Comparing Germany To China Cultural Studies Essay



The main purpose of this report is to identify, analyze and illustrate the differences between High and low context cultures comparing Germany to china – both from a theoretical and commercial perspective.


It is true that at the large corporation levels (multinational), Chinese companies behave like most western companies, but this quickly changes as you move to dealing in government operated businesses or the smaller than $50 million USD companies. In the other hand German people use the low context in the professional life but their personal life is very privet.


The scope of this report focus mainly on Edward Hall cultural context framework "Low and high context" and the differences between them using Germany and china as examples.

Methodology and Limitation

Secondary data have been used and collected from several reliable sources from the web, magazines, journals and academic textbooks. The author faced some difficulties and lack of detailed information about the both countries.

Context and Culture Concepts

Culture definition

According to (Fletcher, 1979) in a short definition "culture is the total way of life in a society". In another word, culture is the way of living which a group of people has developed and transmits from one generation to the next. It includes concepts, skills, habits of thinking and acting, arts, institutions, ways of relating to the world, and agreement on what is significant and necessary to know. Race, ethnicity, class, and gender are cultural creations; they derive their meanings from the culture.

Cultural Context

Edward T. Hall has described cultural differences in the use of language and context in communication. He calls communication that occurs mostly through language low context and communication that occurs in ways other than through languages as high context (Hall E. T., 1976).

High Context Cultures


Arab Countries






North America

Scandinavian Countries

German-Speaking Countries

Low Context Cultures

Table 1. High/Low context culture (Hall E. &., 1990)

High-context / Low-context cultures understanding

High-context cultures

The author Edward Hall points out that in high-context communication a large part of the meaning lies in the physical context, which includes facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures. As a result, the message itself carries less information. People do not explicitly say what they want to convey (Hall E. &., 1990).

People from high context are relational-oriented, collectivist, intuitive, and contemplative. This means that people in these cultures emphasize interpersonal relationships. Developing trust is an important first step to any business transaction. According to Hall, these cultures are collectivist, preferring group harmony and consensus to individual achievement. And people in these cultures are less governed by reason than by intuition or feelings (Hall E. T., 1976).

Words are not as important as context, which might include the speaker’s tone of voice, facial expression, gestures, posture and even the person’s family history and status. High-context communication tends to be more indirect and more formal. Flowery language, humility, and elaborate apologies are typical.

Low-context cultures

People from low-context cultures are logical, linear, individualistic, and task-oriented. They value logic, directness, and facts. Solving a problem means lining up the facts and evaluating one after another. Decisions are based on fact rather than intuition. Discussions end with actions. And communicators are expected to be straightforward, concise, and efficient in telling what action is expected.

To be absolutely clear, they strive to use precise words and intend them to be taken literally. Explicit contracts conclude negotiations. This is very different from communicators in high-context cultures who depend less on language precision and legal documents. High-context business people may even distrust contracts and be offended by the lack of trust they suggest.

Cultural context differences between "Germany and China"

This chapter will be illustrating the cultural differences between Germany and China. Given the broad differences between these two nations.

Language (Direct/Indirect)

German (Direct)

The Germans tend to use direct language to be clearly understood to show "honesty." Germans often associate directness with honesty. They also think that they have to use a direct language with bosses or customers.

Chinese (Indirect)

In the other hand Chinese likely to use indirect language to show politeness, in some situations using direct language considered rude and impolite to them. To avoid losing face. To avoid offending or disappointing others, especially high-status people.

Mono-chronic / Poly-chronic time

German (Mono-chronic)

Germans tend to do one thing at a time. They value a certain orderliness and sense of there being an appropriate time and place for everything. They do not value interruptions. They like to concentrate on the job at hand and take time commitments very seriously.

In addition mono-chronic people tend to show a great deal of respect for private property and are reluctant to be either a lender or a borrower. This is part of a general tendency to follow rules of privacy and consideration as well as adhere religiously to plans.

Chinese (Poly-chronic)

Chinese people tend to do multiple tasks at the same time. A manager's office in a poly-chronic culture typically has an open door, a ringing phone and a meeting all going on at the same time. Though they can be easily distracted they also tend to manage interruptions well with a willingness to change plans often and easily.

Future-oriented / Past-oriented time

German (Future-oriented)

German are Future-oriented society that have a great deal of optimism about the future. They think they understand it and can shape it through their actions. They view management as a matter of planning, doing and controlling. They are, inevitably, more abstract, more imaginative, more creative. They are risk-centered and risk-assuming culture.

Chinese (Past-oriented)

Chinese are Past-oriented society that are concerned with traditional values and ways of doing things. Tradition is, in fact, highly valued and attempts to mess with that tradition are regarded with a lot of distrust and suspicion. As a result Chinese tend to be conservative in management and slow to change those things that are tied to the past.



German negotiations detail- oriented and want to understand every suggestion before coming to an agreement. Germans prefer to get down to business and only engage in the briefest of small talk. They are more interested in the partner credentials (Germany Business Etiquette, 2013). 


Chinese negotiations are process oriented. They want to determine if relationships can develop to a stage where both parties are comfortable doing business with the other.  Decisions may take a long time, as they require careful review and consideration (China business Etiquette, 2013). 



Contacts are very detailed and extremely important in the German business, it means exactly what it says, no more and no less than that (Leslie Minor, 2010). It’s considered the final product of negotiations, not the starting point. That means the deal will be closed after signing the contract.


Contracts are short and not as much important as relationships, it’s not necessary to write everything. Doing business is based on relationships or "Guānxì" which is a mandarin word that means strong relationship with a network that have a high influence on business (Ting Toomey, 1999). Therefore, contracts are not considered the closing of the business deal, it can be modified and changed any time.

Decision making


The decisions in the German business are taken very quickly and fast, they believe that: "Time is money", they agree about the main points first, and they leave the details to be discussed later.


But in the other hand Chinese decision making to be longer and slow but tends to be very efficient, because they have to discuss details first, Decisions are not likely to be taken during the meetings attended (Alexander Thomas, 2010). The agreed decision likely to be announced in an official "ceremony".

Starting and concluding Meetings


Punctuality is extremely important. It is extremely rude to cancel a meeting at the last minute and it could endanger the business relationship. German common business rules require introducing the people attending a meeting, and also describing their relevance to the topic of the meeting (Hall E. T., 1976). And it’s not very important to be face to face, it can be made online also.

The meeting won’t be closed or concluded unless they arrive to an agreement else there is no next step, and will be considered unsuccessful meeting.


Meetings in china has to be face to face and not necessary in the office but Chinese prefer to conduct their meetings in a restaurant or even karaoke, It is very common in Chinese meetings that you may sit with a group of people that will never be formally introduced, because they already know all the information before they meet (China business Etiquette, 2013).

The meeting are open ended, not committed and considered very rude forcing an answer or a conclusion.

Business dress


Business dress is understated, formal and conservative.

Men should wear dark colored, conservative business suits.

Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.

Wearing showy jewelry or accessories is not recommended (Germany Business Etiquette, 2013).


Business attire is conservative and unpretentious.

Men should wear dark colored, conservative business suits and flat shoes.

Women should wear conservative business suits or dresses with a high neckline.

Women should wear or shoes with very low heels (China business Etiquette, 2013).


Cultural sensitivity is a critical aspect of doing business overseas and is particularly important in the conduct of international negotiations. There are various characteristics of culture and international marketing is influenced by many related cultural factors, which can be clearly appeared in a different ways from market to market.

Although this paper mainly deals with the cases of business communication of Germans and Chinese, and their different ways of doing business, which is strongly related to their cultural context and background.

Since context plays really an important role in the cross-cultural communication, a well understanding of the differences within contexts is quite necessary. And knowing the distinctive characteristics between the two contexts, then generalizing guidance for communication would also be very beneficial.