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Impact of Culture on

Importance of Sensitivity to
Cultural Differences
“The business world is becoming
more global. Distance and time-
wise, we are closer than ever..
But we are still learning to
understand each other’s mind-
set. We need to develop cultural
awareness in order to be
successful,” says Michiru
Tamanai, Director of training in
Sheraton Hotels, Hawaii.
United States has a low-
context culture; People there
rely mostly on verbal
communication to convey their
Japanese have a high-context
culture and so they rely more on
circumstances and nonverbal
actions to communicate their
Offensive actions to
Gestures such as leaning on a
wall, using an index finger to
summon someone and moving
things with one’s feet.

Businesses need to promote

a multicultural work
environment for global
Intercultural Communication
is the process of sending and
receiving messages between
people whose cultural
background leads them to
interpret verbal and nonverbal
signs differently.
Two trends contributing to the
increasing importance of
intercultural communication are
market globalization and the
multicultural workforce.
The Global Marketplace
Market globalization is the
increasing tendency of the world
to act as one market.
Technological advances in travel
and telecommunications are the
driving force behind market
Natural boundaries and national
borders have disappeared.
 Domesticmarkets are getting
opened to worldwide competition
and businesses look for new growth
opportunities for their goods and
 Natural boundaries and national borders have disappeared.
Domestic markets are getting opened to worldwide
competition and businesses look for new growth
opportunities for their goods and services
 With the help of fax machines, overnight delivery services,
e-mail and the Internet even the tiny firms can tap the
sales potential of overseas markets with the help of fax
machines, e-mail and the internet.
The Multicultural
 Today’s workforce is increasingly made up of
people who differ in race, gender, age, culture,
family structure, religion and educational
background. Such a cultural diversity affects
how its business messages are conceived,
planned, sent, received and interpreted in the
 It is estimated that by 2010, minorities will
account for 50 percent of the U.S.population.
 Immigrants will account for half of all new U.S.
A diverse workforce brings with
it a wide range of skills,
traditions, backgrounds,
experiences, outlooks and
attitudes towards work that can
affect employee behaviour.
Supervisors must be able to
communicate with and motivate
these diverse employees while
fostering cooperation and
harmony among them.
Improving Intercultural
Culture is a shared system of
symbols, beliefs, attitudes,
values, expectations, and norms
for behaviour. Cultures differ
widely from group to group and
may vary in a number of ways,
including their rate of change,
degree of complexity and
tolerance towards outsiders
Distinct groups that exist within
a major culture are referred to
as subcultures. Indonesia has a
variety of ethnic subcultures.
Japan is homogeneous and has
only a few subcultures.In US,
there are subcultures such as
Mexican Americans, Mormons,
Russian immigrants, and so on.
Communication can be improved
effectively across cultures by
recognizing cultural differences
and then overcoming one’s own
Ethnocentrism is the tendency to
judge all other groups according
to one’s own group’s standards,
behaviours and customs.
Recognize Cultural
 The greater the difference between
cultures, the greater the chance for
 Ex:- US Engineers believe in detailed e-
mails French Engineers believe in
concise e-mails
 Reaction-French felt US was patronising
US felt French was withholding
“Treat people not the way I want
to be treated but the way they
want to be treated”

Intercultural sensitivity can be

improved by recognizing and
accomodating 4 main types of
cultural differences:
contextual,ethical, social, and
Contextual Differences
People assign meaning to a
message according to cultural
Cultural context is the pattern of
physical cues, environmental
stimuli, and implicit
understanding that convey
meaning between two members
of the same culture.
High-context Culture
People rely less on verbal
communication and more on the
context of nonverbal actions and
environmental setting to convey
meaning. The rules of everyday
life are rarely explicit. Ex- A
Chinese speaker expects the
receiver to discover the essence
of a message and use
indirectness to provide a web of
Low-context culture
People rely more on verbal
communication and less on
circumstances and cues to
convey meaning. Ex:- An English
speaker transmits the meaning
of the message very clearly and
often places the sentences in
chronological sequence to
establish a cause-and effect
In a low-context culture, such
as United States or Germany,
people rely more on verbal
communication and less on
circumstances to convey
meaning. Rules are usually
spelled out through statements
such as “Please wait until I’ve
finished.” “You may go if you
Decision-making Practices
In low-context cultures decisions
are reached as quickly as
Agreements are made and
details are worked out later. But
in high-context cultures, such as
Greece, details are not ignored.
Lengthy decision-making is
encouraged. Spending time on
each little point is considered a
mark of good faith.
Problem-Solving Techniques
High-context cultures avoid
confrontation and debate.
Sometimes a third party is also
being used as a go-between.
Low-context cultures encourage
open disagreement.
Negotiating Styles
High-context cultures emphasize
relationships and a sociable
atmosphere when negotiating,
whereas low-context cultures
view negotiations impersonally
and focus on economic goals
Legal and Ethical Differences
Cultural context also influences
legal and ethical behaviour.
Ex:- Low-context cultures value
the written word. High-context
cultures consider personal
pledges more important than
Low-context cultures adhere to
the law strictly
High-context cultures view law
with flexibility
In United Kingdom and the
United States-someone is
presumed innocent until proved
In Mexico and Turkey-someone
is presumed guilty until proved
This is important if a firm has to
communicate about a legal
dispute in another country
Ethical choices can be even
more complicated when
communicating across cultures;
Ex:-bribing officials is viewed
differently from culture to
In the United States bribing
officials is illegal, but Kenyans,
Chinese, Russians and few other
nations consider paying such
bribes a part of life.
The industrialized nations have
signed a treaty that makes pay-
offs to foreign officials a criminal
offense. But bribery will not end
just because a treaty has been
signed, but supporters are
optimistic that countries will
ratify the treaty, pass legislation
and enforce the new laws
When communicating across
cultures, keep your messages
ethical by applying 4 basic
*Actively seek mutual ground
*Send and receive messages
without judgement
*Send messages that are honest
*Show respect for cultural
Social Differences
Social behaviour is another
distinguishing factor among
Formal rules of etiquette are
explicit and well-defined, but
informal rules are learned
through observation and
When formal rules are violated
people can explain why they
feel upset.
When informal rules are
violated people are likely to
feel uncomfortable
Ex:- the way people value
wealth, recognize status, define
manners and think about time
Attitudes towards
People from the United States
emphasize hard work, material
success efficiency more than
people in other countries do.
Ex:- US workers annually put in
almost 300 more hours at work
than West Germans and 60
more hours than their Japanese
Respect and rank are reflected
differently from culture to
culture in the way people are
addressed and in their working
Ex:- Women, in many countries,
still don’t play a prominent role
in business, so female
executives who visit these
countries are not taken
seriously.Women are free in the
United States but not in the
Use of Manners
The rules of polite behaviour
vary from country to country
Ex:-In Arab countries it is
impolite to take gifts to a man’s
In India if you are invited to visit
someone’s home any time, an
unexpected visit is always
Nonverbal Differences
Nonverbal elements are
apparent in attitudes towards
personal space and in body
Concepts of personal space:-
People in Canada and the United
States may stand about 5feet
apart during a business
But this distance is close for
Use of Body Language
In the United States and Canada
if people don’t meet their gaze ,
it means they are evasive and
dishonest, but in many parts of
Asia, keeping one’s eyes
lowered is a sign of respect.
Overcome Ethnocentricism
Stereotyping is the attempt to
categorize individuals by trying
to predict ;their behaviour or
character on the basis of their
membership in a particular
Ex:-Japanese visitors stereotype
Americans as walking fast,
asking too many questions..
Move beyond stereotypes to
relationships with real people
To overcome
*Acknowledge distinctions:
Accept the differences between
another person’s culture and
your own
*Avoid assumptions: Don’t
assume that others will act the
same way you do
*Avoid judgements: When
people act differently, don’t
conclude that they are in error
Study other cultures:Learning as
much as possible about another
culture will enhance your ability
to communicate with its
People from the US are often
uninformed about the customs
of other cultures
Spain-Handshake lasts five to
seven strokes and pulling away
too soon may be interpreted as
France-the preferred handshake
is only a single stroke
Arab countries-Turning down
food, drink, or hospitality of any
kind is insulting, but don’t
accept too quickly either. A
polite refusal is expected before
you finally accept.
Tips from successful
intercultural business people
1.Assume differences until
similarity is proved
2. Take responsibility for
3. Withhold judgement
4. Show respect
5. Empathize
6. Tolerate ambiguity
7.Look beyond the superficial
8.Be patient and persistent
9. Recognize your own cultural
10.Be flexible
11.Emphasize common ground
12.Send clear messages
13.Deal with the individual
14. Learn when to be direct
15. Treat your interpretation as
a working hypothesis
Overcome Language Barriers
Language barriers can result
from your choice of words and
from the fact that words can be
interpreted in more than one
eg:- In France, catastrophe
means relatively small problem
In Germany, it means an earth
shaking event
Breaking through ESL
(English as a Second
Language) Barriers
Slang and idioms, local accents
and pronunciation, and vocal
variations can pose problems
when you are speaking to
people from other cultures
Language Barriers
English is the most prevalent
language in international
business, but it’s a mistake to
assume that everyone
understands it. For a long-term
business relationship with
people of another culture, it is
helpful to learn their language.
Many people use translators and
some give training in English