However, other policy applied for international companies such as minimum payments in worker salary forces B.Braun to pay for its employees higher than local companies. In this aspect, B.Braun gets negative impact from legal systems and policies. Any way, some legal regulations, a MNE will be beneficial but some others, they will be disadvantages. That is business and a CEO must understand and apply wisely to set the company's objectives, strategies and means to achieve for the company's success.

This term paper has enhanced the understanding of the effectiveness of avoiding cross cultural communication in organization. While more research remains to be done in this area, this term paper has demonstrated the power of culture in influencing organizational performance. Strong culture which all members in organization such as employees, executives and managers in organization's operation and management decision. In the same time, avoiding cross cultural communication also supports organization's strategy, mission and policies to achieve their goal. This term paper also showed that avoiding cross cultural communication is associated with attitudes toward organizational change. Finally handling smoothly cultural differences, cultural shock and conflicts will be a key primary factor to manage B.Braun Vietnam Company successfully.

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