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Intercultural communication is essential in modern society. With global businesses requiring people from different cultures to meet and make deals, the knowledge of cultural differences is needed for successful negotiations. In private life, ignorance of foreign cultures could lead to offence and dysfunctional relationships. This paper will cover how the culture of France differs from the culture of China and Brazil.
Differences Between Cultures
When comparing France to China, it is important to note the following two concepts. China is a collectivist country with a cyclical perception of time. This concept means that on average, a Chinese person would prefer to contribute to the larger cultural value over self-interest. The cyclical perception of time means that they see time as a cycle where the past is the main influencing force. The Guanxi is another important part of Chinese culture. This concept implies that relationships among people obligate all parties to continually exchange favours with each other. In contrast, the French culture is individualistic and has a polychromic perception of time. This can create a barrier due to the different value system between the cultures, as well as less obvious issues arising from different perceptions of time. French people’s idea of time allows for simultaneous actions toward different things (Parrenin, Rau, & Zhong, 2015). Another aspect of communication that might be hard to consider is the differences in non-verbal communication. The traditional hand signs are different between the two countries. France utilizes the traditional western signs that are distinct from those used in China. Even the hand motions for numbers are different. However, both countries value their heritage, see art as an important part of their culture, and have a very distinct culinary tradition (Moran, Abramson, Moran, & Harris, 2014).
Brazilian culture is no less unique than Chinese. There is a stronger emphasis on emotion and closeness in Brazilian communication. When talking to each other, Brazilian people are likely to stand very close to each other, which can be seen as an invasion of personal space by a French person. Touching is also a common practice in a conversation between Brazilian people. In Brazilian culture, it is uncommon to suppress emotion. The mood of the person is easy to tell, and in the case of anger or discomfort, the outbursts could be surprising to a French person. Public displays of affection are also common. This would not be a barrier for the French people due to acceptance of passion in the French culture (Kelm, & Victor, 2016). One interesting difference in non-verbal communication is the use of the American OK sign. While relatively common in the French culture, the hand sign for OK is very similar to an offensive Brazilian hand gesture. This difference has already caused some issues when international companies and visitors have used the sign without prior knowledge of its meaning. Brazilian culture perceives time as a sequence of events, as opposed to hours and minutes. While punctuality is still expected and valued, this belief leads to events starting later than scheduled. Again, differences in time perception could cause issues during intercultural communication. Informal speech is preferred even in the workplace, with formal speech usually used for introductions. This is important to consider during business negotiations to avoid offence by either party (Felix, & Juall, 2016).
A variety of differences exists between the cultures of these countries. With even things like perception of time and hand gestures being different between them, it might seem like the barriers to communication are impassable. However, it only takes some research into the culture of others to realize how people can successfully communicate with each other.
Felix, R., & Juall, S. (2016). Cultural exchanges between Brazil and France. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
Kelm, O., & Victor, D. (2016). The 7 keys to communicating in Brazil. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Moran, R., Abramson, N., Moran, S., & Harris, P. (2014). Managing cultural differences (2nd ed.). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Parrenin, A., Rau, P., & Zhong, R. (2015). Impacts of cultural differences in a business environment for French companies in China. Global Business and Management Research: An International Journal, 7(1), 93-108.