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Cross-Cultural Differences

American, German, Japanese and Chinese Nagotiation styles

Diplomarbeit 2007 118 Seiten

BWL - Handel und Distribution


Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations


1 Definition of Culture
2 Models to Classify Cultures
2.1 Cultural Dimensions according to Hofstede
2.1.1 Power Distance Index
2.1.2 Individualism - Collectivism
2.1.3 Uncertainty Avoidance Index
2.1.4 Masculinity – Femininity
2.1.5 Long-Term Orientation
2.1.6 Hofstede’s Dimensions for the United States
2.1.7 Hofstede’s Dimensions for Germany
2.1.8 Hofstede’s Dimensions for Japan
2.1.9 Hofstede’s Dimensions for China
2.2 The Iceberg Model of Culture
2.3 The Trompenaars' Model of Cultural Orientation

Negotiation and Communication Styles
3 Time Conceptualization / Cultural Time Differences
3.1 Monochronic vs. Polychronic Time
3.2 Interactions between M-time and P-time Cultures
3.3 Working Times
3.4 Paid Annual Leave
4 Nonverbal Communication
4.1 Body Language and Gestures
4.2 Greetings
4.3 Touch and Personal Space
5 Cross-Cultural Etiquette
5.1 Table Etiquette / Table Manners
5.2 Dress Etiquette
5.3 Gift-Giving Etiquette
6 The Do’s and Don’ts of Business Behavior
7 High-Context vs. Low-Context Cultures
8 Face and Face Saving

Barriers to Cross-Cultural Communication
9 Stereotypes and Prejudices
9.1 Definition of Stereotypes and Prejudices
9.2 Origins of Stereotypes
9.3 “Sophisticated” Stereotypes
9.4 Stereotypes Change
10 Cross-Cultural Communication Problems
10.1 Language Difficulties
10.2 Cultural Barriers
10.3 Sentence Structure Differences
10.4 Nonverbal Communication Problems
10.5 Difficulties with Idioms
10.6 Reasons for Communication Problems
10.6.1 Potential Solutions



Online Sources

List of Figures

Figure 1: Highlights of the 2006 VDR Business Travel Report Germany

Figure 2: Hofstede’s Dimensions for the United States and Germany

Figure 3: Hofstede’s Dimensions for China and Japan

Figure 4: The Iceberg Model

Figure 5: The concept of time differs from culture to culture

Figure 6: A monochronic approach to time

Figure 7: Gestures with the hands

Figure 8: Two business men bowing to each other

Figure 9: Personal Space

Figure 10: Dining Etiquette

Figure 11: Seating arrangements at Chinese dinner tables

Figure 12: A restaurant with traditional low tables

Figure 13: Holding chopsticks correctly

Figure 14: Common Dress Etiquette

Figure 15: Dress Etiquette

Figure 16: Surprise gifts are inappropriate

Figure 17: Flag of China

Figure 18: Flag of Japan

Figure 19: Flag of the USA

Figure 20: Flag of Germany

Figure 21: Losing Face

Figure 22: Percentage of white participants selecting trait as descriptive of African Americans

Figure 23: Reasons for Communication Difficulties

List of Tables

Table 1: List of Countries by GDP (nominal) of 2006

Table 2: Hofstede's Dimensions of Culture Scales

Table 3: Differences between monochronic and polychronic time cultures

Table 4: How Traditional and Western countries view time

Table 5: Annual total hours actually worked in Japan, the USA, and Germany in 2000

Table 6: Average collectively agreed or scheduled annual working hours,

Germany, Japan and USA, 2000

Table 7: Annual leave and public holidays in Germany, Japan and USA

Table 8: Countries and their Levels of Touch

Table 9: Factors of High-Context and Low-Context Cultures

Table 10: Examples for Stereotypes

Table 11: Comparison between monochronic and polychronic cultures

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


We are living in an internationalized world; global trade keeps increasing[1] and more companies from many countries around the world are going national at an astounding rate. This is a reflection of strong economic growth around the world and the globalization of the economy and corporations. Offices are spread from one continent to another and travel is essential to business. This is the reason why “business travel is increasing,” states Hubert Joly, president and chief executive officer of CWT.[2]

In today’s business world, you might well find yourself as an international manager in a foreign subsidiary of an American firm, facing on a daily basis all aspects of international management. Or you could end up at the home office in Germany coordinating operations with foreign affiliates. Or you could travel to countries like Japan or China, negotiating export sales or dealing with suppliers, customers, or franchise parties.[3] Many different kinds of positions are available in the global arena, and training in international and cross-cultural management and negotiation styles is becoming a critical ingredient in moving up to high-level positions in global organizations.

“In 2006, a record 30.1 million U.S. travelers visited overseas markets, an increase of five percent from 2005.”[4] One of the top five overseas markets visited by U.S. travelers in 2006 was Germany. China (if combining travel the PRC and Hong Kong) would have tied as second. Contributing to the new record for outbound travel, seven of the top 20 U.S. outbound destination markets posted records in 2006, including Japan and China.[5]

Hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Germany owe their existence and sustainment to business travel. In Germany, the effects of a growing European Union and worldwide business travel create a stable demand for modern transport infrastructures and services.[6] The USA is one of the two most important business travel destinations for the German economy, closely followed by China. Two markets will dominate travel interests in the future: the USA and China. No other countries will be as important for business trips as these two different giants.[7]

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Figure 1: Highlights of the 2006 VDR Business Travel Report Germany

“China's economy still enjoys a huge growing potential although its gross domestic product (GDP) has maintained a double-digit growth for four straight years and hit a new high of 10.7 in the first three quarters of 2006.”[8]

The growth rate of China's labor productivity stood at 9.5 percent last year, beating all other countries across the world. Since undergoing reform and being made more open, however, the speed of economic development has increased by an average of about 10% each year for the past twenty years.[9]

The United States, Japan and Germany remain the world's first-, second- and third-largest economies[10], respectively, according to the World Bank.[11]

This table shows the top four countries of the world in 2006 sorted by their gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year.

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Table 1: List of Countries by GDP (nominal) of 2006[13]

Way of Viewing the Problem

The challenge is that even with all the good will in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators,[14] such as from the United States, Germany, China and Japan. Whatever the size or nature of a firm, it is clear that an increasing number of managers around the world will be involved in international business. That involvement will include both foreign and/or domestic assignments requiring interactions with people and firms from other countries.[15]

Primary Objective

The objective of this thesis is to understand and improve the interaction of businessmen from the four largest economies[16] of the world – the United States, Japan, Germany and China.

Furthermore it is tried to explain, describe, and compare cultural differences, identify culturally communication and negotiation practices, and to use effective cross-cultural negotiation techniques and strategies within countries and cultures in international business settings. Knowing how even small differences in culture might cause huge misunderstandings in everyday business life, we can foresee them, and hopefully make better communication and negotiation with our business relations in other cultures.

Part I: Culture

In this chapter the fundamentals of culture is explained and summarized. First, the definition of culture is discussed. In addition, a differentiation of the models is made to classify cultures, such as the cultural dimensions according to Hofstede, the Iceberg model, and the Tropenaars' Model of cultural orientation.

When scientists specify and categorize what culture is, generalizations form which lead to stereotypes and prejudices. Subcultures and individuals are often excluded from the new definition of culture. The results of such a narrow-minded view can result in misunderstandings. The world is flat due to globalization and technological advances. It became easy for people from all over the world to get in contact with each other. But people from different countries or continents have a different set of codes. These codes consist of underlying conventions, opinions and values. The usage of the codes enables a group of people to communicate within this system. It therefore differentiates the group members from the environment; non-members are not able to use the codes. For these and other reasons, there is a need to understand the importance of cultures.

1 Definition of Culture

Culture is such a broad term, making it difficult to define. Leading researchers in comparative management studies (Hofstede, 1980; Hampden-Turner & Trompenaars, 1993; Hall, 1959) have studied how elements of national culture dictate the way people think, feel and act. For example, Hofstede argues that people are “mentally programmed” by their national culture and that their mindsets determine how they act in intercultural encounters.[17]

People sometimes are at a loss when it comes to actually defining the term culture because it is very hard to specify.

By 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn had listed over 100 different definitions of the word.[18] Nowadays more than 500 definitions of the term “culture” exist.

­­­­­­­­­­­The American Heritage Dictionary defines culture as

“The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.[19]

Another encyclopedia defines culture as

“In anthropology, the integrated system of socially acquired values, beliefs, and rules of conduct which delimit the range of accepted behaviors in any given society. Cultural differences distinguish societies from one another.”[20]

Dictionary definitions of the word “culture” can contain multiple factors such as history, common traits, geographical location, language, religion, race, hunting practices, music, agriculture, art, etc.[21] When the definition of “culture” includes multiple elements such as these, people then use the word to describe what they think, what they do, or how they feel. “Culture consists of the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, the way we smell, the way we talk, what we talk about, how far away from each other we stand when we talk, and more.”[22]

2 Models to Classify Cultures

The usage of cultural dimensions from Hofstede and Trompenaars are cited and used worldwide for putting cultures into categories. But, these dimensions miss examples concerning the behavior of cultures in certain situations. Generally, they fail to explain the reasons for cultural behavior, which relate to people’s underlying values, norms and beliefs.

However, they are specialists in their field of studies and give everyone an insight into the complexity of the term “culture.”

2.1 Cultural Dimensions according to Hofstede

Geert Hofstede is an important Dutch expert on the interactions between national cultures and organizational cultures. He also authored various books including Culture's Consequences (2001) and Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind (2005).[23] Hofstede presented that there are national and regional cultural groupings that affect the behavior of organizations, and that are very lasting across time.

He set out to study what he named the “mental programs” of IBM employees within subordinates from over forty different countries. He used four pairs of bipolar dimensions to measure and to qualify national cultural values.[24] Later, Hofstede added a fifth dimension called long-term and short-term oriented cultures.[25]

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model describes five categories of differences between national cultures:

2.1.1 Power Distance Index (PDI)

A High Power Distance suggests that there is an expectation that some people maintain larger amounts of power than others.

A high score ranking also signals that inequalities of wealth and power have been allowed to grow within the society. These societies are more expected to follow a caste system that does not allow significant upward mobility of its people.[26] Countries with high power distance rating are often characterized by a high rate of political violence.

A Low Power Distance suggests that all people should have equal rights.

Latin American and Arab nations are ranked the highest in this category; Scandinavian and Germanic speaking countries the least.[27]

2.1.2 Individualism – Collectivism

A second basic cultural dimension is Individualism-Collectivism. Individualistic cultures emphasize personal rights and responsibilities, privacy, freedom, voicing one’s own opinion, innovation, and self-expression.[28]

Collectivist cultures, on the other hand, value the group above the individual. Group conformity and commitment are maintained at the expense of personal interests.[29] Responsibility, money and time are shared with other group members. One receives care and protection and tolerates the control of the group over one’s own life in exchange. There are no personal opinions. Harmony, getting along and maintaining “face” are seen as essential.[30]

2.1.3 Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)

The UAI shows how disturbed someone feels by unstructured or unknown situations. Uncertainty refers to the value placed on risk and ambiguity in a culture.

A High Uncertainty Avoidance score indicates the country has a low allowance for uncertainty and ambiguity.[31] In order to reduce the amount of uncertainty, countries which have a high UA create a rule-oriented society that institutes laws, rules, regulations, and controls.

A Low Uncertainty Avoidance ranking signals that the country has less concern about ambiguity and uncertainty and has more allowance for a variety of opinions.[32] This is reflected in a society that is less rule-oriented, that accepts more or less changes, and takes more and greater risks.

Members of low UA cultures have lower stress levels and weaker superegos.[33]

2.1.4 Masculinity (MAS) – Femininity

This dimension measures and categorizes the equality of gender roles and work goals. MAS focuses on the degree that society reinforces, or does not reinforce, the traditional masculine work role model of male achievement, control, and power.

Hofstede deduces that in countries with highly feminine values employees “work to live” and try to maximize “life satisfaction,”[34] so they assess the value and quality of life, as well as people and how they care for others. While in countries with highly masculine values, employees “live to work” and try to maximize “job satisfaction,” so they assess the value of things, power, and assertiveness.

A High Masculinity ranking indicates the country has a high degree of gender differentiation.[35] In these cultures, males dominate a substantial portion of the society and the power structure, with females under the authority of the males.

A Low Masculinity score signals the country has a low level of differentiation

and discrimination between genders. In these cultures, females are treated equally to males.[36]

2.1.5 Long-Term Orientation (LTO)

The LTO focuses on the degree the society embraces, or does not embrace, long-term devotion to time-honored, forward thinking values.[37]

A High Long-Term Orientation ranking shows the country follows the values of long-term commitments and honor of tradition. High Long-term orientation reinforces a strong work ethic where long-term rewards are expected as a result of today's hard work.[38]

Low Long-Term Orientation: In this culture, change can occur more rapidly as long-term traditions and commitments do not become obstructions to change.[39]

Countries with a low long-term orientation do not reinforce the concept of long-term, traditional orientation.

The following chart gives a review about Hofstede’s dimensions for the United States, Germany, China and Japan.

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Table 2: Hofstede's Dimensions of Culture Scales[40]

2.1.6 Hofstede’s Dimensions for the United States

A High Individualism (IDV) ranking of 91 for the United States points to a society with a high individualistic position and relatively loose bonds with others.[41] The next highest dimension is Masculinity (MAS) with a ranking of 62, compared with a world average of 50. The male dominates a significant portion of the society and power structure. The Long-Term Orientation is the lowest dimension for the US at 29, compared to the world average of 45.[42] The power distance is 40, compared to the world average of 55. This indicates a greater equality between societal levels, organizations, and within families.[43] The last dimension for the US is Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI), with a placing of 46, equated to the world average of 64. A low ranking is indicative of a society that has fewer rules and does not seek to control all outcomes and results.

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Figure 2: Hofstede’s Dimensions for the United States and Germany[44]

2.1.7 Hofstede’s Dimensions for Germany

The dimensions of Hofstede for Germany show their emphasis on Individualism (67), Masculinity (66), and Uncertainty Avoidance (65).[45] Power Distance (35) and Long-Term Orientation (31) are both placed substantially lower than the other countries. This exemplifies Germany’s belief in equality and opportunity for each citizen, as well as the power to change and adjust quickly.

2.1.8 Hofstede’s Dimensions for Japan

The Hofstede’s dimensions for Japan are very different from other Asian countries such as China, Korea or Hong Kong. The highest characteristic in Japan with a scale of 95, is Masculinity. The lowest ranking is Individualism (46), which contrasted their high ranking in Uncertainty Avoidance (92).[46] Japan is a collectivist culture that avoids risks and shows little value for personal freedom.[47]

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Figure 3: Hofstede’s Dimensions for China and Japan[48]

2.1.9 Hofstede’s Dimensions for China

The Hofstede’s Dimensions for China shows that the Long-Term Orientation (LTO) is the highest-ranking factor (118) of all countries. This attribute shows a society's time perspective and an attitude of persevering. In the individualism factor, however, the Chinese rank lower than any other Asian country.[49] This can be ascribed primarily to the Communist rule and its emphasis on a collectivist culture.[50] The individualism factor of the Chinese rank, lower than any other Asian country with a ranking of 20, compared to an average of 24. China's significantly higher Power Distance ranking of 80 compared to the other Far East Asian countries' average of 60, and the world average of 55, is very interesting.[51] This signals of a high level of inequality of power and wealth within the society.

2.2 The Iceberg Model of Culture

One of the most known models of culture is the Iceberg Model. It is a cultural orientations model that explains cultural interaction with the analogy of an iceberg. Its function is to underline the fact, that only the tip of the iceberg is visible. A deeper insight comes to appear, as we look under the top of the iceberg, because ninety percent of a real iceberg is lying under water. Its basis shows the foundation of the culture: the common ideas and beliefs of a community, as one whole, that leads the thoughts and beliefs of a group. The Iceberg Model shows the hidden aspects of the culture.

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Figure 4: The Iceberg Model[52]

In a cultural aspect, when somebody interacts with someone from another culture, only their words are heard and their behavior seen.[53] Such “visible” elements include things such as dress, architecture, language, food, gestures, greetings, behaviors, art and more.[54] None of the visible elements can ever make real sense without understanding the people behind them; and these are hidden on the bottom side of the iceberg, the invisible side.[55] These invisible factors are the essential causes of what manifests on the visible side.

Much more is below the surface that we may not even be aware of. A person’s cultural values and attitudes affect what he/she says and does. Those values and attitudes are affected by things like the history, religion and geography of his/her culture and country,[56] approach to the family, tolerance for change, attitude to rules, communication styles, modes of thinking, comfort with risk, gender differences and more. If somebody wants to communicate more effectively with people from other cultures and continents, he or she needs to look below the surface of the water and examine the majority of the iceberg.[57]

2.3 The Trompenaars' Model of Cultural Orientation (1993, 2004)

Fons Trompenaars is a writer in the field of cross-cultural communication. Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner have developed a cultural model with seven dimensions of how people relate to each other in business, based on questionnaires and quantitative methods.[58]

Trompenaars categories are universal vs. particular (rules vs. relationships);

individualism vs. collectivism (Do we function in a group or as individuals?); neutral vs. affective / emotional (unemotional vs. emotional); specific vs. diffuse (brief and numerous vs. long-term relationships); achieved status vs. ascribed status (achievement vs. other attributes); time orientation (Do we do one thing at a time or several things at once?) and internal vs. external

orientation (Do we control our environment or work with it?)[59]

(Hampden-Turner & Trompenaars, 1993, 2004)

People in universalistic cultures believe that general rules, codes and values take priority over specific needs and claims of friends and relations.[60] Particularistic cultures place emphasis on friendships and look at the situation to determine what is right or ethical and acceptable. The deals are made based upon friendships, and agreements are changeable.

In a preponderantly individualistic culture people place the individual before the community. People are expected to decide and achieve matters largely on their own and to take care primarily of themselves and their immediate family.[61] In a predominantly communitarian culture people place the community before the individual. People secure objectives in groups and assume joint responsibility.

The affective vs. neutral dimension focuses on the display of emotion in the work environment. Those who are from cultures which do not show much emotion at work (for example, who do not talk about their health or lack of health) are "neutral"; those who do talk about their health are "affective."[62]

People from specific cultures begin with the elements, the specifics. They analyze them separately at first, and then they put them back together again.[63] People are easily accepted into the public sphere, but it is very difficult to get into the private sphere. Those people make many friendships, which are normally brief and superficial. Specific individuals concentrate on hard facts,

standards, and contracts. People from diffusely oriented cultures begin with the

whole and view each element in its entirety.[64] Individuals from diffusely oriented cultures make very few but very deep friendships which last for many years.

In achievement-oriented cultures, individuals gain their status from what they have accomplished.[65] A person with achieved status has to demonstrate what he is worth over and over again: status is accorded on the actions of an individual. Ascribed status refers to what a person is and how others relate to his or her position in the community or in an organization. In an ascriptive society, individuals gain their status from birth, age, gender or wealth.[66] A person with ascribed status does not have to be accomplished to keep his status: it is granted to him on the basis of his being.

Every culture has its own reaction to time. The time orientation dimension has two aspects: the relative importance cultures give to the past, present, and future, and their approach to structuring time.[67]

Time can be structured in two ways: In one approach time moves forward, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour in a straight line; which is called sequentialism. In another aspect time moves around in cycles: of minutes, hours, days, years. This is called synchronism. People organizing time sequentially tend to do one thing at a time. Time commitments are taken seriously. For those people it is a must to stay on schedule.

People, who structure time synchronically, usually do various tings at a time. Time is flexible and intangible and plans are easily changed. Promptness depends on the type of relationship.

Past-oriented cultures are oriented towards the past. The future is seen as a repetition of past experiences.[68] In some societies, for example in France, the importance of the past, is significant.[69] Present-oriented cultures will not associate much value to usual past experiences nor to future aspects. Daily experiences tend to direct people's life. In a future-oriented culture most human activities are aimed toward future expectations. In general, the past is not believed to be very significant to the future state of affairs. Planning constitutes a major activity in future-oriented cultures. For example in the U.S., the future is perceived to be more important than the past.

Internalistic people do not believe in luck or predestination.[70] They are “inner-directed” – guided in thought and behavior by one's own set of values rather than societal standards or norms.[71] Internalistic people can rule nature, if they make the attempt. Externalistic people do not believe that they can model their own destiny. The activities of externalistic people are “outer-directed”--adapted to external circumstances.

Recapitulating are Trompenaars dimensions for the United States, Germany, Japan and China:

United States: High Universal (rules), Extreme Individual, Low Affective, High Specific (low-context), Extreme Achieved Status

Germany: High Universal, Individual, Affective, high Specific, Middle Achieved Status

Japan: Particular (relationships), Middle Collective, Extreme Neutral, High Diffuse (high-context), Ascribed Status

China: High Particular, High Collective, Neutral, High Diffuse, Ascribed Status

Linked pairs of opposites have been used to make generalizations to describe cultural values in the Hofstede and Trompenaars approaches.

Since those categories fail to offer more than basic background knowledge on the potential impact of national culture, they may be useful as a starting point, but however there are various risks to using such an approach.[72]

These risks include the following:

- stereotypes oversimplify nations and cultures;
- national characteristics do not automatically describe characteristics in

business contexts;

- national generalizations do not provide insights about intercultural business


- generalization studies provide a static approach, often devoid of context, that

fails to account for how views and intercultural work environments may

change over time.[73]

The generalization studies of Hofstede and Trompenaars have defined Western and Eastern organizational culture based on national characteristics, but these studies have missed the “in-between” character of culture and its impact.

So even with the above knowledge of Hofstede and Trompenaars about values and the Iceberg Model of culture, nobody can really tell how these cultural characteristics unfold when managers from different cultures meet.

Part II: Negotiation and Communication Styles

In this second chapter the fundamentals of negotiation styles are analyzed. This concerns the following: communication styles, which include time conceptualization, nonverbal communication, cross-cultural etiquette and the do’s and don’ts of business behavior in multi-cultural settings, and barriers to communication, including the topics of high-context vs. low-context cultures and face.

Each of the variables discussed in this chapter, time and space, nonverbal communication, etiquette, and face and face-saving, are much more complex than it is possible to convey. Each of the variables influences the course of communications, and can be responsible for conflict or the escalation of conflict when miscommunication or misinterpretation occurs as a result of the variable. A culturally-fluent approach to conflict means working over time to understand these, and other, ways communication varies across cultures, and applying these understandings in order to enhance relationships across differences.

3 Time Conceptualization / Cultural Time Differences

Time is one of the most fundamental differences that separate cultures and cultural ways of doing things. In the West, time is seen as quantitative, measured in units that reflect the march of progress. It is logical, sequential, and present-focused, moving with incremental certainty toward a future the ego cannot touch and a past that is not a part of now.

The way people perceive and use time reflects their society’s priorities and even their own worldview.[74] Social scientists have recorded wide differences in the pace of life in several countries and in how societies view time--whether as an arrow cutting the future or as a rolling wheel in which past, present and future cycle endlessly.[75] Interestingly, nevertheless, some perspectives of time--such as the idea that it is acceptable for a more powerful person to keep someone of lower status waiting--cut across cultural differences and seem to be found worldwide.

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Figure 5: The concept of time differs from culture to culture[76]

In the 1950s anthropologist Edward T. Hall, Jr., wrote that the rules of social time represent a “silent language” for a given culture. The rules might not always be made detailed and explicit, but “they exist in the airThey are either familiar and comfortable or unfamiliar and wrong.”[77]

He described how differing views of time can cause misunderstandings between people from different cultures. A businessman who has been kept waiting for more than half an hour by a visitor from another country needs to know and understand that if his visitor just mumbles an apology this is not necessarily an insult and not meant to be as one. “The time system in the foreign country may be composed of different basic units, so that the visitor is not as late as he may appear to us. One must know the time system of the country to know at what point apologies are really due. . . . Different cultures simply place different values on the time units” Hall wrote.[78]

Almost all cultures in the world have watches and calendars now, combining the majority of the Earth in the same universal rhythm of time. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody marches to the same beat.

3.1 Monochronic vs. Polychronic Time

In conformity with the conceptualization and relationship to time, culture can be divided into monochronic time (M-time) and polychronic time (P-time) cultures.4 Monochronic cultures like to do just one thing at a time. They value a certain orderliness, emphasize schedules, promptness, and sense of there being an appropriate time and place for everything.[79] They do not value interruptions. In societies where time is limited, punctuality becomes a virtue. It is insulting to waste another person’s time, and the ability to do that and get away with it is an indication of status.

In polychronic cultures, human relationships are more important than time and material things. This is a less concern for “getting things done.”[80] They do get done, but people of P-time cultures accomplish tasks on their own time schedule. These like to do several things at the same time. A manager’s office from a polychronic culture usually has an open door, a ringing phone and a meeting all happening at the same time.[81]

Novinger calls the United States a “chronocracy,” in which there is such respect for efficiency and the success of economic efforts that the expression "time is money" is often heard.[82] Many Western meetings enforce a monochronic idea of time.

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Figure 6: A monochronic approach to time[83]

The German approach to time, which is monochronic, is highly structured with careful scheduling.[84] In Germany and the United States, business dealings do not generally involve friendships. By extending a meeting’s length, one is likely to upset one’s associates and to give a hint of untrustworthiness because one appears unable to keep faithfully to one’s schedule and appointments.[85]

China and Japan share a collective (Hofstede), interdependent and high-contextual (Hall) culture, which has traditional origin. The opposite is an individual, independent, and low-contextual culture, which is predominantly apparent in the West. The most important cultural value is in keeping the harmony within one’s groups, in which the self is defined in relation to one’s significant others, or in-group members, and communicate in an unquestioning non-verbal manner.[86] This is a more spoken way of communication, which takes more demands on the listener to infer social cues implied in the message, as compared to explicit low-contextual communication.[87]

According to Hall, low-context cultures concentrate on explicit linear communication. This is why time is managed and rationed through the use of schedules. On the other hand, a polychronic tendency is evident in many high-context cultures, in which human interaction is valued over time and material things.[88] This temporal dimension becomes even more significant when applied to the everyday circumstances of mobile phone use. The mobile phone turns to a “remote control” that allows the user to switch from one reality to another by connecting the user to other people or contents. Understandably, this is a polychronic way of life. East Asian users are familiar with polychronism and therefore, they are expected to lead to forms of interaction that are eminently dissimilar to those that occur in monchronic societies.[89]

Contrasting the two time categories:

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Table 3: Differences between monochronic and polychronic time cultures[90]

3.2 Interactions between M-time and P-time Cultures Interactions between M-time and P-time cultures can be problematic.

German or American businessmen cannot understand why the person they are meeting is so interruptible by phone calls and people stopping by.[91] Is it meant to insult them? When do they begin to do business? Likewise, the American employees of a German company are disturbed by all the closed doors--it seems cold and unfriendly to them.

Americans and Germans feel that Easterners, from traditional cultures like India or Arabian countries, are dishonest and rude when they come 20 minutes to half an hour late to an appointment. But when an Easterner says “11:00,” they mean “between 11 and 12.” On the contrary, Westerners divide time into strictly-measured hours, minutes and seconds, into which the businessman carefully arranges one’s plans, appointments, and activities so as to fit precisely and not cause delays to one’s own or anyone else’s plans.[92]

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Table 4: How Traditional and Western countries view time.[93]

Neither is “right” or “wrong” necessarily, but they surely are dissimilar. When persons with different assumptions meet, there is great room for misunderstanding![94]

3.3 Working Times

The working times and ethics of the four countries Japan, Germany, the United States and China differ greatly.

In big Japanese cities, long working days (12 hours is typical) and long careers (a lifetime in the same company) are common. They use time to build harmonious agreements and harmonious relationships with each other.[95]

This means, effectively, putting people first. The Western visitor may think he is wasting yet more time on wining and dining after the official work day is over, while he is stuck between apparently inconclusive meetings and the final business decision.1 However, that time is everything but wasted. The kind of stiff patterns and conventions of Japanese office life fall away and the people can easier get in touch with each other. Japanese businessmen consider this also as a way to relieve business stress.[96]

The German view of time is extremely integrated with careful scheduling. Delegation, although practiced with thoroughness, usually has strings attached. This organization can make innovative decisions painful, since the subordinate’s decision time with his boss is kept separate from his communication time with the business partner.[97] The junior employee has full authority over an agreed and accorded range of decisions, but that range can never include the unexpected. If the employee takes the conservative way and blocks the upward progress of a surprise proposal of a foreign business partner, the answer they get to hear is always “I am not empowered to bring this matter to my boss’s attention,” the business negotiations are stuck.[98] Even if German employees try the back door, and the boss likes the idea, he will be reluctant to overrule his subordinate. The economic emergency of the pas-war years when rules were frequently broken in order to get an urgent job done, was a long time ago.[99] The German attitude to time is changing. Germans leave the office on time and keep themselves freehanded holidays.

According to a senior manager of a German car firm: “Japanese competition is really unfair. We work efficiently; they work efficiently and long.”

Flexibility, enthusiasm, and teamwork are very important in the U.S. workplace. In general, Americans consider working and being productive very important and being busy as well as working extensively may also serve as their way of obtaining self-esteem.[100] Speed in decision-making is in opposite proportion to bureaucracy. “North American industry is often hung on top-down decision-making systems; “why change a winning formula?” is a rhetorical question most frequently asked by the man at the top who invented the formula. For all their protestations about time being money, American middle managers frequently disappoint by their hesitations and procrastination.”[101]

The decision making process of Chinese businessmen is slow. Foreigners should not expect to conclude their business quickly. Many Chinese will want to refer to the stars or wait for a lucky day before they make a decision.[102] Basically nothing is possible without “guanxi” in China. “Guanxi” means “relations” and it stands for connections defined by reciprocity and mutual obligations.”[103] The basis of a contact varies. New relations must be raised intensively and carefully--for example, with invitations for dinners and with small favors or presents, as these will keep the relationship going.



[2] The “CWT Business Travel Indicator” survey, conducted by KRC Research, was fielded October 27 to November 23, 2005. The survey included responses from 2,100 business travelers and 650 travel managers in 12 countries. The data files were weighted to accurately reflect the current business travel landscape. The margin of error for the total sample of travel managers surveyed is N=650 +/- 3.8 percentage points. The margin of error for the total sample of business travelers surveyed is N=2,100 +/- 2.1 percentage points. The survey did not target CWT clients but does include some as randomly selected through the research process.


[4] U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration

[5] U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration

[6] vdrgra2006mse.pdf

[7] VDR Business Travel Report Germany 2006 in co-operation with BearingPoint, Copyright © VDR 2006. vdrgra2006mse.pdf

[8] National Bureau of Statistics, China Statistical Yearbook 2004; National Bureau of Statistics plan report.,


[10] By country gross domestic product converted into US dollars at current exchange rates


[12] Figure excludes the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.



[15] Deresky (2000) 17.

[16] By country gross domestic product

[17] Clausen (2006) 16.

[18], Encyclopaedia

[19] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000.

[20] Encyclopaedia:

[21] Peterson (2004) 17.

[22] Young (1999) 100.

[23] Encyclopaedia:

[24] Clausen (2006) 54.

[25] Clausen (2006) 54.

[26] International Business,

[27] Encyclopaedia:

[28] Gudykunst (2003) 77.

[29] Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution in Teams, by John Ford, (Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc.; October 2001)


[31] International Business,


[33] Gudykunst (2003) 82.

[34] Clausen (2006) 54.


[36] International Business,

















[53] HTM

[54] Language and Culture Specialists: intercultural-iceberg-model.html

[55] intercultural-iceberg-model.html



[58] Clausen (2006) 55.


[60] Trompenaars Hampden-Turner offices, Amsterdam, cont042.htm




[64] Trompenaars Hampden-Turner offices, Amsterdam, cont042.htm




[68] Trompenaars Hampden-Turner offices, Amsterdam,



[71] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000.

[72] Clausen (2006) 55.

[73] Clausen (2006) 56.

[74] Ezzell (2002) 74.

[75] Ezzell (2002) 74.

[76] watch3.bmp

[77] Edward T. Hall in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, 2002, 75

[78] Faculty of Economics Rijeka, txt_id=3100

[79] Analytic Technologies. Cultural Domain Analysis Software. /mb021/cultural.htm

[80] Changing Hall’s cultural Factors. culture/hall_culture.htm


[82] Novinger (2001) 84.


[84] Ezzell (2002) 74.

[85] The Butler University, Indianapolis, Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences.

[86] Jaz Hee-jeong Choi (2007).


[88] Changing Hall’s cultural Factors.

[89] Jaz Hee-jeong Choi (2007).


[91] Analytic Technologies. Cultural Domain Analysis Software. mb021/cultural.htm

[92] Butler University, Indianapolis, Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences.

[93] Hiebert, 1990.

[94] Butler University, Indianapolis, Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences.

[95] Mattock ( 2003) 110.

[96] International Business,

[97] Mattock (2003) 107 – 122.

[98] Mattock (2003) 107 – 122.

[99] Mattock (2003) 107 – 122.

[100] CIEE Work and Travel USA. Boston. workplace/index.html

[101] Mattock (2003) 107 – 122.

[102] International Business,

[103] Zinzius (2004) 180-188.


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etikette cultural time differences



Titel: Cross-Cultural Differences