Chosen Scenario And Overview Of Cultural Dimensions Cultural Studies Essay

Contents:

Introduction…………………………………………3

Cultural Levels………………………………........3-5

Chosen Scenario and overview of cultural dimensions………………….…………………...….5

Research………………………………………….6-8

Perceptions of people involved………………..…8-9

Recommendations and Conclusion…………....10-11

Bibliography and References…………………..…12

Introduction

With globalisation developing, communicating with people from other countries is more prevalent than ever. Culture is one of the basic values that are majorly affected by globalisation. However, one’s cultural background needs to remain integer and solid as it is the attribute that distinguishes each human being.

In his book, Jadnt (2010) states that just knowing one person’s cultural identity does not provide you with complete or reliable information about that person, but however, knowing another’s cultural identity can help you to understand the challenges that you challenges to be dealt with each individual in that culture.

In order to accomplish such a mission, the understanding of the culture concept is essential. What is culture though anyway? A personal definition is that culture is each country’s, each persons identity, history and traditions that distinguish them among others. Traditions that build the foundations and the characteristics of a whole nation. It’s the one and only thing in the world that has the ability to bring closer the people. Culture can be referred to music, art, and history of a country, people’s attitudes, even its cuisine. Culture, is what makes people different and proud at the same time. It is the passion and the curiosity that gives you to explore another one beyond yours and this is the perfect ingredient to change and bring closer today’s cunning world. In a more general scale, culture is considered as the foreseen behaviour and the common way of thinking of individuals among a group. It is not an individual belonging, but the one of a whole group. This can be a region, a nation, an ethnic group, or an organisation.

Cultural levels

To continue with, culture has been divided into three levels. Surface-level culture, meaning popular culture, the intermediate-level culture, representing symbols, meanings and norms, and finally the deep-level culture where the traditions, the beliefs and the values are found. To begin with, popular culture is mainly referring to cultural structures that have massive influence and penetrate in each individual’s ordinary life. For example, the simplest thing arises from the most common staff people use everyday; television, radio, advertising, etc. Popular images are depicted thought them, reinforcing cultural beliefs and as a result people then export them as their opinions also.

Moving on to the intermediate-level culture, it is related as mentioned above to symbols, which are signs, gestures or more specifically anything that can be have a particular meaning. Moreover, the interpretations and the reaction of an individual to a symbol, and the cultural norms, which are the collective expectations that individuals have in a conversation about someone having proper or improper behaviour.

Last one is the deep-level culture. It is probably the one with the most powerful influence over individuals around the globe. In order to be more comprehensive, it is subdivided in normative culture versus subjective culture. Normative culture is the patterned way of life by a group of people whose history, traditions and values are under the same roof. Subjective culture on the other hand, is the extent to which individuals go with the lines of cultural beliefs and values. Some cultural shared traditions for example like wedding, funerals and baptism are strengthening the solidarity in the group, the common good and also the stability and memory of those functions. Cultural shared beliefs like human existence, time perception, god and origins indicate the reflection on people needs and their deeper meaning in life.

Often, the cultural attributes mentioned above can be the cause of intercultural misunderstanding and miscommunication. Body language, gestures, and their meaning are an excellent example of the diversity between cultures, which can prove to be problematic in many cases. Additionally without too much thinking and without having any alter motive an individual may do or say certain things relating to the tradition religion or even the historic background of another individual with whom they do not share the same cultural basis and any such remarks may be taken as an offence or the individual expressing them may considered to be rude even if such a remark would have trivial meaning in its own country. Based upon this reasoning it is easy to comprehend that when two people from contradicting cultures meet there is a high possibility for them to misapprehend the intentions and actions of one another and regrettably on numerous occasions this shall lead to the total breakdown of the conversation or even worse a total collapse of the relationship as a whole.

Chosen Scenario and overview of cultural dimensions

The scenario to be analysed in this essay is the expansion of the American company Yamacom into the East, where the different cultural backgrounds of the people involved lead to several conflicts and misunderstandings. Further analysis of the people involved, problems they face and proposed solutions will be analysed later on. In order to achieve such an analysis though and find a solution to the problems people face, we need to consider and have in mind about the so-called Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Professor Geer Hofstede, "conducted perhaps the most comprehensive study of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. He analysed a large data base of employee values scores collected by IBM between 1967 and 1973 covering more than 70 countries, from which he first used the 40 largest only and afterwards extended the analysis to 50 countries and 3 regions. In the editions of Geert Hofstede's work since 2001, scores are listed for 76 countries and regions, partly based on replications and extensions of the IBM study on different international populations." [1] After conducting this research, the famous five cultural dimensions were discovered. Power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long/short term orientation.

In the chosen scenario to be examined, the main cultural factors and dimensions affecting the interaction of the people are high-low context communication style and power distance. The reason is that the cultural differences in those two aspects are totally different between the countries that the people involved come from; the result is that through those, misunderstandings and problems stir up.

Research

To continue with, an analysis of the two aspects mentioned above will be given in order to have a clearer idea about the behaviour that the people involved in the scenario have. To go in more depth, first one is going to be about high and low context communication cultures, then continue with the significance of power distance in different cultures, and in the same time how they apply in reality in those societies.

To begin with, someone will very reasonably ask how context can be defined. In his book, Intercultural Communication, Jandt defines it as the environment in which the communication process takes place and that helps define the communication (Jandt: 2010). According to E.T. Hall (1976:98), high context cultures make greater distinction between the insiders and outsiders than low-context cultures do. "The concept of high-context and low-context cultures is not based on empirical research but is nevertheless a useful heroism for explaining some of the problems that people from diverse cultural backgrounds experience when they interact." [2] 

Compared to people raised in low-context systems, the participants in high contexts expect more from others. For example, in a simple conversation between a high context person and another person of any context, the former will automatically expect the latter to understand what the situation is without being offered much information. This can prove to be a struggling situation for the interlocutor. It has been shown that people from low-context cultures need quite a lot of information for them to understand situations.

There is a vast amount of distinctions amongst the two types of communications. However the one that jumps out as the most apparent is the one circulating the transmission of messages. Members of the public originating from not fully developed cultures have a tendency to prefer direct communication through oral means. They rest prominence to the achievement of maximum efficiency through a conversation attempting to provide shorter and simple answers resulting to clarity in regards to the exact content of their message. On the contrary when examining people deriving from higher layers of the society the situation as to the scope of communication highly differs. In such cultures exchanging information is not the sole purpose of constituting a conversation as there is an additional lean towards establishing a wanted relationship with the other party in the conversation. Additionally it is easy to identify the importance of physical aspects in any such communication highlighting the importance body language has in high-context cutlures.

Regarding personal space, people around different cultural spheres have their own point of views. The concept of face for instance in Chinese culture is divided in two ways: lian (face) and mian or mian zi (image). While in most occasions these two are used vice-versa, they do have diverse meanings. Hu (1994) defines lian as a concept, which "represents the confidence of society in the integrity of ego’s moral character, the loss of which makes it impossible to function properly with a community. Mian stands for the kind of prestige that is emphasized in the U.S, a reputation achieved through life." [3] 

People have indiscernible limits of their personal spaces and they can be different in various cultures. For instance, in low-context societies people tend to feel awkward and disturbed when they are in a conversation with people from high-context societies, as they are used to have physical contact. By now everybody should have a clear idea about what high and low context cultures are all about.

Moving forward with this essay, the next concept to be analysed is power distance, or the method that the culture faces inequality. Power distance, is a cultural dimension that is used very often to distinguish Asian and Western countries. Moreover, it can be described as "the distribution of power and wealth between people in a nation, business or culture. The power-distance index seeks to demonstrate the extent to which subordinates or ordinary citizens submit to authority. The power-distance index figure is lower in countries or organizations in which authority figures work closely with those not in authority, and is higher in countries or organizations with a more authoritarian hierarchy". [4] According to Hofstede, power distance is something that individuals learn from their early years. In other words, in high-context cultures children have to be very respectful and obey their parents. Individuals in these cultures also tend to have significant respect about all the people of higher status.

An example to support the above statement, Greece and Cyprus are two countries where power distance is also in very high levels. The relationship between bosses and employees is absolutely typical. A boss in a company or in a business in general, is demonstrating fully his/her position and their power and influence is shown with the first chance given.

Perceptions of people involved

In this part of the essay, the expectations and perceptions of each character will be analysed in order to understand their individual way of thinking and advise them further on to find a win-win solution later on. This type of solution is the most suitable in such a cases as it is one in which all involved feel that their point of view has been acknowledged and understood, and in which everyone feels they understand other people better.

Beginning with the hierarchical order of the company, Mr Weinberg is the Yamacom regional director. He comes from America, which is low context communication and low power distance country. He feels angry and worried with the problems in the company as sales figures are going dangerously down. He considers the fire of the worker Shigeta possibly right and he is stereotyping Japanese as people difficult to communicate with because they do not talk a lot and that they are not worth of trusting. In his opinion, the way that the Japanese acted was stupid and that his behaviour was not proper. He desires a solution to be found as soon as possible.

Next person to be analysed is Mr Mackowitz, sales executive in Jakarta also from America. He also comes from a country with same cultural aspects as Mr Weinberg and working with Japanese is like a nightmare to him. He feels that Shigeta ignored him and did not follow his orders. He learned working differently and expected to be reported on the progress of the negotiations, thing that Shigeta never did. He was also upset because Shigeta was not using a phone to communicate with him, which would be faster and easier, but instead he was waiting outside his office. Finally, his experience with the advertisement in other countries such the US and Australia have worked perfectly so he thought that Japan would not be the exception as Shigeta claimed.

On the other hand now, Mr Watanabe, sales administrator in Jakarta, comes from Japan, a country that is well known for its high context communication style but also for being a high power distance culture. He thinks that Mr Mackowitz is very direct and has no feelings. He fired without second thought the best sales man in the company just because he was following the normal procedures. He was doing well also until suddenly Mackowitz got angry for no reason.

Last but not least, Mr Shigeta. He also comes from Japan, and he has very strong emotions of anger inside him. He is shocked and hurt with his boss Mr Mackowitz, especially when in Japan someone gets fired for very serious offenses such as criminal activity. He was getting to know better his client and things were going really well as he managed to establish a certain relationship with him. He feels he has not been trusted as he was expected to give reports very often, although he knows he did his job very good. Furthermore according to him, Mackowitz should learn a bit more about the Japanese taste, as their advertisement would never be looked from a good point of view from the Japanese people. This is not America, he claims!

Recommendations and Conclusion

After having analysed the cultural background and the perception of each participant it is time as analyst to try and find the solutions and advise them in order for things to get better in the future. People always need to be respected, understood and supported. First of all, something that will go for everyone is that stereotyping and culturism should be avoided by all people involved. If you keep putting a group of people under the same roof all the time then things will not take the right path. In order to encourage cooperation Mr Mackowitz and Weinber should consider a very important fact. In a country, it is up to foreigners to adapt with it or leave. You can never change a culture, but you can try and understand it to the maximum. This is essential in cross-cultural communication and towards achieving cooperation.

Taking this into consideration, Mr Mackowitz should be aware of Japanese high context communication style. The problem is not that the Japanese do not communicate but that they communicate differently as explained on the research above. Next thing that Mr Mackowitz needs to be aware of is that Japan is a country where relationship build up comes first and then business. So obviously Shigeta tried to create a bond between him and the chief of Marahito and then confirm the deal. As Ting-Toomey (1999) stated, mindless interaction conveys evaluative attitudes, doubts and mistrust. Furthermore, it needs to be understood that for Shigeta direct contact with Mackowitz was essential, face to face conversations instead using a phone.

Mr Watanabe on the other hand needs to keep in mind that America is a country that business comes first and then relationships. Anything that cause them time is against the business because for them time is indeed money. Mackowitz is not necessary a bad man with no manners, he just wants his task to be completed as fast as possible. He told Shigeta to give him reports on the progress of the work and he considered it as disrespect towards him when he did not follow his orders. He considers that he should be doing this like everybody else. As for the advertisement he experienced success in the other countries so unconsciously he expects the same in the Japanese market.

Finally, Mr Shigeta needs to keep some balances in order to keep his job and be satisfied. He is working with an American boss, so he also has to respect the orders given. He could just do it his way, meaning to build a relationship with the client but at the same time reporting to Mackowitz. If this could happen then the misunderstanding would be avoided. Further more Shigeta can just start using a phone if this is also a problem to Mackowitz and to avoid so much direct contact with him especially if he has a lot of work in his office. About the advertisements, it needs to be changed but as Mackowitz is new in the country Shigeta needs to explain him with everyday examples of Japan and make him understand that things work differently in his country.

As about Mr Weinberg, the only thing that he must do is to make sure in the future that his employees are trained on cross-cultural communication in order to avoid such experiences. If he did this on the first place and put someone who is aware of the cultural differences of the two societies, then he would not face all these problems.

Nowadays, the understanding of cross-cultural communication is essential, especially in the business world where scenarios like the one studied in this essay are found everyday. People should be more aware and start to become more interested in what these things are all about. In year 2013 it is finally time to bring the cultural stereotypes wall down. The world keeps going forward and so must all the people from all the cultural backgrounds.