The Globalization Of The Economy Cultural Studies Essay

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The globalisation of the economy, international employment of qualified employees, immigration and emigration, international tourism and worldwide networking lead to fact that people today are confronted with different cultures and manners more than ever. Especially in business life it is necessary to pay attention to intercultural differences. In other words, the skill of intercultural awareness or ability to adapt to different cultures helps to build international business relations and to avoid misunderstandings with foreign business partners.

Before analyzing the two different situations of a business meeting and to get a thematic introduction the best way is to clarify terms like culture, Interculturality and Intracultural communication.

Culture can be seen as a property of a group. It's a system of shared beliefs, attitudes, customs and values that the members use to cope with their world and with one another. [1] 

Various models have been used to illustrate the concept of culture. For example it can be compared with an iceberg. The tangible and visible expressions of culture and behavior (e.g. food, clothing, language) are located above the surface of the water and the underlying, invisible attitudes, values and beliefs are located below the surface. [2] When diving into a new country or culture we just take notice of a small visible part, whereas the deeper and bigger part of a culture remains hidden for us (See also Annex 1).

Interculturality or Intercultural communication deals with the exchange of cultural information between people of different cultural groups. In reality this exchange can be very difficult and even when the natural barrier of a foreign language is dissolved, we can still fail to understand and to be understood. According to Adler's article Misperception, Misinterpretation, Misevaluations and Stereotypes can be other reasons for failed Intercultural communication. In connecting to Intercultural communication the term "ethnocentrism" is often brought into the discussion. Ethnocentrism can be seen as a major obstacle to successful intercultural communication, as it describes the tendency to see other cultures as inferior to one's own. In reality this way of thinking intensifies the gap between the parties concerned instead of closing it.

In contrast to this Intracultural communication describes relations between members of the same "dominant" cultural group. In this case the exchange of information works much more trouble-free due to the fact that both dialog partners share the same "meaning system". But according to Samovar and Porter we have to bear in mind that within the dominant culture other groups ("subcultures") exist who hold a minimal number of values that differ from the mainstream, as well as from other subgroups. Therefore communication between dominant and minority cultural groups cannot be seen as Intracultural communication. [3] 

When we are now looking at the example of a business meeting we can see two different situations which have to be interpreted differently, especially regarding Ms. A's reaction. On the one hand the meeting of a Chinese and a German manager illustrates intercultural aspects. On the other hand the translated conversation of two German managers can be seen more as an intracultural theme, aside from the fact that the text just contains the information that both parties are German managers which makes it impossible to draw deeper conclusions regarding their belonging to "dominant" or subculture groups. When we look at the situation with the two German managers it can be assumed that both parties are familiar with their business conventions and have a similar attitude of how to make business. Regarding Ms. A's reaction it is very noticeable that she uses a minimum size of words (only "I'm sorry"). Instead of this she tries to emphasize her concern with the help of a forward bend and an enigmatic expression on her face. In this case, we speak about two aspects of communication. Communication includes sending verbal messages (words) and nonverbal messages (e.g. gesture, mimic, facial expression). The communication between people includes consciously sent messages and messages that the sender is totally unaware of sending. Whatever we say and do, we cannot not communicate. [4] Ms. A's reaction can be construed as the consequence of not knowing that her company didn't send out any official announcement to the company Mr. B is working with. Her verbal and nonverbal reaction might indicate that she is unpleasantly surprised, not to say speechless because this mistake could have negative effects on the business relations between the two companies. But Ms. A's also could answer "I'm sorry" combined with a forward bend to ask for a repetition of the question or to clarify whether she had understood Mr. B clearly.

When investigating Mr. B's reaction the meaning of nonverbal language becomes clear. He could point with his hand to himself and his counterpart to express that the upcoming problem is not his fault or even more to express angriness. The problem of verbal language is that it is one dimensional. That means that "language can only describe one sequence of events at a time". [5] To improve our receptiveness and power of statements we can take advantage of nonverbal language (multidimensional). Mr. B's point of view can be interpreted similar. Maybe he is afraid that verbal language alone cannot achieve the desired effect to Ms. A, so that in this case he must apply other techniques.

According to Adler we have to keep in mind that the translating meaning of a word or behavior is not the same for each person and is based on a person's cultural background. The greater the difference in background between two persons, the greater the difference in meanings attached to particular words and behaviors. [6] As a result Mr. B should take this into account to avoid unwanted consequences especially when he has conversations with business partners of different countries, for example Chinese partners as the second situation will show us in the following section.

To understand the conversation between the German manager Mr. B and the Chinese manager Ms. A. we have to compare the general tendencies in value and belief orientations between the two cultures. In literature this comparison of cultural phenomenon across cultures is a central task of Cross-cultural-studies. [7] In view of Intercultural studies both concepts should be seen complementary, since both ways help to understand the complex of cultural influences on communication.

The culture background and the way of communication between Chinese manager and the German manager differ strongly from each other. One way to divide these two cultures can be the classification in high- and low- context cultures. In high-context-cultures communication happens less verbally and less explicit. Meanings do not have to put into words all the time. In addition to this we are talking about more internalized understandings of what is communicated in a situation. In high-context-cultures there is a strong focus on building long term relationships with business partners. Low-context-cultures describe the opposite. People of this type of culture can be characterized as more task-oriented without having the primary goal to build personal relations with business partners. [8] According to this definition the German culture can be classified as a typical low-context culture, whereas the Chinese culture can be seen more as a high-text-culture (see also Annex 2).

In consideration of this classification and the assumption that both the German and the Chinese Manager are not aware of the meanings and manners of the culture of their counterpart, several interpretations of the situation are possible.

In answer to the question of sending out an official announcement the Chinese manager could react confused, since business agreements in China are based on strong personally relations and trust. At this point two different cultures come into conflict. On the one hand the German manager who wants to secure his business and on the other hand the Chinese manager who could feel cheated in his trustworthiness. Furthermore both cultures follow different procedures of having a conversation according to the classification described before. Ms. A could prefer to start the conversation with small-talk about things that do not refer to business matters, whereas Mr. B as a typical representative of low-context-cultures prefers to come to business instead of asking things about Ms. A's personal background. This procedure could be regarded as impolitely by Ms. A, though Mr. B didn't follow any bad intention.

Apart from that some misinterpretations relating nonverbal language become visible. Mr. B's hand pointing could be interpreted as rude and bad manners in the Chinese point of view. Chinese people normally see pointing at someone as criticism and most probably as a warning. [9] Mr. B's pointing combined with his direct confrontation course towards the Chinese manager can be seen as normal way of making business in Germany. In Germany an indirect and timid way of handling things mostly will be seen as a weakness. Contrary hereto the opinion about this way of acting is totally different in China, where an indirect and polite way of speaking is used avoid conflicts and the risk of losing "face". [10] 

Ms. A's forward bend combined with the spoken words "I'm sorry" could be interpreted as an indulging behavior. Regardless of whether she agrees with Mr. B's statement or not, she could choose this polite way of acting to avoid more conflicts and bad influences on the company's business relations. But also other influencing factors such as "hierarchy" could lead to Ms. A's reaction. In China hierarchical thinking is anchored much stronger than in Germany and can be seen as an important factor in Chinese culture. This is expressed for example in the fact that Chinese people do not have the authority to speak at any time. When two persons have a conversation it's only allowed for the person with a higher social status to speak. [11] Bearing this hierarchic factor in mind Ms. A's reaction could be seen as a sign for subordination towards her German dialog partner.

Summarizing one can say that Mr. B has to take much more things into account and has to make things with more security when he talks to people of different cultures as if he would speak to people of his own cultural group (in this case Germany). Mr. B especially should pay attention to what non-verbal messages he may be sending and should ask for confirmation of understanding. As we know by now, only a small amount of communication depends on verbal elements, which also means that for example the in Mr. B's opinion unimportant hand pointing, whether used for clarifying or for emphasizing, can be understood in a totally different way as intended.

The analysis of the two situations also showed that Mr. B should not only rely on his experiences and knowledge when talking to business partners, particularly foreigners. Although on the one hand cultural aspects are more visible, or in allusion to the iceberg model "above the surface of the water" when he talks to compatriots but on the other especially intercultural contacts require a continuously learning process to be properly understood, or in other words to make underlying secrets of a culture "below the surface of the water" visible it needs a long time.

As quintessence, the conclusion may be drawn that effective communication based on cultural awareness will play an integral role in future, since business is no longer regional and we will necessarily cross borders, cultures and languages in our lives. Therefore characteristics like tolerance, patience, openness and a positive attitude towards lifelong learning can be seen as key factors to be successful. Described Attitude patterns like ethnocentrism, stereotyped thinking and prejudices should be avoided.

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