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Title page

Expatriates working in Japan and the United states

Executive summery
Expatriates work in overseas are quite common in current years.
This paper mainly discuss and analyze

Executive summery


Hofstede cultural dimensions

Power distance

Individualism and Collectivism

Masculinity vs. Feminity

Uncertainty Avoidance

Dimensions of Workforce Diversity




Religious and Ethics


Value and attitude


Cross-cultural Communication


Verbal Communication


Non-verbal Communication


Negotiation and Decision Making


Business Etiquette















international corporates, companies are increasingly expatriate

employees and managers to overseas workings. Therefore, a
number of areas, such as culture, value and languages, will have
impacts on businesses and may bring issues or conflicts to








countries which are Japan and the United States. Japan is a

representative country in an Eastern culture, however, America
is one of the most typical Western countries. Therefore, they
may have a lot of differences relating to businesses.
The aims of this paper is to compare and analyze Japan and
America, and illustrate the main issues for expatriates working
in both two countries. There are five main sections of discussion.
The first section mainly analyses 4 cultural dimensions of both







collectivism, masculinity vs. feminity and uncertainty avoidance

based on Hofstedes theory. The second section demonstrates
and compared key dimensions of workforce diversity in Japan
and U.S, such as languages, religious and ethics, value and
attitude. The next section includes both verbal communication






countries. Negotiation and decision making are discussed in

section four. The last section mainly describe the business

etiquette in Japan and America. Besides, key issues for
expatriates working in Japan and America are discussed in each

Hofstede cultural dimensions

Figure 1: comparison of Hofstede cultural dimension between

Japan and United States

Power distance
According to Hofstede, power distance is the extent to that less
powerful individuals in a group or organization accept and
expect unequal power distribution. A hierarchical organizational
structure is embraced by high power distance cultures. There is
an obvious delineation of responsibilities and roles among
members of a team. However, low power distance culture
expect flexible structures of organization and frequent changes
of them. In addition, people from low power distance culture
always expect initiative from conductors and prefer delegation
of responsibility.
Japan is at a medial score of 54 which is not as hierarchical as
other Asian countries, such as China and Korea (Abramson N R,
Lane H W, Nagai H & Takagi H, 1993). Japanese are always
consider and act hierarchical position in any situation, especially
in workplace. Some expatriates working in Japan experience
strong hierarchical due to there working experience of slow

process of decision making. Exactly, all decisions confirmed by

every level of management hierarchy and lastly by the top
manager in Tokyo. However, Japan as an intermediate power
distance country shows it is a meritocratic society due to its
education system that anyone is born equal and could get
ahead if work hard.
However, United States is in a lower score of 40 of power
distance than Japan. The American revere liberal and equitable
society. Within American companies, management hierarchy is
built for better working effect and efficiency. Senior managers
are accessible and other managers depend on teams and







employees and managers expect to be consulted and they share

information frequently. Expatriates from a high power distance
country working in US may face several issues. For example,
they may afraid to put forward own opinions which is to the
contrary of managers. Therefore, they should adjust their
attitudes and treat their managers more as a working partner
rather than a boss.

Individualism and Collectivism

Individualism versus collectivism is another dimension of
Hofstedes cultural dimension. It illustrates how people identify
themselves and how they related to others. On the side of
individualism, individuals are focusing on themselves and the
ties between them are loose. The rights and status of individual
are protected by cultural values and norms in individualistic
society. However, on the side of collectivism, people focus more
on group membership and integrated into cohesive and strong
in-group. Values and norms in a collectivistic society expand and
protect the welfare of whole group at the cost of individuals.
However, collective identities still exist in individualistic society,

individual identities exist in collectivistic society as well.

With the score of 46, Japan seems on the dimension of
individualism. Japanese are more reserved and private than
other Asians. However, Japanese society experience many
characters of collectivistic culture. For example, they have a
strong sense of embarrassment and shame when losing face.
Besides, they always put groups harmony above individual
opinions expression. One paradoxal example is that Japanese
have a strong loyalty to their companies, however, Chinese may
change their jobs or job hop more easily due to individual
Therefore, Japan experienced as an individualistic country by an
expatriate have Asian cultural background and as a collectivistic
society when the expatriate have a western background.
Western expatriates may have issues such as conflicts and
alternatives between individual and groups interests. They may
have to sacrifice personal interests to defend the interests of
group in Japan. Therefore, they would better learn to adapt
collectivistic culture and enhance communications with in-group
members to improve personal identity.
America is one of the most individualistic countries and score at
91. The American are accustomed to interacting and doing
business with others they might never know before. In
consequence, Americans are quite active to approach their
prospective counterparts to seek or obtain information. In
American workplace, employees are encouraged to display
initiative and to be self-reliant. In addition, decisions, promotion
and hiring rely on evidence or merit of what someone can do or
has done. As an expatriate in extreme individualistic America,
the largest issue could be independent working and sole
responsible for whole task. Therefore, they should express their

merits and communicate with managers doing works they are

good at.

Masculinity vs. Feminity

Masculinity vs. femininity is another cultural dimension of
Hofstede. It is widely related to the roles of gender, achievement
and aggression in a culture. A masculine society is more
achievement oriented and aggressive, which are generally
characteristics associated with male (Martin J N & Hammer M R,
1989). Feminine societies concentrate on human welfare,
building relationship and harmony maintaining in society, which
are traits associated with female. Assertive behavior is rewarded
and expected in a masculine society. However, it is restrain in a
feminine society. Besides, the roles of gender are clearly defined
based on traditional manners. Whereas, gender roles are not so
important and specific in feminine societies.
Japan is one of the most masculine country on the score of 95. It
is common that employees are quite motivated when they
against their competitors. In Japan, the drive for perfection and
excellence in material services and production and presentation
(food presentation and gift wrapping) is another expression of







considered as one expression of masculinity as well. On the other

hand, females are quite hard to climb up in company due to long
working hours and Japanese masculine norm.

US is on the score of 62 expressed as a masculine country.

Americans would talk freely or try to display their achievements
and successes in daily life, especially in workplace to show their
abilities. In addition, many American assessment systems have
accurate setting of target, hence, employees could show their
abilities and how well they did.

Both Japan and U.S. are masculine countries, expatriates may

occur similar issues in both countries (Tinsley C H & Murphy K R,
2001). Problems can arise when expatriates fail to adapt their
intercultural communication with partners from both countries.
For example, an expatriate who under a masculine culture may
prone to unwarranted conflicts with partners when both sides
tend to dominate each other. On the other hand, expatriates
under feminine cultures would feel offensive when partners or
managers express too much assertiveness during business
interactions. There are several strategies for expatriates to solve
these issues above. Firstly, the best way of preventing tensions
escalating is to restrain assertiveness when interact with other
masculine cultures. Secondly, expatriates in a feminine culture












Uncertainty Avoidance
Uncertainty avoidance dimension is the extent to that a culture
tolerates non-traditional behavior, ambiguity and uncertainty. It









uncomfortable in unstructured situations which are unknown,

different from usual or surprising. Uncertainty avoiding cultures
always take security and safety measures, set strict rules and
laws and enhance the religious and philosophical level via belief
in absolute truth, to minimize unstructured situations. In
addition, people in uncertainty avoiding cultures are inspired by
inner nervous energy and more emotional. On the contrary side,
people in uncertainty accepting cultures are more tolerant of
different opinions from others. Also, they tend to have less rules
and they are relativist on the religious and philosophical level.
Moreover, people are more contemplative and phlegmatic and

not expected to express emotions in uncertainty accepting

Japan is on the highest score of 92 expressing as an uncertainty
avoiding culture. It is attributed to frequent natural disasters,
such as earthquakes because the Japanese have to prepare and
protect themselves in any uncertain situation. It seems that
everything is prescribed in Japan for maximum predictability. In
workplace, a lot of effort and time is put into the study of
feasibility. Besides, every risk factor must be figured out before
starting any project. Managers require all specific figures and
information before making any decision. The high requirement
of uncertainty avoidance is one reason why it is so hard to
realize changes in Japan.
To be an expatriate in Japan, the most common conflict is
negligence of minor risks which always be ignored in high






messages are harmless to expatriates could bring dangerous

levels of uncertainty into Japanese business relationships (Martin
J N & Hammer M R, 1989). Expatriates may not achieve the






Therefore, expatriates should be more careful to evaluate every

risk factors in their jobs and make more specific projects and
schedules than usual to meet managers requirement.
However, America is on a low level of 46 on the dimension of
uncertainty here is an equal degree of innovative products, a
willingness to try something different or new and acceptance for
new ideas or creativity in the area of business practices or
technology. In American companies, employees try to be more
tolerant of different opinions from others and allow freedom
expressing. On the other side, American do not prefer too many
rules and emotional expression.

An expatriate in American workplace may be too serious when

deal with uncertainty issues or may contradict with different
opinions from others. Therefore, they should communicate with
their managers and colleagues to consult to what extent a
problem can be ignored during work in U.S.

Dimensions of Workforce Diversity

The predominant language is Japanese in Japan. However, there
are many dialects and other languages spoken, such as Chinese,
Korean and English, due to increasing population of immigrants
and national minorities (Matsumoto D, Consolacion T, Yamada H,
Suzuki R, Franklin B, Paul S & Uchida H, 2002). English as a
second language mainly spoken by the Japanese who have high
education. During business interaction in Japan, Japanese is the
prior and common language spoken. However, English could be







America does not has an official language, however, English is
spoken by majority people account for 82% of whole population
and is considered as a native language. American English is
known in U.S. because the variety of English spoken. In addition,
Spanish is the secondary common language in America, spoken
by around 12% of whole population.
The expatriates would meet languages in Japan and America if









misunderstanding when translating one language into another

during business communication.

Religious and Ethics

The ancient Japanese native religion is Shinto. Shinto is less like

a religion than in other countries. It always be observed in
traditional festivals, ceremonies, customs and funerals. Shinto
religion has no any code of morals or dogmatic system. Besides,
Buddhism is another major belief in Japan.
Both Shinto and Buddhism have impact on Japanese business in
workplace (Ardichvili A, Jondle D & Kowske B, 2010). It is
respected that people work hard and make greater contributions
to their companies in Japan. It is also believed that individuals
can connect themselves with a pooled and greater life-force and
comply with Japanese societys ethical expectations via diligent
work and sacrifice.
Japanese religion and culture have major influence on their
business ethics. It is respected that employees are subordinated
to their companies. Besides, it is also respected that Japanese







employees are expected to work harder and diligent to achieve

mutual benefits. However, they would face sanctions or
consequences if they fail to do so.
America advocate religious freedom. The majority of American
people believe Christianity accounting for 75% of population.
Comparing with Japan, only 0.7 percent of population claimed to
be Buddhists in 2007 (Boucher H C & Vile M, 2014). Toleration
and moderation is becoming a norm in the United States.
Americans are look down upon people who judge beliefs of
others. The Business Ethics for America is similar to that of
Japan. American and Japanese managers had the similar views
on companys unethical business practices and responsibility.
However, there are several differences in ethics could be
expressed between American and Japan. For example, American
focus more on personal interest (individualism). American have

the mentality of good-of-the-individual, however, Japanese

mindset is good-of-the-group.
The majority of people in the world have religious. To be an
expatriates in another countries, youd better avoid topics
relating to religious and show respect to different beliefs.

Value and attitude

It is important to understand the value and attitude of the
Japanese before conducting a business for a foreigner. Japan is
considered as a high-context country, therefore, a little gesture
may go a long way. According to Matsumoto (1992) one of the
highest expression of value is respect. For example, the
Japanese always lower their eyes to show respect. It is also
important that employees must be on time when having a








Nevertheless, the Japanese prefer to take a longtime when

making decisions. As discussed earlier, the attitude of Japanese
relating to work is that it is the duty of individuals to work
harder. They also deem that working harder is a way to improve
the society. However, they are afraid of changes which may
have impacts on their work or think more defects than merits.
American values and attitudes to business are based on its lowcontext









individuality, privacy, equality, achievement and hard work

(Matsumoto D & Ekman P,1989). The American are encouraged
to be independent on works and to improve their own aims of
work. In addition, they prefer privacy and like to spend time
alone. Equality is one of the important value of American. For
example, they advocate everyone has equal rights in companies
when providing different opinions. No matter managers nor
employees are addressed by their given name in companies









competitive spirits for harder working. They have a sense of

achievement when beat their own records in a business
competition. Besides, the value of time is money impacts
American making a best use of time.

Cross-cultural Communication
Communication is quite important during business. Both verbal
and nor-verbal communication are used when people sharing
information, negotiating or expressing opinions. Spoken words
may have multiple meanings in a high-context culture. However,
non-verbal communication is considered to be a good way to
express when speaking is interrupted. Both Japanese and
American would be compared and discussed below. The key
cross-cultural communication issues expatriates faced would be
expressed as well.

Verbal Communication
According to Hoffman and Shipper (2012) Japanese culture is
considered be to a high-context culture. The Japanese verbal
communication style is using words by artful speaking indirectly
and always hinting at issues. The meaning of what has been
said could be changed by the smallest expression. Besides, the
Japanese may take a long time silence to response others. Also,
they are not expect foreigners could speak English when doing
business. They always speaking not fluent English with people
from other countries and feel embarrass.
Contrasting with Japan, the Americans prefer direct verbal
communication than nonverbal communication (Gudykunst W B,
Matsumoto Y, Ting S, Nishida T, Kim K & Heyman S, 1996).
Exactly, the American value linear and logic communication. It is

also expected that people speak in a straightforward way and

express clearly. It is considered as waste of time when people
speak indirectly. American would use a teleconference to
conduct business that may ask for a direct face-to-face
consultation in many other countries. Moreover, they do not
mind doing business with someone they have not known before.
Expatriates in a western culture may let Japanese feel lose face
when they speaking too directly. However, expatriates from
eastern culture may let Americans feel ambiguous when they
speak too indirectly.

Non-verbal Communication
Nonverbal communication is more important in Japan than
verbal communication (Hooker J, 2012). No matter consciously
or subconsciously, nonverbal information is the key. The
Japanese rely more on hand movement, posture and facial
expressions to understand or express messages to others. For
example, it is not respect to a person who is manager or have
high status when staring their eyes. Moreover, frowning means
disagreement when others are speaking instead of interrupting
directly. Besides, the Japanese prefer using silence to give








Americans use less nonverbal communications than Japanese
during business. There are a lot of gestures used in America,
while they could be considered to be rude in many other
cultures. For example, Americans may use fingers or hand to
indicate please come to here (Martin J N & Hammer M R, 1989).
However, this is very offensive in Japan or other cultures. In
America, eye contact is considered as a respect and attentive
way when other people speaking. Lack of eye contact is

interpreted as paying no attention to others.

Therefore, to be an expatriate in Japan should pay more






misunderstanding. For example, he or she may think silence

means disagreement in Japan. In contrast with in Japan,
expatriates in America may be considered unrespect to others
without eye contact during consulting.

Negotiation and Decision Making

According to Adachi Y (2010) Japanese culture has a big
influence on their business negotiation ways. Step-by-step
negotiation is the key of Japanese style based on the hierarchy
in a particular corporate. Japanese corporates always start
negotiations with lower-level staffs who have responsibilities of
the involved projects. Following this step, the middle-level
managers will follow up the relevant projects and continue to
negotiate with the business party. During the final step, the top
manager of the corporate will make the final decision to receive
or reject the project or agreement. Besides, the Japanese are
willing to spend a long time to build trust with their business
partners before decision making (Tinsley C H & Murphy K R,
Negotiating is always considered as a joint problem-solving
process in America (Adachi Y, 2010). While the buyers are in a
top position with companies, both sides own responsibilities to







negotiators may concentrate more on the near-term benefit. The

primary way of negotiating is competitive. Besides, Americans
would seek for win-win solutions during negotiating. They are
interested in seeking a good solution which both sides are
satisfying. They are also very task focused. It is expected that

there is a dispute increase at every stage during one

There are several situations of misunderstanding or conflicts
when expatriates working in Japan and America. Expatriates in
Japan may doubt the authority of negotiator who may not have
a decision making power (Barkai J, 2008). Or they may expect
too much from the lower-level Japanese negotiator and become
frustrated by the Japanese foot-dragging decision making style.
However, the expatriates may think American negotiators are
impatient or irritable to reach their goals during business.

Business Etiquette







expressions of the Japanese business etiquette. Japanese

conduct ways of business is quite formal. It is started at the first
meet when presenting their business cards. People should
present business cards by holding it with both hands to higher
hierarchy managers in Japan. At the same time, the person
should bow slightly when presenting a card. Besides, it is
considered to be rude and unrespect if they write on others
business cards. It also treated as rude or inappropriate when
using dramatic gestures, such as pointing. The Japanese would
put palm up, wave their hands and then toward to what they
want to point out. The traditional greeting way is bowing with
hands at own side. During a conversation, the Japanese prefer to
observe personal space to others. It is considered inappropriate
if man and woman touching in public. Moreover, laughing and
smiling could be confusing to the Japanese, because they may
express confusion, embarrassment or even upset. In workplace
during meeting, people should take a lot of notes to show
respect to others and their interests in the project.

In America, meeting others eye to eye and shaking hands firmly

are the important manners when greeting with new business
contacts and colleagues (Brett JM & Okumura T, 1998). It is
considered rude if people offer their hand cannot be seen.
Besides, it seem to be impolite to remain seated if others are
standing. Religious, personal information and politics could not
been discussed during business. Moreover, it is common that
using given names without titles in America. Everyone should be
treated equally in a meeting, no matter with hierarchy, gender,
age or race. Comparing with Japanese, it is quite casual when
presenting and receiving business cards. Besides, Americans
have a strong time sense. It is unappreciated to be late when
attending a meeting.
Expatriates in both Japan and U.S. may be considered rude or
offensive to others when they using improper gestures. For
example, Japanese females may feel sexual harassment if a
male using eye contact during communication (Graham J L&
Andrews J D, 1987). For another example, expatriates in America
may have a sense of impolite if others receiving their business
cards by one hand.

UK Essays. November 2013. Global Businesses Cultural Analysis






cref=1 [Accessed 28 June 2014].
Zhang, D., & Kuroda, K. 1989, Beware of Japanese negotiation style: how to
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