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Managing intercultural relations - study case

Hausarbeit 2002 10 Seiten

Medien / Kommunikation - Interkulturelle Kommunikation


Table of content

1. Introduction

2. Hofstede´s Dimensions
2.1 Individualism versus Collectivism
2.2 Uncertainty avoidance
2.3 Feminism versus Masculinity
2.4 Power Distance
2.5 Long Term Orientation (since 1991)

3. Hall´s Dimensions
3.1 Time
3.2 Non-verbal communication and body language
3.3 Context
3.4 Space

4. Summary

5. Sources

1. Introduction

Why is it so important to think about culture? In the time of globalisation the differents of cultural behaviours get smaller and smaller. And it is getting one culture- the American way of life. But anyway that is not really true. The culture is chancing but it chances in the frame of each cultural behaviour.

Straight in our time you can not avoid intercultural meetings. And on cultural differents there are a lot of negotiations abortive. So for an international operation company it is rather important to know and to accept the other cultures.

In this case two nations meet each other: a French student (Francois) was doing his practical course in Nagoya, Japan.

The financial situation was, that the new company paid for the flight ticket. But they did not say anything about other costs, for example train, insurance etc.

Another point was, that Francois invited his girlfriend to stay with him at his host family. But the family informs the company that that was not a part of the agreement an so he lost his place and also his internship after four month because he was not serious enough.

2. Hofstede´s Dimensions

One of research priorities of intercultural research is the quest for cultural dimensions through systematic search and abstraction cultural differences.

The following dimensions simplify classification of cultures and relieve dissections of cultural varieties and their effects.

Hofstede´s Dimensions are:

- Individualism/Collectivism
- Masculinity/Femininity
- Uncertainty Avoidance
- Power Distance Index
- Long Term orientation (since 1991)

The Individualismus/ Kollektivismus Dimension Hofstedes is the most used and discussed Dimension.

2.1 Individualism versus Collectivism

In a Country which has a very individualistic pronounced society the unique is the most important part. The people are expected to look out for themselves. Typical values are personal time, freedom and challenge.

The society in France is a typical society for an individualistic pronounced one. So for Francois it is very important to have his personal time, freedom and challenge.

In collectivist countries individuals are bounded through strong personal and protected ties based on loyalty to the group during one´s lifetime and often beyond (mirrored family ties). Values include training, physical conditions and the use of skills.

Japanese people live in a most collectivism culture, they use the word “we” more often and decisions typically referred back by delegate to the organization. So they accept Francois as a member of a group and nothing else.

2.2 Uncertainty avoidance

When uncertainty avoidance is strong, a culture tends to perceive unknown situations as threatening so that people tend to avoid them, like in Japan and in France. Cultures with a waek uncertainty avoidance have less emotional resistance to change. But both countries, Japan and France are countries were uncertainty avoidance is very strong. It is stronger in Japan - with 92% - but followed from France - with 86€.1 So in this dimension there are not strong distinctions between Japanese and French people.

2.3 Masculinity versus Feminity

This dimension distinguish two contrary sex specific features of cultures. On one side are feminine cultures characterized through feminine qualities of sympathy, tolerance, social thinking and a special sympathy for weaker persons. Feminine people, like Francoise in the case, tend to value a good relationship and try to cooperate well with other persons. In the other hand there are the Japanese people who are very rude. Masculine cultures, like the Japanese one, are characterized through warlike-masculine qualities. Only the best counts, tolerance and sympathy plays subordinate role. The people react very aggressive. I think that is why Francoise lost his place. The people where he stayed were not tolerant enough to accept his girl-friend in his room.

2.4 Power Distance

“Power distance is the extent to which inequality is seen as an irreducible fact of life. It would condition the extent to which employees accept that their boss has more power than they have and the extent to which they accept that their boss´s opinions and decisions are right because he or she is the boss.”2

Japan and France are both in the middle power distance spreadsheet. So I think there are not so many differents between them in this Dimension.

2.5 Long Term Orientation

This dimension was accessory in 1991. It is characterized by persistence and perseverance, a respect for a hierarchy of the status of relationships, thrift and sense of shame. The perfect example for this are the Japanese people, they tried to do the best to cultivate every relationship. And they are willing to accept every arbitration, if it is necessary to keep this relationship.

The French people are seeming to be short term orientated. They did not really care about the others. They are doing his thing and that´s it. Not more.

3. Hall´s Dimensions

You can also divide this dimension into four parts. The

- Time
- Non-verbal communication and body language
- Context and
- Space

3.1 Time

The most important question in this dimension is:

- is the time the mass of everything we do?
- And do we succumb the time- or the time the people?

And so we divide the Time into two different groups. First the monochronic culture and than the polychronic culture.

In polychronic cultures time is not so important. The people of a polychronic culture prefer to manage all things in a linear tangible and divisible way. Appointments who has to be terminated to a special time did not grow in this time. A little bit later is also good.

I think France is a polychronic culture, because time is not so important for them. Is something just in time sometimes it is too matutinal.

In the monochronic culture people think in a totally different way. Points of time, meetings etc will be handled with militarily strictness. They manage the task successively.

I guess Japan has a monochromic culture precisely because unperturbed if they have to do something. That is way Francois had a lot of problems during doing his job. He prefers to manage all the things at the same time. So he was a bit too agitated for the Japanese.

But that is not all. Truly like monochronismus and polychronismus is non-verbale communication and body language not straightly a cultural dimension but rather a behaviour pattern.

3.2 Non-verbal communication and body language

It seems that there is not a direct conection with a cultural dimension. As a basic principle you presume that in Northern Europe- and especially in Asia- the body language is curbed. The people of Southern Europe use the body language more often.

Body language - particularly non-verbal communication- is bound in a special way on the tongue. E.g. the typical british sign V for Victory will also be used as an offense in an other part of an english speaking country. Also the fingers which you use for reckon are different in some countries. If you would like to order something that can be run into misunderstandings.

I think Francois could not interpret the body language of the Japanese. They say- with words- yes but the body language should tell him no. France e. g. are numerated to the “direct” speaking countries. That means that they have less contact in her tongue than the “indirect” speaking countries like Japan. They never or even seldom say to his vis-à-vis “no”. And Francois did not recogniced that and ushered to misunderstandings. So he only receives the same email, after asking his tutor why they are not so interested in him. And they did also not react after he was so creative and initiative.

3.3 Context

In the international group of cultures we have high and low context cultures.

The low context cultures, like Japan, like have long-lasting relationships (to other people as well as to their company) and with a really high loyalty compared to others. As a part of this they have oral agreements and they respect as well as observe it. That would never work in a low context cultures, like France, you have to write down everything otherwise they would not agree with it.

That shows us how different cultures are and in which way you have to agree with it. For Francois is was an experience to work in an japanese company. And it showed him how different cultures are.Especially in this kind. That reminds me to Guanxi- a japanese mentality- that means you first have to do good property to an other peson before you get something back. For Francois signified that he first had to do a favour to his tutor bevor he got something back. The point why the tutor was so aloof to him was that he has not done this.So the tutor did not saw a necessity to help him or to be friendly.

3.4 Space

Space is more or less a hidden dimension, bacause here are meant invisble borders around an individual that is considered “personal”. In general Japanese live in strict borders. They live on an island, in very small rooms, and they have no chance to change their position. If they like to make holidays they have to pay a really high amount for it. If they would like to go to Disneyland e.g. they have to pay for one weekend in a small hotel around $ 300. That is quite a lot for an overcrowded Disneyland. In the contrary people from Middle Europe have more place and so bigger chance to change. So they feel more free and that is way I think the french people did not care so much about others. It is in their tradition to have their own lifes.

A very interesting perception of space is the personal space. So the french people needs a lot of own space. They have and need their own territory. Frenchman like to have their family around them and that is enough. So Francois invited his girlfriend to stay with him. But in Japan it is totally different in a way. Japan is so small and there live so many people that they can not have their own space. They have to learn to arrange with others and also to care about them. But for Francois girl-friend was not enough space. I think the house of his guest-parents was so small that they feel so constricted.

4. Summary

A human will be born in a culture and absorbs this culture directly. Cultural programming take place from baby age and with seven years cultural behaviour is completely internalised. This culture will act in us as mental and unconscious element.

All Asia/Pacific societies are collectivist and all Western societies are individualist. In Asia e person´s identity is heavily bound up with his or her relationships in a way that many Westerners find hard to understand - and even harder to experience. The Asian sense of being embedded in a network - and inextricable from it - contrasts sharply with the Western ideal of “doing your own thing”, “being your own man”, “standing on your own feet”, and searching for personal selffulfilment. This is one of the deepest contrasts between East and West and is a result of long historical processes; the Western notice of democracy and individual freedom is simply one example of this difference.





Harris, P and Moran, R.: Managing Cultural Differences, Gulf Publishing Company, 1993 Hoecklin, L.: Managing cultural differences, the Economist Intelligance Unit,1994 Gordon, C.: The Business Culture in France, Butterworth Heinemann,1996 Hampden-Turner, C. and Trompenaars, F.: Building Cross-Cultural Competence, John Wiley & sons, LTD, 2000


1Hoecklin,L.: Managing cultural differences, the Economist Intelligance Unit,page 32,1994. Table 2.3

2 Hoecklin,L.: Managing cultural differences, the Economist Intelligance Unit,1994


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Titel: Managing intercultural relations - study case