Cultural Differences in Communication
People learn to communicate by one to two years of age, a skill they continuously perfect as they grow and become adults. But is that enough to be successful in the business world? Well, it might have been enough a few decades ago, however, that is not the case anymore.
Every country is different. Even if the official language is the same, traditions and values might differ. This is especially true when it comes to the differences between an Eastern and a Western country (for example China vs. Germany). With the usage of internet becoming wide spread in the past 20-25 years, multinational companies taking over the world, and companies outsourcing employees from different countries, it is more and more important that everyone in the corporate world learns how to efficiently deal with foreigners, so that there are no issues and misunderstandings. Taking this extra step in understanding how other people view the world can increase collaboration and avoid a negative experience (Castaneda et al 2013).
“What could possibly go wrong?” one might ask. Well, the issue is very complex. People from different countries are different as far as traditions, religion, culture, political views, and customs go (Vlad & Stan 2018). Hence, it is important to learn about a specific country’s customs before dealing with a foreigner, because there are things that are normal in one country and offensive in another country. Some examples of this is smiling to the other person when talking serious matters, looking them straight in the eyes, or shaking hands with the left hand (Unit VIII Lesson 3 n.d.). Another example could be sending a female employee to work in a country where the business world is dominated by males. Even the tone of voice can be a deal-breaker in certain places. For example the Japanese place a higher emphasis on how is something said, rather than what is being said (Unit VIII Lesson 3 n.d.). When traveling to another country for work, it is also customary to learn a few phrases in that country’s language, as foreigners always appreciate a good effort put in to learn their language.
Let’s say an Information Technology company from the United States wants to open an office in China, where, according to the plans, they will deploy some of their current employees for a few years and they will also hire local talented software developers. In order to ensure an efficient culture and seamless cooperation between all the employees at the Chinese office, it is very important to train the future American expatriates on the Chinese culture. One of the most important thing to know about the Chinese is that they are a patriarchal nation, which means that women are valued less than men (Gao et al 2016). It would be wise to place males in managerial positions, as the Chinese employees are more likely to respect males than females as their supervisor.
Employees will also have to learn the Chinese business ethics, such as how to handle Chinese collectivism. The Chinese are very success driven, which means that they will work until late at night if needed, but they are also collectivist, meaning that they like working in their group and do not cooperate well outside of their group (Hofstede-insights.com n.d.). These are important things to know to an individualistic American employee who likes to work for his or her own success and likes to make friends at work. The Chinese people might seem nice, but that is just a mask they wear for outsiders. Of course, age is an important factor as well, since these stereotypes are more fitting to the older generation of Chinese people. Younger people are more globalized and open to foreigners, so it is easier to work with them. Learning a few Chinese phrases will also lighten the mood and transform any Chinese into a friendlier person (Unit VIII Lesson 3 n.d.).
These is just a fraction of the complex behavior the Chinese people have towards foreigners. The main point is that there is a need to research modalities to make an international business collaboration work for both parties, instead of going there unprepared and just assuming that people in a different country are just the same as everyone else.
Columbia Southern University. (n.d.). Unit VIII - Lesson 3: Communicating in cultural environments. https://online.columbiasouthern.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/CSEG_Content/Courses/CAS/CM/CM1010/15K/Student/SupplementalContent/lessonscripts/UnitVIII_Lesson3.pdf
Castaneda, M. E., Bateh, J., & Heyliger, W. (2013). Areas of cross-cultural difference in the workplace. Journal of International Education Research, 9(2), 165–170.
Vlad, M., & Stan, S. O. (2018). The influence of cultural differences and its application in multinational organizations. Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy, 6(3), 405–422. https://doi-org.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/10.25019/MDKE/6.3.04
Gao, H., Lin, Y., & Ma, Y. (2016). Sex discrimination and female top managers: Evidence from China. Journal of Business Ethics, 138(4), 683–702. https://doi-org.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/10.1007/s10551-015-2892-x
Hofstede Insights. (n.d.). China. https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country/china/