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Cross-culture Communication Report

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Updated: Apr 24th, 2019

Introduction

Various reasons explain why people from diverse countries have different modes of communication. In fact, the manners in which people communicate have greater influence on their daily activities.

Essentially, the mode of communication also determines the conduct, perceptions as well as activities undertaken in everyday life (Gudykunst & Ting-Toomey, 2008).

The differences in the modes and styles of communication are due to diverse cultures of the people from different countries. The understanding of the differences in cultural aspects is critical in eliminating the prejudices, misconceptions and discrimination that may exist among individuals from different countries.

In addition, understanding the concept of cultural differences creates and enhances the mutual respect among individuals in settings with dual cultures (Hall, 2000). The aim of this report is to evaluate the concept of different communication cultures through the application of Hall’s high and low-context model of culture.

Hall’s View of Culture

According to Hall (1990), culture is the way people live. In other words, culture is the manner in which people interact with immediate environment. Further, culture comprises on the manner people in the society behave, their principles, verbal communication and mind-set as well as material values.

Hall (1990) described culture as intuitive. In this context, culture controls the lives of people unknowingly. In other words, culture acts as imperceptible control system working in the minds of individuals.

According to this view, people acknowledge their norms only after being exposed to a different way of life. The differences existing between the two cultures enable individuals to internalise the tenets of their customs and norms (Hall, 1990).

For instance, one cannot know that there is another language unless exposed to a dissimilar environment where people communicate differently. Once exposed, the individual appreciates the importance of their language.

In addition, members of the society acknowledge incorporate and appreciate the cultural aspects and act within the definitions of the societal expectations. In other words, the actions and behaviours of the members of the society must be within what is culturally acceptable (Hall, 1990). The societal culture also defines rewards for the violations of societal norms.

According to Hall (1990), cultural aspects of all societies fall within the low-context to high-context cultures. Context in this case means the information concerning an event.

The beliefs, norms and practices of all societies around the world are described by factors that fall within the scale of low-context to high-context cultures (Kim, Pan, & Park, 2008). In other words, traditions of various countries can be related to one another through the application of factors that are found within the scale of low-context to high-context cultures.

High versus low-context cultures

Hall’s cultural scale is critical in the understanding of the existing national cultures of various countries taking into consideration both their cultural and communication values (1990). In fact, issues concerned with culture both at the national and local level are taken into consideration.

Besides, cultural issues also consist of the individualism and collectivism attributes (Hofstede, 2008). On the other hand, communication styles are methods of transferring information that is unique to a given country.

Communication styles in HC Vs LC cultures

The form of interactions, societal chain of command and strong norms that govern behaviours affects the modes of transferring information in high-context societies. In other words, the communication styles are influenced by the basic cultural characteristics of the society (Mattock, 2003).

High context societies are characterised by the closeness of human relationships, highly structured social hierarchy and presence of strong behavioural norms. Under such situations, the information contains the hidden meaning, which does not need outright expression or explanation either in writing or verbally.

In other words, high-context cultures are characterised by information having an inward or hidden meaning the members of the society automatically understand (Mattock, 2003).

When passing information in high-context cultures, the listener is expected to understand some of the underlying issues without subsequent explanation. However, such skills require background knowledge on the issue.

According to Hall (1990), information in high-context societies is internalised or presented in substantial framework while very little information is conveyed in implicit structure. In other words, information that is openly sent out in implied form is very modest in high-context cultures.

Besides, people are linear in their mode of speaking. The speaker is rarely intermittent. Essentially, communication is oblique, unclear, pleasant-sounding, reserved and discreet (Pakiam, 2007). Greater emphasis is placed in the non-verbal aspects of communication.

Conversely, in low context cultures, meaning of the information is unambiguously entrenched in speech. Explanations are often needed in case of misunderstandings. Hall (1990) indicates that the information is in the transmitted form to compensate for the missing parts in the context.

Besides, in low-context cultures, communication is usually straightforward, consequential, stable and sometimes without stopping the usage of words.

Cultural issues in high vs. low-context cultures

Based on traditional belief system, high-content cultures are considered constant, amalgamated and consistent. In addition, under such belief systems, HC cultures are considered unlikely to change. Moreover, people in high-context societies depend on their past and social as well as economic status determine mode of relationships (Richardson & Smith, 2007).

Moreover, high-content cultures depend on plenty of information, such as that found in religion to provide an explanation for a particular event. On the other hand, low-context cultures are characterised by individualistic behaviours.

Individualistic behaviours are considered in situations where the goals of the people override the purposes of the group. Besides, low cultures recognise personal value, such as politeness.

High-context culture countries

Japan

In terms of cultural features, Japan exhibits the attributes of high-context cultures. In fact, Japanese still heavily believe in their traditions. Besides, traditions still influence the political, social and economic systems in Japan.

Moreover, Japanese have high commitments to their task orientations (Goodman & Refsing, 2002). Essentially, Japanese culture can be described as highly reactive, listening, data oriented, relatively homogenous, highly hierarchical and collectivist.

Finland

Finnish culture is also highly rooted in the traditions, a characteristic of high-context cultures. In addition, the Finnish culture is characterised by high commitment to complete an action chains. High commitment to complete given tasks is due to increased societal cohesiveness and eagerness to undertake particular tasks (Lewis, 2005).

In addition, the Finnish culture can be described as linear-active and reactive, data oriented and listening. Moreover, Fins exhibit relatively homogenous society and moderately hierarchical. However, the society is moderately individualistic.

Low-context culture countries

India

India is one of the countries that are considered to be within the low-context culture. Indian society is highly heterogeneous with diversity in cultural norms and practices (Sen, 2005). However, there is increased belief in traditions. In addition, the Indian culture is multi-active and reactive as well as dialogue oriented.

The Indian culture can also be described as talking, greatly diverse and contradictory. However, personal values, such as politeness, are highly cherished (Chella, 2007). In addition, the society is exceedingly hierarchical and collectivist.

Indonesia

Indonesia is also another country considered to exhibit the low-context culture. Indonesia’s culture is highly traditional. However, the Indonesians have low commitment to complete action chains. Besides, the Indonesian culture can be described as talking and dialogue oriented.

Moreover, Indonesian culture exhibits low situational relevance, highly diverse and contradictory. Besides, the Indonesian society is highly hierarchical and individualistic.

Examples of Business Communications

Business communication in Finland

Finland is one of the countries that exhibit high-context cultures. Finland has methods in which formal transfer of information is carried out. Traditionally, Finnish language has been perceived as reserved, longish and slow moving (Lewis, 2005).

The characteristic of the language has been demonstrated in the communication culture. Finnish managers often communicate with employees and fellow managers in a modest form and do not encourage interruptions during speeches.

In most cases, the information provided contains only the framework within which the task has to be carried out. The expectation is that the receiver understands the meaning or has the basic idea of what is expected. The form of business communication is demonstrated in high-context cultures (Zaidman, 2001).

Besides, Finns are good listeners. Most of the time, the information is internalised upon reception. In the current corporate world where information is digitised, Finns get it easier with coded speeches particularly the information being transferred through the Internet.

However, the modes of business communication styles have changed with most people engaging in more proactive conversations (Zaidman, 2001). Employees can now interrupt their managers and ask questions during and after the presentations.

Business communication in Japan

Japanese corporate communication approach is within the traditions. For instance, in Toyota, the language used to pass information can be said to be agglutinated. In other words, the language has words that contain several elements meaning similar thing (Maynard, 2007).

The particles in the words not only express the relations in the grammar but also the individual thoughts of the conveyor. Japanese corporate language is highly characterised by appreciation and respect. In fact, the language is full of regard and humble classification making the form of communication most distinct.

In addition, the language has several ways through which politeness can be expressed (Tokuhiro & Hiki, 2005). Based on the characteristics of the language, the form of communication in Japanese has a tendency of being high-context.

Japan is placed at the top of the high-context cultures because of the communication style. In fact, Japanese communication procedures have all the attributes exhibited by high-context cultures. In Japanese language, the business information is oblique and digressive, few words are applied and dependencies on relative signal are exhibited (Pryor, Butler, & Boehringer, 2005). In addition, there is low rate of interruptions as well as respect for long silences.

Business communication in India

The form of business communication in India is quite complex not only due to the several languages used to pass information but also due to the complexity of the recipients (Varma, 2004). Indian workers are more reactive and active. Actually, Indians do not take time to listen and internalise the information.

Indian corporate world is characterised by the use of combined languages, which prove to be complicated in carrying out daily business conversation. India has over twenty -two official languages. Each of the languages has a distinct meaning when it is used to communicate business information.

The mix and complexity in the application of diverse languages in daily business conversations make India’s communication culture be rated as low-context culture (Kapoor, Hughes, Baldwin, & Blue, 2003).

The major role of language in India is to maintain harmony and bring about good relations among individuals. Language is actually not used to convey exact knowledge. The form of communication culture is also demonstrated in the business conversations where information is haphazardly provided.

Besides, Indian workers are dialogue-oriented (Kapoor et al. 2003). In fact, most businesses prefer providing direct information. The characteristics make the communication culture in India be ranked as low-context.

Business communication in Indonesia

Indonesia is also one of the countries that are found within the low-context cultures. The form of business communication is characterised by extroversion, interruptions and assertiveness (Ferraro, 2005). In Indonesia, business letters exhibit extrovert in almost all sentences.

Business managers are also assertive in their speech. Besides, interruptions are normal during presentations where employees tend to seek immediate clarity in case there is a misunderstanding. Like India, there is no homogeneity in the business language. Besides, there is no room for the internalisation of the information.

Moreover, attentiveness to understand the information is deficient since the information provided is more direct. The characteristics place the Indonesian communication traditions under the low-context cultures.

In Indonesia, low-context cultural oriented tendencies are highly observed in business communications involving contracts. Communications involving contracts are normally simple and explicit.

Even though there are variations in the communications involving such business transactions depending on the language used, the information is shared and understood across the board.

In other words, business conversations involving simple contracts are commonly understood due to the simplicity in which they are conveyed (Chaney, 2005). Essentially, communication in low context cultures is straight, accurate, impressive and open as well as founded on faithful thoughts and purpose.

References

Chaney, L 2005, Intercultural business communication, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ:

Chella, G 2007, The changing face of Indian work culture, New Delhi, The Hindu Business Online.

Ferraro, GP 2005, The cultural dimension of international business, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Goodman, R & Refsing, K 2002, Ideology and practice in modern Japan. Routledge, London.

Gudykunst, WB & Ting-Toomey, S 2008, Culture and interpersonal communication, Sage, Newbury Park, CA.

Hall, E 1990, Understanding cultural differences: Germans, French and Americans. Intercultural Press, Yarmouth.

Hofstede, G 2008, A summary of my ideas about national culture differences, McGraw-Hill, Berkshire, England.

Kapoor, S, Hughes, P, Baldwin, JR & Blue, J 2003, “The relationship of individualism-collectivism in India and the United States,” International Journal of Intercultural Relations, vol.27 no.2, pp.683–700.

Kim, D, Pan, Y & Park, HS 2008, “High- versus low-context culture: a comparison of Chinese, Korean, and American cultures,” Psychology and Marketing, vol.15 no.6, pp.507–521.

Lewis, RD 2005, Finland, cultural lone wolf, Intercultural Press, Yarmouth, ME.

Mattock, J 2003, Cross-cultural business cimmunication: the essential guide to international business, Kogan Page, London.

Maynard, SK 2007, Japanese communication language and thought in context, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Pakiam, A 2007, “Face-saving” in cross-cultural communication, New Delhi, The Hindu Business Line.

Pryor, B, Butler, J & Boehringer, K 2005, “Communication apprehension and cultural context: a comparison of communication apprehension in Japanese and American students,” North American Journal of Psychology, vol.7 no.2, pp.247–252.

Richardson, RM & Smith, SW 2007, “The influence of high/low-context culture and power distance on choice of communication media: students’ media choice to communicate with professors in Japan and America,” International Journal of Intercultural Relations, vol.31 no.4, pp.479–501.

Sen, A 2005, The argumentative Indian: writings on Indian history, culture and identity, Penguin Books, London.

Tokuhiro, Y & Hiki, S 2005, “of mora phonemes on Japanese word accent,” Logico-Linguistic Society of Japan, vol.42 no.3 pp. 243–250.

Varma, PK 2004, Being Indian: the truth about why the 21st century will be India’s, Penguin, Delhi.

Zaidman, N 2001, “Cultural codes and language strategies in business communication,” Management Communication Quarterly, vol.14 no.3, pp.408-441.

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