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Cultures can be high context or low context depending on the ways of communication. Low context culture is the one which is more explicit, communication is direct and things are fully but concisely spelled out. People don't think about what other people are going to think of them if they behaved in a particular way. A high context culture is the one in which the communicators assume a great deal of commonality of knowledge and views, so that it's less explicit. People act according to the situations in this culture, there is more emphasis on gestures. One has to read between the lines. Cultures can also be monochronic or polychoronic, monochronic is when the managers like to do one thing at a time, they value orderliness and sense of there being an appropriate time and place for everything on the other hand polychronic culture encourages multitasking and doing multiple things at a time. Then there is future, present and past oriented cultures. Past oriented societies are more bound by the traditional values and ways of doing things. These cultures tend to be more conservative in management and less adaptive. Present oriented society's focuses on the present, they prefer short term benefits over the long term goals. Future oriented societies have a great deal of optimism about the future. They focus on long term benefits, expansion and growth.
Communication can be greatly affected by the difference in cultures and the languages spoken, or unspoken? Well yes, we are talking about the silent language here which can impact international business. There are different languages which are non-verbal and are not communicated directly but communicate up to ninety percent of the meaning in the high context cultures, like the language of time, space, friendship, business patterns, etc. There are different unspoken languages just like there are different spoken languages. The unspoken languages are informal yet they can have a great impact.
There is language of time which is different for people belonging to different cultures. For example, In the U.S. a delay in answering a communication could be because of the backlog of work, and a large volume of business causing the request to be postponed, but on the other hand, the person awaiting response might think that the matter has low priority on the part of the other person -lack of interest. A similar kind of delay in another foreign country may mean something altogether different. Like time, language of space has a different meaning everywhere too. Americans measure their importance or position in the organization according to the size of their offices. The president or the chairman has the biggest office, and so on down the line. French on the other hand are more likely to layout space as a network and often find a supervisor in the middle of his subordinates. Also body distance is very important factor of language of space, in countries like middle east, people get too close ,crowd the physical being whereas in, UK people prefer being a little cold and distant. But at the same time it is important to know the extent to which people are acceptable about the distance. Though Saudi-Arabia is a high touch culture inappropriate use of touch in advertising messages may cause problems. For example, Drakkar noir perfume advert in Europe is a man's hand clutching the perfume bottle and a woman's hand seizing his bare forearm, whereas in the Saudi-Arabian version a man's arm is clothed in a dark jacket sleeve, and woman is touching the man's hand only with her fingertip. The sensuality is toned down and made less explicit in the Saudi-Arabian version (Hollensen, 2007). So though these countries are high touch cultures, we should also remember that these cultures are also high-context cultures.
Then there is also language of agreements between people in various countries wherein rules are legally bound and the executives are expected to have a basic awareness of the rules. These rules can be laws and regulations of a country or maybe a moral practice that is followed in that country as a tradition or the informal customs to which everyone confirms without being able to state the exact rules. (Hall, 1960).
Culture influences various attitudes towards food, health, media, consumption, country of origin, lifestyle, values, sex and love related attitudes, etc The factors are very closely related and in turn affect the marketing strategies a company adopts like pricing of a product, advertising and promotions, choosing a target market, product adaptation (Hollensen, 2007). For example, In India, The Hindu religion doesn't permit to eat beef. Therefore McDonalds in India doesn't serve the 'big Mac', instead the product has been adapted to suit the Indian consumers renamed as the 'maharaja Mac' consisting of lamb (Harding, 2000). These aspects influence the consumer behaviour. In many countries, colors represent various holidays; they are also used to express feelings. The language of colour can influence international business, if it's not promoted properly. One example of this can be Pepsi, Pepsi cola lost its dominant market share to coke in south-east Asia when Pepsi changed the colour of its vending machines and coolers from deep 'regal' blue to light 'ice' blue as light blue is associated with mourning and death in south east Asia. There also a need to be careful with the brand designs, product and package design, colour, brand name and symbols because the attitudes of people towards these symbols or names could be different in different countries. Some conventional brand names that communicate positive messages in one country might have a totally different meaning in another which may substantially damage the corporate image and marketing effectiveness. When Pepsi was expanding in china a few years ago, the slogan 'Pepsi brings you back to life' was literally translated in Chinese which meant 'brings your ancestors back from the grave'.
The above mentioned parts of a culture are the most fundamental ones, yet other parts also have a large impact on the culture. Things such as tradition, customs, humour, and education are all components of a culture that, if studied and understood, will reduce potential misunderstandings. It is important for companies to engage in business abroad in order to stay competitive. Even though the decision to start trading with foreign countries may seem rational and unavoidable, for many companies there are obstacles that could and will affect the business Outcome. It is important to have a thorough understanding of all impacts the international Trade will have on the business and its performances and there are several ways to overcome these obstacles. One way is to educate and inform the workers about the cultural differences and the specific business procedures in the countries. Managers should also try to make use of the local employees that possess valuable knowledge about the market that is adopting a regiocentric approach. Also the managers should be less ethnocentric and more polycentric towards the foreign culture. A deeper economic integration through EU and ASEAN and other such trade agreements will eliminate tariffs among the member countries and harmonize business procedures and regulations. With this free trade liberalization, non-tariff barriers to trade will also be reduced as countries and cultures become more unified (Kogut & Singh, 1988). For companies doing business overseas it is crucial to not only know your own company's Customs, but in addition compare these with the honouring country's customs of behaviour. This applies, in particular, to companies which operate in countries where the home culture is that of a complete different nature. In order to understand different people's behaviours it is imperative to look at the different levels of culture and how these affect the individuals in different scenarios. The different levels are national culture, business culture, organizational Culture and individual behaviour. The country's national culture is directly impacting the business culture in the country. In turn, the business culture will have an apparent influence over each and every company within that country. All of these levels will ultimately affect the individual's behaviour. In countries where religion has a major impact on the business procedures, managers should prepare themselves and their personnel by collecting information about the religion and the typical behaviours and manners that are incorporated. By increasing the knowledge and familiarity with the specific religion, it will become easier to accept and understand why certain procedures are taking place, especially when doing business.
The culture of a host country is sometimes completely different to culture in the home country. Thus, when striving to recruit the right people companies need to focus on internal training and trying to shape the person in respect to the corporate culture instead of finding the perfect match in an interview process. It is absolutely crucial that the companies start looking beyond the persons abilities at the early stage and instead try to sell the corporate culture as an alternative to changing the personality.
Since the national culture and as well the business culture are directly correlated to how the individuals act, it is crucial to understand the individual behaviours in the specific country that the company is operating in. Cultures are embedded in every conflict because conflicts arise in human relationships. Though conflicts cannot be completely eliminated in an organization it can definitely be minimized. Forcing 100% cultural assimilation of those who fall outside the cultural norm is one path as well, but it breeds resentment and ultimate conflict. Sometimes the cultural diversity in an organization is seen as having no impact at all and the diversity is ignored also known as the parochial philosophy, but this results in the marginalization of people who fall outside the cultural norm (Mooij, 2003). Therefore, it is important to implement useful strategies that would reduce the conflicts rather than instigating them. Managers must be skilled at resolving and understanding cross cultural conflicts so that if at all conflicts arise managers are able to resolve the conflict without affecting the productivity. Employ people from the host country so that they have adequate knowledge about the culture and the language of the host country, these regional managers can thus provide further training to the employees from home country. When a company relocates to a new site abroad, relocation services offered by organization should go beyond moving and new community information as employees require orientation to the realities and opportunities of the new cultural environment. When an organization moves to a new place, quickening of the work pace can result in resentment and burnout, therefore involving employees in co-operative efforts to regulate and monitor change in the work environment would be a good idea. There are various cross cultural approaches which can be used by the managers.
Cultural dominance, when one organization is in a more powerful position than the other, the more powerful one dominates, insisting on doing things as they are done in the home culture. Cultural accommodation approach, this is opposite of cultural dominance, this is when managers tend to imitate the culture of the host country, attempting to blend in. Cultural compromise approach, this approach is a combination of the two approaches mentioned above, with both the sides conceding something to work together more successfully. This approach can be used by the managers to minimise cultural conflicts and function efficiently. Cultural avoidance, this approach emphasizes on working and managing as if no cultural conflict exists, most often used by managers when the unresolved issue is less important than the final outcome of the situation or the negotiation. Cultural synergy approach, this approach develops new solutions that respect all cultures involved and often increases the chances for working effectively in a transcultural environment. For example, if a French firm insists that negotiations with a German to be done in French it is an example of cultural dominance approach, if Germans agree immediately then it is an example of cultural accommodation. If both parties decide to get an interpreter, it is an example of cultural compromise. However, if both German and French agree to negotiate in a third language, it is the cultural synergy approach. This third language can be a language known to both the parties so that none of the parties have a language advantage over the other
But we can end the topic saying, what comprises of conflict in one culture is daily difference of opinion in another. A serious insult in one setting -crossing ones leg -is a matter of comfort in another. An arrogant challenge in one culture -putting ones hands on hips -is a sign of openness in another. Human boundaries are cultural creations; social boundaries, legal boundaries and emotional boundaries are all drawn according to each cultures value (Mooij, 2003). So culture can act as a catalyst in bringing people together if used appropriately and to the organizations benefit, but if disrespected and ignored can also create major conflicts eventually leading to failure of the business.