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Understand Cultural Differences

Understand Cultural Differences

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Understand Cultural Differences

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  1. Understand Cultural Differences • Cultural differences have huge impacts in the business world • International business dealings • Working locally with an international work force • Culture profoundly affects how people communicate • And communication is the basis of all business activities • The Silent Language • Culture is often outside of people’s conscious awareness

  2. What is Culture? • How does it impact business activities? • How can cultural differences hamper international business? • How can an understanding of cultural differences improve international business?

  3. What is Culture? • A lens – a frame of reference • Through which we view and interpret human interaction • 90% of communication is nonverbal • Nonverbal communication is heavily culturally influenced

  4. Key Concepts • Speed: fast and slow messages • Context • Space • Time • Information Flow • Interfacing

  5. Fast and slow messages • How quickly is the meaning of a message understood? • Art is slow; a cartoon is fast • Television is faster than print • Messages are sent and received at different speeds depending upon culture • People are messages • How long does it take to “know” a person?

  6. Context • How much of the relevant information is in the message, and how much is already understood by sender and receiver? • High context situations • a message can contain lots of meaning without much information content • Low context situations • The message must contain all relevant information

  7. Space • Territoriality • What space and how much of it is “mine”? • Size and location of an office • Personal space • How close is too close? • This is very culturally dependent

  8. Time • How people view time is very culturally dependent • Monochromatic vs. polychromatic • How many things are done at once? • One thing: monochromatic • Many: polychromatic

  9. Time • Polychronic cultures • Lots of information is present • Very tolerant of interruptions • Very fluid and flexible • Monochronic cultures • Compartmentalized • Schedules and agendas very important

  10. Time: Orientation to Past, Present and Future • Cultures differ in the importance they place on past, present and future • For example: in some cultures, current proposals must be positioned in terms of their historical relationships • Respect given to age and seniority is also relevant here

  11. Time as Communication • Time-related behavior “says” a lot • But it’s all different by culture • Examples of time as communication • How far ahead are appointments scheduled? • How much importance is placed on a schedule? • How is waiting time interpreted? • What does setting end dates imply?

  12. Time as Communication • Other cultures • Schedule and agendas are viewed as goals, not binding • Promptness is not as important as completing a human interaction • As a result, interruptions will delay appointments • Forcing someone to wait is not intended as an insult

  13. Information Flow • How fast does information make its way through an organization? • In highly networked, high context cultures • Very fast • Information is not “hoarded” • In other cultures • Information flow is slow because communication is more compartmentalized • Email is changing this, but… • Email is a low-information-content medium

  14. Context • Low context cultures • US and Canadian • Northern European • High context cultures • Mediterranean (Arab, Greek, Southern European) • Japanese • African • Latin American

  15. Space • Territoriality • What space and how much of it is “mine”? • Size and location of an office • US: Executives have large, isolated spaces • Japan: Executives often don’t have private offices • Personal space • How close is too close? • This is very culturally dependent • North American, North European • Don’t get too close! • Mediterranean, Latin, African: close

  16. Time • How do monochromatics view polychronicism? • Chaotic • Noisy • Inefficient (is anything getting done? • Creates anxiety • How do polychromatics view monochronicism? • Slow, sterile, boring, uncreative • Creates frustrations

  17. Time: Orientation to Past, Present and Future • Cultures differ in the importance they place on past, present and future • US culture is very present and near-future oriented • In some cultures (German, French) historical context is very important • Some Asian, Arab cultures are very past-oriented

  18. Time as Communication • Highly scheduled cultures • North America, Northern European • Lots of importance placed on punctuality • Time communicates importance • Poor schedule adherence • Interpreted as arrogance or incompetence

  19. Interfacing • What happens when different cultures meet? • Least difficult interfacing • Low context to low context • Germans and Americans • Canadians and Scandinavians • Most difficulty • High context to low context • High context to high context

  20. So What Do You Do? • Don’t judge culture • No culture is more or less valuable or efficient than any other • Understand your own cultural framework • Be interested – study – the cultures you work with • Move slowly and softly • Ask, listen, observe • Be brave and have fun!