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Cross-Culture Issues in Business Communication

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Cross-culture Issues in Business Communication Introduction When travelling in other countries, we often perceive differences in the way people live and work. In the United States dinner is commonly eaten around 6. 00pm; in Spain, it’s not served until 8. 00 or 9. 00pm. In the United States most people shop in large supermarket once or twice a week; Italians tend to shop in smaller grocery stores nearly every day. Everybody has their own culture so businesspeople must keep in mind of their client’s culture.

This paper exploring the aesthetics, values and attitudes, manners and customs and language of cultural will affect business practices and national competitiveness. Background Cultural can be grouped into two kinds, such as nation-culture and subcultures. Nation-states support the concept of a national culture by building museums and monuments to preserve the legacies of important events and people. Nation-state also intervenes in business to help preserve their nation cultures. Most nations, for example, regulate culturally sensitive sectors of the economy, such as filmmaking and broadcasting.

France continues to voice fears that its language is being tainted with English and its media with U. S. programming. To stem the English invasion, French laws limit the use of English in product packaging and storefront signs. At peak listening times, at least 40 percent of all radio station programming must be reserved for French artists. Similar laws apply to television broadcasting. The French government even fined the local branch of a U. S. university for failing to provide French translation in its English-language site on the World Wide Web.

A group of people who share a unique way of life within a larger, dominant culture is called a subculture. Companies must be mindful of subcultures when formulating business strategies. For instance, the customary portrait of Chinese culture often ignores the fact that the total population of China is comprised of more than 50 distinct ethnic groups. Decisions regarding product design, packaging and advertising must consider each group’s distinct culture. Aesthetics Issues Aesthetics is what a culture considers to be in “good taste” in the arts, the imagery evoked by certain expressions, and the symbolism of certain colours.

Aesthetics played an important role in business communication when a firm considers doing business in another culture. Firms must control on selection of appropriate colours for product packaging, advertisement, workers uniform and even the website design to make way of success in their business. For example, red is the favorite colour for Chinese. They believe that red will bring luck to them while for Malays, they love green. Across much of Asia, on the other hand, green associated with sickness. Most of the countries taking black colour as the colour of death and mourning while Japan and most of Asia, it is white.

Shoe manufacturer Nike experienced firsthand the importance of imagery and symbolism in international marketing. The company emblazoned a new line of shoes with the word “Air” written to resemble flames or heat rising off blacktop. There were other names given to the shoes such as Air Bakin’, Air Melt, Air Grill and Air B-Que. But what Nike did not realize that the squiggly lines of the “Air” logo resembled Arabic script for “Allah”, the Arabic name for God. Under threat of worldwide boycott by Muslims, who considered it a sacrilege, Nike recalled the shoes and agreed to build several playgrounds in Muslim communities as part of its apology.

The importance of aesthetics is just a great when going international using the Internet. When going global an internet presence, the more a company localizes the better. For example, a black-and-white Web site is fine for many countries, but in Asia visitors may think you are inviting them to a funeral. So, the web designer must beware and take concern on choosing colour scheme. Finally, music is also deeply embedded in culture and should be considered when developing promotions. When used correctly, music can be clever and creative addition to a promotion; if used incorrectly, it can be offensive to the local population.

The architecture of buildings and other structures should also be researched to avoid making cultural blunders attributable to the symbolism of certain shapes and forms. Values and attitudes Issues Values are important to both individuals and groups. Values are ideas, beliefs and customs to which people are emotionally attached. Values include things like honesty, marital faithfulness, freedom and responsibility. While, attitudes mean to positive or negative evaluations, feelings and tendencies that individuals harbor toward objects or concepts. Attitudes reflect underlying values.

Cultural knowledge can help managers decide whether promotions must be adapted to local attitudes in order to maximize the effectiveness of promotional efforts. For instance, it is often believed that people around the world respond similarly toward technological products, so advertising agency Euro RSGG Worldwide surveyed consumers about their attitudes toward technology and their use of technological products in purchasing situations. Among other things, the survey revealed that consumers in the United Kingdom were far more likely to purchase online than Italian and German consumers.

It also found that Web sites were useful in Finland as a source of information on technological products but were considered not at all useful by Italians. There are three important aspects of life that directly affect business activities which is attitudes toward time, work and achievement, and cultural change. Examples for attitudes toward time, people in Latin American and Mediterranean cultures are casual about their use of time if compare to the people in Japan and the United States. The Latin, they maintain flexible schedules and would rather enjoy their time than sacrifice it to unbending efficiency.

In contrast, people in Japan and the United States typically arrive promptly for meetings, keep tight schedules, and work long hours. An American who has worked in the Middle East for 20 years explains the Middle Eastern concept of the time this way:”A lot of the misunderstandings between Middle Easterners and the foreigners are due to their different concepts of time and space. At worst, there is no concept at all of time in the Middle East. At best, there is a sort of open-ended concept. ” (Irwin McGraw-Hill, 1999, p. 263).

For attitudes toward work, people in southern France like to say, “We work to live, while people in the United States live to work. ” Work, they say, is for them a means to an end. In the United States, they change; it is an end in itself. Not surprising, the lifestyle in southern France is slower-paced. People tend to concentrate on earning enough money to enjoy a relaxed, quality lifestyle. Businesses practically close down during August, when many workers take month-long paid holidays, usually outside the country. In contrast, this attitude is unheard of in many Asian countries, including Japan.

Manners and Customs Issues Understanding others manners and customs helps managers to avoid embracing mistakes and improve the ability to negotiate in other cultures, market products effectively and manage international operations. Appropriate ways of behaving, speaking, and dressing in a culture are called manners. In Arab cultures from the Middle East to northwest Africa, one does not extend a hand to greet an older person unless the elder first offers the greeting. In going first, a younger person would be displaying bad manners.

Moreover, because Arab culture considers the left hand the one used for personal hygiene, using it to pour tea or serve a meal is considered very bad manners. Good manners are just as important internationally as when doing business in the home market. Conducting business during meals is common practice in the United States. In Mexico, however, it is poor manners to bring up business discussions in Mexico typically begin when coffee and brandy arrive. Likewise, toasts in the United States tend to be casual and sprinkled with lighthearted humor.

In Mexico, where a toast should be philosophical and full of passion, a lighthearted toast would be offensive. When habits or ways behaving in specific circumstances are passed down through generations, they become customs. Customs differ from manners in that they define appropriate habits or behaviors in specific situations. Sharing food gifts during Islamic holy month of Ramadan is a custom. Although giving token gifts to business and government associates is customary in many countries, the proper type of gift varies.

A knife, for example, should not be offered to associates in Russia, France, or Germany, where it signals the severing of a relationship. In Japan, gift must be wrapped in such a delicate way it is wise to ask someone trained in the practice to do the honors. It is also Japanese custom not to open a gift in front of the gift giver. So, businesspeople must always keep in mind to their clients’ customs to avoid making embarrassing mistakes or offending people. Personal Communication and Body Language Issues People in every culture have a communication system or a body language to convey thoughts, feeling, and information.

Understanding a culture’s spoken language gives us great insight into why people think and act the way that they do. Understanding a culture’s body language helps us avoid sending unintended or embarrassing messages. A lingua franca is a third or “link” language that is understood by two parties who speak different native languages. The importance of understanding the local language in business is becoming increasingly apparent on the internet. English is the language of roughly two-thirds of all Web pages on the Internet.

That is why software solutions providers are assisting companies from English-speaking countries in adapting their Web sites for global e-business. Advertising slogans and company documents must be translated carefully so that messages are received precisely as intended. There are many stories of companies making terrible language blunders in their international business dealings. General Motors’ Chevrolet division made perhaps the most well-known blunder when it first launched its Chevrolet Nova in Spanish-speaking markets. The company failed to notice beforehand that “No va” means “No go” in Spanish.

Body language communicates through unspoken cues, including hand gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, physical greetings and the manipulation of personal space. For example, navigating all-important handshake in international business can be tricky. In the United States it is a firm grip and can include several pumps of the arm. But in the Middle East and Latin America a softer clasp of the hand with little or no arm pump is the custom and some country, like Japan, people do not shake hands at all, but bow to each other. Bows of respect carry different meanings, usually depending on the recipient.

Associates of equal standing bow about 15 degrees toward one another. But proper respect for an elder requires a bow of about 30 degrees. Lastly, bow for apology is about 45 degrees. Conclusion Essentially, we are experiencing differences in culture which the set of values, beliefs, rules, and institutions held by a specific group of people. Culture is a highly complex portrait of a people. It includes everything from high-tea in England, to the tropical climate of Barbados, to Mardi Gras in Brazil, to segregation of the sexes in Saudi Arabian schools.

Every country got theirs aesthetics, values and attitudes, manners and customs and personal communication and body language. Businesspeople must be always sensitive to the local culture, so that, they will be success in their business in international. References Ball, D. & McCulloch, W. (1999). International Business: The Challenge of Global Competition 7th edition. The McGraw-Hill Companies. Griffin, R. & Pustay, M. (1996). International Business: A managerial Perspective. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Phatak, A. (1997). International Management: Concepts and Cases. South-Western College Publishing.

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