Culture In Canada And Japan Cultural Studies Essay

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Culture can be defined as - the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. Culture has also been defined by many anthropologists in various ways, (Thwaites, Davis, Mules 2002) explains, Culture is the ensemble of social practices by which meanings are produced, circulated and exchanged. (Thwaites, Davis, Mules 2002)

Hofstede defined culture as "The collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another". (Lewis 2000)

The two countries chosen for the essay are Canada and Japan. Canada and Japan vary enormously in their culture in all aspects which includes the way of living, their behaviour, beliefs, values and communication. Canada has a western modernized culture whereas Japan on the other hand has modernized, not westernized, and true similarities are only technical. Also there is great interdependence between all members of a group and an abundance of moral and social obligations. (Lewis 2000)


Today Canada is arguably the most multicultural country in the world. In the 1990s over 11 million Canadians, or 42 per cent of the population, were reported as having an ethnic origin other than British or French. Among the larger groups are German, Italian, Ukrainian, Dutch, Polish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Jewish, Caribbean, Portuguese, Finnish and Scandinavian. (Lewis 2000)

The predominant religions in Canada are Catholic 42% and Christian 40%, but the population is somewhat segregated, with a high percentage of French Catholic's in Quebec. Over 60 languages are spoken by more than 70 ethno cultural groups across the country. The Canadian government is very active in protecting this heritage and multicultural and anti-racist education programmes exist at all levels. Multicultural radio and television station, with a large number of programmes in Italian, Ukrainian, German, Greek, Portuguese and Chinese. Canadian of all cultural origins has the opportunity to contribute to the common goals of equality, national unity, social harmony and economic prosperity. (Lewis 2000)

It has the eighth biggest economy in the world and is assessed in the first place on the Human Development Index. (Lewis 2000) Canada has Individualism (IDV) as the highest ranking (80), and is indicative of a society with a more individualistic attitude and relatively loose bonds with others. The populace is more self-reliant and looks out for themselves and their close family members. Privacy is considered the cultural norm and attempts at personal ingratiating may meet with rebuff. (Anonymous n.d)

As the culture of any nation is deep and vast it is difficult to explain culture in words, there are various concepts in culture and a lot to be discussed while studying the culture of any nation, but we will discuss a few of them here;


In English- speaking Canada, leading states people are generally low key. Leaders in Quebec have more Gallic flair. Canadian managers behave in a subdued manner and are expected by their staff to be truthful, trusting and egalitarian. Though results oriented, their route to success is governed by common sense rather than aggressive methods.


Canadian leaders have big homes and fine cars, but ostentatious behaviour is definitely frowned on. For them, success is measured by personal achievement.


Canadians are generally punctual, though the vast expanses of land in the prairies and in the north make people more relaxed about scheduling etc. The Inuit's have their own sense of time.

Communication pattern and use of language

Canadian English sounds pleasing to most ears, being measured, well articulated and lacking the extreme nasal tones of some US accents. French Canadians possess more Gallic fervor, but in fact are much more anglicized (linguistically) than they would care to admit and are less round about and loquacious than European French.

Listening habits

Canadians are polite listeners and rarely interrupt a sensible speech or presentation. It is however, a basic tenet of Canadian education that even young people may challenge the precepts of others. Canadians excel in courteous give-and-take debate.

Behaviour at meetings and negotiations

Meetings are essentially democratic and everyone is allowed to air their own views. Punctuality for meetings and appointments are valued. In French areas, time is more relaxed. However, a person is expected to arrive at the appointed time. Also decisions are not rushed and a certain amount of caution is advised, but Canadians of all origins dislike wasting time. Agreement is sought rather than dictated and negotiations must lead to a clear action plan (Lewis 2000).

Manners and taboos

Canada is a very open society, exercising maximum social tolerance. There are consequently few taboos apart from boasting and other forms of ostentation. Canadians possess easy social graces. They invite people readily for supper in their homes where old fashioned hospitality shows no bounds. Clothing on most occasions is comfortable and tasteful rather than snazzy. They do not prefer eating while walking in public as much as some of us may be used to the concept of "street food," Canadians prefer taking their snacks in a cafe or a restaurant. (Graham, n.d)


The Japanese are culturally very different, their uniqueness probably deriving in the main form three principal factors: their history of isolation, the crowded conditions imposed by their geography, and the Japanese language itself.

Japanese do not like to meet newcomers. Japanese executives know the manner in which they should address their superiors, inferior or equal. Japanese always represent in groups, therefore cannot pronounce on any matters there and then without consultation. Japanese always represent a company, which is a part of a group, which in turn represents Japan, indicating that they are always communitariastic, i.e they will put their company name before their personal name while introducing themselves to some one. Example, when replying somebody over introduction Japanese say 'Mitsubishi's General Affairs Section, Assistant Manager, I am Yamamoto'. Japanese always take their time while arriving on a decision; they would never arrive on a quick decision. Also Japanese are very polite. They do not like to loose face and would never reply negatively. (Lewis 2000)


A comparative analysis of the two countries in terms of their diversification is done below, a few factors that are discussed here are:

Goal: Contract or Relationship?

This dimension refers to the primary goal of a business negotiation: to arrive at a signed contract or to build a relationship between two parties, Japanese are more relationship oriented than the Canadians. The Japanese must like you and trust you wholeheartedly, otherwise no deal!

Personal style: informal or formal?

It refers to the way in which the people talk to and interact with others, use titles and dress. The Japanese like people who are clean, well dressed, not too hairy, not too young, and modest and above all they should be polite. Canadians on the other hand are poor on clothing. Casual attire is appropriate when one is not working.

Communication: direct or indirect?

Western (Canadian) way of communication is direct and explicit whereas Asiatic (Japan) mode of communication is indirect and implicit. According to Servaes the Western pattern of communication is an Aristotelian argumentation system whereby messages are conveyed by way of rational argument. This is in contrast with the Asiatic mode of communication which values the emotional exchange being together and the pleasure of the interaction. (Kakabadse, Kouzmin, et al 2001)

Emotionalism: high or low?

Emotionalism is the tendency to act emotionally while negotiating. The Canadians are blunt they will disagree and say so. Whereas the Japanese are very polite and they never say no, even if they do not want to do a deal with a foreign partner they will not come out of a negative reply, rather you will never hear from them in the future.

Team organization: one leader or consensus?

Some organizations are lead by one individual possessing complete authority to decide matters, while others stress team consensus in decision making; Japanese are totally team orientated they work in team and negotiate in teams, each member of which has a different speciality. Their decisions will be made by consensus.

Risk taking: high or low?

Canadians are risk takers, but they also have a definite financial plan which they have to stick to. On the other hand the Japanese are more cautious, they won't rush to any conclusion, and they need time to reach their consensus. (Metcalf, Bird et al 2006)


Although the Canadians are not nationalistic, they like people to appreciate the uniqueness of their identity and to distinguish them clearly from Americans. They are easy to deal with, as they are genuinely interested in other countries and are keen on being internationally popular. (Lewis 2000). The specific culture needs to be understood at a deeper level since customer needs and preferences have to be interpreted (Trompenaars & Turner, 2006). Therefore for Japan to set up business in Canada it is important for them to understand and appreciate Canada's western culture. There are certain features that should be kept in mind while doing business with other countries those are political factor, geographical conditions, economic state, demographical state and social state.

Gifts are not routinely given. A lavish gift, though accepted, would be frowned upon. Gifts are given to celebrate finalizing a negotiation, a contract, or a project. Appropriate gift for the office would be a nice bottle of wine or liquor. Taking a business associate to a nice meal or an evening sporting event, play, or symphony is always a nice gesture. Personal space and body movement or gestures differ between the English and the French provinces and cities. In English areas, body movement is minimal, there is rarely touching other than handshakes. In French areas, people stand closer together, people will frequently touch, and gestures are more expressive. (Anonymous n.d)


The Japanese approach is strictly pragmatic. They think that why waste money on research and development if it has already been done? Their contribution is to do improvement and increase productivity(Lewis 2000). There are certain things to be kept in mind while doing business with Japan.

Firstly, restrict your body language. Japanese do not prefer to wave their arms, or touch people unnecessarily and above all they do not prefer somebody to put their arm round their shoulders as they pass through doorways. The Japanese do not like this.

They do not mention business for the first 15 minutes of any conversation unless they say 'Fitsu wa ne…' which means 'the fact of the matter is.' It is not advisable to address any Japanese businessman by his first name or any talk about the war.

It is not a good idea to ask to see a Japanese home, since even important business people often live in tiny apartments, a fact which causes them some embarrassment. It is recommended not to shake hands with them more than necessary as they regard this practice unhygienic. A person should always present his visiting card immediately at the first meeting. The Japanese rarely criticize each other or even third parties and never say 'no' directly.

Bowing is appreciated if a person can manage it and begin the conversation by asking about their families. Another positive subject is the long unbroken history of Japan and its achievements in the arts.

It would be good on a person's part to apologize for their rudeness when they last met. Japanese always do this whether they were rude or not. Normally, all Japanese executives dress conservatively in blue or grey with a white skirt and dark tie. The Japanese business person considers trust as an important element in a business relationship, otherwise no deal.

Many Japanese business people will ask a company's representative to tell them something about their board of directors at their first meeting, the amount of capital of the company, who the chief customers are and if they have a chairman's report to show them. (Lewis 2000)

These are the certain general practices that one should keep in mind while doing business with Japan.

Cultural influence on cost of doing business:

When faced with doing business in a culturally different country any business will incur costs. Generally these costs will invariably fall into one of two categories; compliance and non compliance costs. Having encountered a new culture a company can recognize the differences and take these into account while conducting business activities within that culture. Changes in policy and procedure that take into account cultural differences can be loosely termed as compliance costs. The other option available to a business is to ignore the cultural differences. Such inaction will in all likelihood hinder that business' ability to conduct business in that culture. Compliance and non compliance costs represents polar opposites of a spectrum. No firm can afford to comply or not comply with cultural differences. A firm has to decide when it is cost effective to comply and not to comply. Monetary cost is not the only in consideration, there is also a moral cost associated. These can be illustrated by the concept of bribery. A host country's culture may treat bribery as a culturally acceptable and a legitimate business expense. However, a guest business' culture may regard it as illegal and morally wrong.

In such a scenario a guest business may not be a position to comply with that particular cultural norm. Business's practices policies and costs are determined through a combination of compliance and non compliance decisions. If a Canadian business were to train its employee prior to sending them to Japan, the Canadian company would then incur training cost (compliance cost). If this training were to be omitted prior to sending them to Japan that employee's ability to do his job will be hindered and may result in lost business opportunity, the cost of that lost business would be a non-compliance cost.


There are certain implications for managers and other business personnel as well; understanding culture is important even in home countries. There is a need to look for underlying cultural meanings. Managers should think globally as the world is globalizing at a very fast speed. The stakeholders can be from different countries so one should know about them while doing business. Also there is a strong need to build "trust' in international interactions. Finally there should be no communication gap between the two countries; Japan and Canada as both are culturally diverse one being modernized and not westernized and the other being westernized modernized respectively while doing business.