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Table of Contents
1.Executive Summary 2.Introduction 3.High vs Low-context cultures 4.Communication style in a high vs. low context culture 5.Finland—Communication Style 6.Finland—Cultural Features 7.India—Cultural Features 8.Product differentiation and market entry in low-context cultures 9.Standardisation vs. localisation of product and service marketing 10.Conclusion: Managerial Implications Future directions for research Caveats and Limitations Bibliography and References
p.3 p.3 pp.3-4 pp.4-5 pp.5-6 pp.6-8 p.8 p.9 pp.9-10 pp.10-11
Cross-cultural awareness as a recurring them in management training is particularly challenging when the intersection between a high-context culture such as Finland and a low-context culture, as India is a new example of. A careful observation from both cultures on what message is actually being conveyed in meetings and negotiations is crucial in maintaining meaningful and consistent communication. When introducing new products and services to a market like India the high value a low-context culture places on opinions of family and friends rather than individual choice is a crucial factor to bear in mind, thus it also follows that localisation of marketing and, eventually, product manufacturing/service-delivery heightens the approval of the same close family circle and community. Introduction With reference to the article, ―Doing Business With Finns‖ (http://finland.fi/Public/default.aspx?contentid=223339&nodeid=37602&culture=en-US) which specifically focusses on Tata Group's, an Indian conglomerate, presence in Finland, I aim to compare and discuss Finnish and Indian communication styles and present recommendations for a Finnish company on how to exploit a market such as India. I am restricting the discussion specifically to market-entry for an unspecified product.
High vs Low-context cultures
Hall (1959) defines culture as the way of life of a people: the sum of their learned behaviour patterns, attitudes and materials things. Culture is often subconscious; an invisible control mechanism operating in our thoughts (Hall, 1983). In his view, we become aware of it by exposure to a different culture. Members of a certain society internalise the cultural components of that society and act within the limits as set out by what is ‗culturally acceptable‘ (Hall, 1983, p. 230). Hofstede‘s (1980, 1991) theory aims to explain cultural differences through certain dimensions, such as power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity vs. femininity. Of these, we use the individualism vs. collectivism dimension. This dimension is defined by Hofstede (2008) as ―the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. On the individualist side, we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose … On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families …‖.
Context is defined as the information that surrounds an event; it is inextricably bound up with the meaning of that event: ―The cultures of the world can be compared on a scale from high to low context‖ (Hall & Hall, 1990, p. 6). Hall (1976) suggested the categorisation of cultures into high context versus low context cultures in order to understand their basic differences in communication style and cultural issues. Communication style refers to ways of expressing oneself, to communication patterns that are understood to be ‗typical‘ of Finns or Indians. Cultural issues mean certain societal factors, such as the country‘s status, history, religion and traditions. Cultural issues also include Hofstede‘s (2008) individualism vs. collectivism dimension.
Communication style in a high vs. low context culture
In HC cultures, of which Finland is an example, communication style is influenced by the closeness of human relationships, well-structured social hierarchy, and strong behavioural norms (Kim et al., 1998, p. 512). In a high context (HC) culture, internal meaning is usually embedded deep in the information, so not everything is explicitly stated in writing or when spoken. In an HC culture, the listener is expected to be able to read ―between the lines‖, to understand the unsaid, thanks to his or her background knowledge. Hall (1976, p. 91) emphasised that ―a high-context communication or message is one in which most of the information is either in the physical context or internalised in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, or transmitted part of the message‖. In an HC culture, people tend to speak one after another in a linear way, so the speaker is seldom interrupted. Communication is, according to Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey (1988), indirect, ambiguous, harmonious, reserved and understated. In an HC culture, communication involves more of the information in the physical context or internalised in the person; greater confidence is placed in the non-verbal aspects of communication than the verbal aspects (Hall, 1976, p. 79).
In a low context (LC) cultures, of which India is an example, meanings are explicitly stated through language. People communicating usually expect explanations when something remains unclear. As Hall (1976) explains, most information is expected to be in the transmitted mes-sage in order to make up for what is missing in the context (both internal and external). An LC culture is characterised by direct and linear communication and by the constant and sometimes never-ending use of words. Communication is direct, precise, dramatic, open, and based on feelings or true intentions (Gudykunst & Ting-Toomey, 1988).
Rooted in the past, HC cultures are very stable, unified, cohesive and slow to change. In an HC culture, people tend to rely on their history, their status, their relationships, and a plethora of other information, including religion, to assign meaning to an event. LC cultures typically value individualism over collectivism and group harmony. Individualism is characterised by members prioritising individual needs and goals over the needs of the group (Triandis, Brislin, & Hui, 1988; as cited in Pryor, Butler, & Boehringer, 2005, p. 248).
Another salient feature that is often seen to differentiate these two contextual cultures, is the notion of politeness. In an LC culture, it is thought to be polite to ask questions that in an HC culture often seem too personal and even offensive. (Tella, 2005; see also Tella, 1996.). In a high context culture a relationship is built on trust; one person‘s identity is fixed in the group. In a low context culture, information is passed on in short code. Here it follows the rule that more knowledge is spread in public and is transferable which leads to short communication. People are more focused on their work and responsibilities. In an organization, relationships are for a short period, things are done under procedures and are very focused; people solve their own problems and speed is valued.
Finns belong to a high context culture where work is done efficiently and the flow of information is smooth and is in private. Here things are discussed with the group in advance and meetings are held to announce the agreed decisions. In the meeting, the participants talk about the main and necessary facts that lead to decision making. We will be well informed before the meeting takes place. To understand what conversation is taking place, it is important to know how is has been said. For e.g. when Indians and Finns work together, it is important to hold a discussion as it is likely the low context may not interact nor discuss their disagreement. But for a high context culture, it is important for them to discuss the issues and circumstances but in a private or formal occasion.
In business, communication is important. When we deal with people from high and low context cultures, it is important to know the speaker's background, where he or she belongs so that there won‘t be any misunderstanding and this helps to create a better basis in discussions.
In terms of its communication style, Finland reveals a Janus face. Finland seems to have been a high context culture in many respects, but that feature is gradually changing and it is becoming, at least regarding the younger generation‘s communication, a lower context culture.
Finnish communication culture has been described as silent and rather monologic; characterised by longish, slow-moving turns of speech, relatively long pauses, and a dislike of being interrupted with superficial external feedback, such as applause or verbal exclamations. Is the silent Finn a myth or reality? Salo-Lee (2007) is inclined to view it as a myth that is well known by all Finns but which might already be fading away even as a stereotype .
As Tella (2005) has reported, international guests are often quick to comment on how Finns observe and listen to the speaker, not showing in any way that they are paying attention to what is being said. When behaving like that, Finns clearly behave as people in a high context culture traditionally do, showing what Lewis (2005, p. 65) calls ―ultra-taciturnity‖. However, they are, in fact, paying the speaker a compliment, because that is their way of listening most attentively. As Lewis (2005, p. 67) aptly put it, ―[t]he dilemma of the Finns is that they have Western European values cloaked in an Asian communication style‖ that is often incompatible with those values.
We argue that Finnish communication culture has long been closer to an HC culture than an LC culture. Many of the features we can still recognise in Finnish communication point in that direction. It is, however, true that Finns‘ communication style may have changed, starting to resemble low context communication in the use of people‘s first names, interrupting other interlocutors, asking more questions at the end of presentations and practising small talk more convincingly.
Finns do not have as deeply-rooted traditions as many Asian countries, such as Japan and China. Family ties are not as strong as in Asian countries. Nevertheless, one can easily identify certain features that belong to HC cultures. One of them is high commitment, which Hall (1976, p. 148) explains as a feature, due to high cohesiveness, of people eager and committed to complete action chains. ―A person‘s word is his or her bond and a promise for others to take‖ (Keegan; as cited in Kim et al., 1998, p. 510). This is nicely reflected in Lewis‘s advice to foreign business people negotiating with Finns: ―Be just, keep your word, and don‘t let them down, ever‖ (Lewis, 2005, p. 141). Regarding Lewis‘s (2005) cultural categories of communication, Finland exhibits certain features of both linear-actives and reactives. The Finnish conception of time, for instance, is clearly linear and one-task-at-a-time. Finnish people‘s traditional way of respecting old sayings, such as ―silence is
gold‖, ―to understand from a half-word‖, reflect the HC, linear-active form of culture. Modesty is still one of the national virtues; Finns continue to have difficulty boasting about themselves. As Lewis (2005, p. 68) mentions, Finns dislike big talkers. Finns belong to the ‗listening countries‘, in which speakers are rarely interrupted and silence can be constructive. Lewis (1999, p. 14) puts this as follows: ―In Finland and in Japan it is considered impolite or inappropriate to force one‘s opinions on others—it is more appropriate to nod in agreement, smile quietly, avoid opinionated argument or discord‖.
Silence is still something Finns can easily live with. In fact, among friends and close colleagues, a Finn does not necessarily feel compelled to keep on talking; silence can be very relaxing and communal.
According to Lewis (2005, p. 71), Finns are the only Europeans that are so clearly reactive, although other Nordic cultures share some reactive traits. Reactive people are intensive listeners, and their communication style usually consists of monologue, pause, reflection, monologue (Lewis, 2005, p. 71). The reflective stage often takes some time, and, as Lewis points out, Finns think in silence, as do many Asians (Lewis, 2005, p. 73).
Another way of distinguishing cultures is based on data-orientation and dialogue-orientation (Lewis, 1999). According to Lewis, ―[i]interaction between different peoples involves not only methods of communication, but also the process of gathering information‖ (Lewis 1999, p. 45). In this respect, Finland clearly relies on data-orientation.
Indians have only recently started moving towards an LC culture, and the process of change is, as Chelate (2007) contends in his article, strongly supported by the four T‘s; technology, trade, travel, and television,. Traditionally, Indians differ in their communication style from the Japanese, Chinese or Korean by being more verbose and dialogue-oriented (Lewis, 1999). Dialogueorientation and a strong favour for a direct communication style may also be supporting Indians move towards an LC culture, especially in communication style.
Kapor, Hughes, Baldwin, and Blue (2003) investigated how Caucasian American students studying in the United States and Indian students studying in India differed in HC/LC communication in terms of individualistic and collectivist values. The Indian sample reported more indirect communication and more positive perception of conversational silence than the United States sample. However, the Indian sample reported more dramatic communication than the US sample.
The results indicate that Indian communication style is closer to an LC culture than would traditionally have been expected.
India—Cultural Features India‘s culture is one of the oldest in the world. Sen (2005, p. ix) describes India ―as an immensely diverse country with many distinct pursuits, vastly disparate convictions, widely divergent customs and a veritable feast of viewpoints.‖ Indian society and culture are ambiguous in many senses. Indians are seen as spiritual and ―otherworldly‖, but the opposite is often true. Indians pursue material well-being, appreciate success in business, and admire creativity, especially in technology (Varma, 2004; Lewis, 1999).
On the reactive–multi-active scale, Indians are a little closer to the multi-active end of the scale. Indians are extrovert, talkative, emotional, and unpunctual, and they mix professional and family affairs. (Lewis, 1999, pp. 340–346.)
Traditionally, India had represented an HC culture. It was characterised by the same courtesy, patience, harmony and pragmatism that characterises Japanese culture. Indians are very familyoriented and loyal to their group and to their employer. Indian society is a hierarchical system in which all obligations and duties arise from being a member of the family, a member of a work group, an employee or an employer (Lewis, 1999, pp. 340–346).
Indians are highly collectivist in their local group, but individualistic when dealing with outsiders (Lewis, 1999). On Hofstede‘s (2008) individualism–collectivism scale, India is close to the global average. Indian students did not differ from US students in the individualism scale (Kapoor et al., 2003).Indian culture is, however, changing and becoming westernised. Globalisation is not, however, new. The persistent movement of goods, people and techniques has occurred from time immemorial and it has shaped the world (Sen, 2005, p. 347).
Product differentiation and market entry in low-context cultures
A key development in the discussion on the benefits of local differentiation of marketing as an element of the international marketing mix is found in. Hollensen, S (2007) where he discusses the ―layers of culture‖ from the local culture influencing the individual's buying behaviour. This is not explored in terms of it's amplification across multiple national markets but Hollensen does stress the importance of recognising high-context and low-context cultures. In Finland, a great deal of relationship building is required to win the trust of the partner in advocating a firm's products. De Mooij (2007) expands this concept to include marketing communications in general, pointing out that: ―In order to communicate effectively across cultures, the correct level of contexting must be found‖ (pp157)
The high-context and low-context cultural considerations are given further credence in Boyd, Walker, Mullins, Larreche (2002) with each context lent a cross-section of reference groups. These are peer groups such as friends and co-workers who provide normative pressure to purchase (peerpressure), value-expressive reference where the consumer seeks to gain status and informal influence from friends and family, better known as word-of-mouth. All of those elements provide a further level of complexity to the now standard concepts of high and low context cultures
Standardisation vs. localisation of product and service marketing
A review of the early literature interestingly posits the question of how far it is possible to standardise for the global market in terms of either standardisation of the marketing mix or the product but rarely both. Majaro, S (1993) suggests that a standardised marketing mix is a desirable goal based purely on the common argument of economies of scale and increased efficiency. Similarly, Baker, M (1993) argues for the preferred model of ―non-differentiation‖, i.e. standardisation, stating; ―If an opportunity to standardise exists, do not differentiate (pp. 433)
The earlier literature is almost unequivocal, therefore, in presenting the benefits of a nondifferentiated or standardised international marketing strategy almost exclusively from a costefficiency viewpoint. The later understanding that the product lifecycle is shorter on international markets (Baker, M, 1993) lent further credence to the standardisation argument as this truncated
lifecycle required a concomitant need to recoup product investment as quickly as possible. A further argument of the economy-led, standardisation approach to international marketing and product development is that the diversification into overseas' markets protected the firm against troughs in the domestic economic cycle. This final point still has a lot, if not more, relevance to today's marketing planning.
The economic argument for marketing standardisation gains a more sophisticated view in Hollensen, S (2007) where there is a distinction made between a macroeconomic and a microeconomic approach. The macroeconomic approach sees production and initial demand established in the ―innovating country‖.here, Finland Later, as the product matures, excess demand is exported to other developed countries followed by a later phase of maturity where demand is created in developing countries, here India, where production is established. Finally, the developing countries export the same product to their former suppliers. Crucially, the microeconomic approach shows that various products in the firm's marketing mix can be simultaneously at different points in the life cycle. This is not to say, though, that the economic approach is not still pervasive. The difference between Hollensen's model and Baker's model, for example, is not in the overall goal of maximising resource management and therefore, cost efficiency, it is mainly in the recognition that a gradual transfer of production to developing countries makes economic sense. The marketing strategy underlying this transfer may or may not address cultural and social aspects of local marketing.
Conclusion: Managerial Implications
For marketing and account managers, as well as advertising directors the implications of the recent consensus on leveraging local product and marketing assets to satisfy the ever greater need for product differentiation is challenging. There are six possible approaches to dealing with this challenge as follows:
1. Cultivation of established, local Indian brands 2. Delivering a global platform with local adaptation in India 3. Creating new brands to satisfy local needs in India 4. Purchasing local brands in India and internationalising 5. Developing line extensions 6. Employing a multi-local strategy
All of the above approaches require a fresh focus on marketing research in local markets. In fact, it can be argued that the totality of an international marketing research output should be not much more than the aggregation of local market research carried out by native specialists
Future directions for research
A preliminary research brief for our Finnish company would be guided by the assumption that the historical change in buyer behaviour and thus, marketing strategy, has been from a high-context to a low-context culture,i.e from a culture like Finland to a culture like India. Therefore, the aim of such research would be to gather data on social and cultural changes in high-context markets which would indicate a gradual shift to a low-context culture. This would input to future marketing planning in these markets. However, prior to this, there is a need for, as part of the same research, to gather data on the perception of global marketing communications in high-context culture to verify the success of the current marketing mix for a given product within the constraints of a high-context market. It would then be necessary to present a plan for how that given product and the marketing underpinning it, should be modified for that particular culture. Following this study, a further projection on how the product and marketing mix would be impacted by a gradual shift toward a low-context, Indian culture would be presented.
Caveats and Limitations
Many high-context cultures including Finland, have a non-disclosure policy towards secondary research data such as census, socio-demographic studies and buyer behaviour, therefore primary research may be required even at this stage. It is also worth considering that the transition from high-context to low-context culture is likely not to be homogeneous in nature. Many younger people may display significant characteristics of a low-context culture while the older groups may be significantly more high-context oriented. This necessitates the careful segmentation of populations prior to initial research
Bibliography and References
Baker, M (1993) The Marketing Book. Butterworth Heineman Chella, G. (2007). The changing face of Indian work culture. The Hindu Business Online. Retrieved May 3rd 2012 Gudykunst, W. B., & Ting-Toomey, S. (1988). Culture and interpersonal communication. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Hall, E. (1959). The silent language. New York: Doubleday. Hall, E. (1976). Beyond culture. New York: Doubleday. Hall, E., & Hall, M. (1990). Understanding cultural differences: Germans, French and Americans. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press. Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture's consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations. Berkshire, England: McGraw-Hill. Hollensen, S.(2007) Global Marketing: A Decision-Oriented Approach. Prentice Hall Kapoor, S., Hughes, P., Baldwin, J. R., & Blue, J. (2003). The relationship of collectivism in India and the United States. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27, 683–700. Kim, D., Pan, Y., & Park, H. S. (1998). High- versus low-context culture: A comparison of Chinese, Korean, and American cultures. Psychology & Marketing, 15(6), 507–521 Lewis, R. D. (1999). When cultures collide: Managing successfully across cultures. (Revised edition.) London: Nicholas Brealey. Lewis, R. D. (2005). Finland, cultural lone wolf. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press. Majaro, S, (1993) International Marketing. Allen and Unwin Mooij, M, (2007) Global Marketing and Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes. Sage Salo-Lee, L. (2007). Tämän päivän ―suomalaisuus‖. [Today‘s ‗Finnishness‘]. Retrieved May 3,2012 from http://www.kantti.net/luennot/2007/humanismi/03_salo-lee.shtml Sen, A. (2005). The argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian history, culture and identity. London: Penguin Books. Tella, S. (1996). The high context vs. low context cultures. In S. Tel¬la (Ed.), Two Cultures Coming Together. Part 3. Theory and Practice in Communicative Foreign Language Methodology (pp. 22– 28). University of Helsinki Department of Teacher Education & University of Helsinki Vantaa Continuing Education Centre. Studia Paedagogica 10. Tella, S. (2005). Multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary affordances in foreign language education: From singularity to multiplicity. In J. Smeds, K. Sarmavuori, E. Laakkonen, & R. de Cillia (Eds.), Multicultural Communities, Multilingual Practice: Monikulttuuriset yhteisöt, monikielinen käytäntö
(pp. 67–88). Turku: Annales Universitatis Turkuensis B 285. Varma, P. K. (2004). Being Indian: The truth about why the 21st century will be India‘s. Delhi: Penguin. Walker et al (2002) Marketing Management: A Strategic Decision-Making Approach. McGraw Hill.
Appendix 1: Source Article 1
Business & innovation
Doing business with Finns
By Riia Järvenpää, June 2011
Photo: Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva
Ruoholahti business district hosts the premises of some of the biggest businesses in Finland, such as Nokia and Kemira. Finland and India might seem geographically worlds apart, but when it comes to doing business the distance is not that great. Let Mohan Rajkarne, the country manager of Tata Consultancy Services, tell how it is to work with Finns. Tata Consultancy Services, (TCS), is part of the Tata Group, one of India’s largest industrial conglomerates and most respected brands. They have been present in Finland for more than twelve years enhancing customers’ IT services, business solutions and outsourcing, having today more than 1 200 consultants working for Finnish clients. TCS has its country office in the modern Ruoholahti business district in Helsinki and has recently moved to bigger premises to accommodate growing business.Mohan has been country manager for TCS for three years now. He sees his mission as bringing TCS’s experience of working globally to Finnish companies that want to receive a consistent level of service everywhere.
Structured approach to doing business
By plane Mumbai is only six hours away from Helsinki.
Finns have often been described as matter-of-fact types in communication, a description with which Mohan agrees.
―Always when coming from a different background it takes a little while to understand what people mean,” Mohan states.
For example, when listening to presentations Finns tend to sit quietly, a custom which might leave the speakers wondering whether or not their message went through. But soon he realized, “If there is a point to be made, then the point will be made. So if no question is asked, the audience have probably understood.”
―People interpret situations differently. For example, take ambiguity. Ambiguity in business situations, from our
background, at times, is quite all right, whereas, in Finnish situations one really needs to have a well structured plan,” Mohan states and continues, “Since our entire way of doing business is a very planned operation, a structured plan actually helps us in doing business rather than making it difficult.” According to Mohan, setting up a business or running one on a daily basis in Finland is not challenging since the authorities follow the same structured method of working:
―We have regular interaction with the authorities and whether it is for work permits, compliance-related issues or
taxation, in all of these matters we have had a high level of harmony with the authorities. And what helps greatly is that they are able to guide one very clearly in what to do and what not to do.”
Photo: Helsingin kaupungin matkailu- ja kongressitoimisto
Helsinki has been recently selected as the most livable city in the world by the lifestyle magazine Monocle. According to Mohan the level of innovation sets Finnish business culture apart.
―I think it is the reason why I am personally here and why our company is really investing a lot in this market. If you look
at the top 30 companies here, it was not that they always had all the natural resources available to them, it was more about how to be able to galvanize available resources and make them work together. And they all came up with breakthrough ideas to be succesful.”
―That’s really the amazing part to us, and hugely inspirational! What we are doing is therefore to tap into some of that
talent, to interact with the young minds and learn from the innovative companies here.” TCS has doubled its workforce dedicated to Finnish customers within a year regardless of the fact that 2010 was generally tough on businesses due to the global slowdown.
―We have been growing at a very good rate and we are even more committed to this particular country. The reasons for
doing that are the way that we are structured, the way we are doing business and the level of innovation. Those are the reasons for us to be successful and importantly we want to learn from companies here!”
Appendix 2: Source Article 2 (
European values and behaviour laid bare
Getting to grips with cultural differences across Europe can be a frustrating experience, obscured by assumptions about national stereotypes. Intersperience has adopted a fresh analytical approach which sheds new light on this complex issue, making it possible to move beyond stereotypes and to develop a solid understanding of Europe from a cultural perspective. We have created a ‘cultural lens’ which provides a unique perspective on European cultural values and behaviour. As part of a major international research project, we analysed attitudinal and behaviourial traits across Europe on the basis of six key dimensions. We used our ‘cultural lens’ to develop a deeper understanding of cultural issues. Overlooking cultural differences can lead to cultural shocks. Business books contain salutory lessons on costly blunders as a result of marketing campaigns failing to take account of cultural differences. Our unique analytical approach to cultural issues will benefit organisations seeking the best way to engage with the 500 million citizens in the European Union as well as those in neighbouring nations. In simple terms, culture is a shared and learned system of values and beliefs that shape and influence perceptions and behaviour within society. Understanding which societies share common cultural traits can provide the key to unlocking lucrative growth opportunities. The European Union represents an attractive market of 27 states, while non-EU nations such as Russia feature high on corporate growth agendas. A desire to possess a share of these markets is a strong driver for overcoming barriers to cultural understanding but historically businesses have struggled to grapple with these issues in a systematic way. We developed our ‘cultural lens’ to provide a robust framework to measure and compare culturally-defined behaviour. Our team of multilingual researchers conducted 2,600 surveys across Europe and used the lens to accurately pinpoint on an axis those nations which share similar cultural traits. One dimension we examined closely is the concept of ‘high context’ and ‘low context’ cultures within Europe. It is a critical dimension because whether a nation belongs to a high or low context culture has implications for the best way to communicate with its citizens from a sales and marketing perspective. Overall, Western European nations emerged as ‘low context’ cultures, more oriented towards the short term, more individualistic, and valuing assertiveness and material possessions. In contrast, Eastern Europe generally comprises ‘high context’ countries, more oriented towards the long term, more collectivist and valuing nurture within society.
‗Low context’ cultures tend to prefer explicit, direct and unambiguous communication which should be reflected in brand
messaging whereas ‘high context’ cultures place a higher value on non-verbal forms of communication, focusing on how something is said as much as what is said.
Using our lens to obtain a unique measurement of the relative ‘cultural distance’ between nations enabled us to identify clusters of nations with not only shared behaviour but also common service expectations and preferences. It threw up some surprising groupings of nations with striking cultural similarities. The main clusters we identified are: - the North Sea cluster of the UK and Denmark - the Nordic and Germanic cluster of Sweden, Germany and Austria - the Latin cluster of Spain, Italy and Romania - the Eastern cluster of Russia, Turkey, Belarus and the Ukraine Although an East-West cultural divide clearly exists on some levels, we identified significant cultural differences between Eastern European nations - for example Russia, Turkey, Belarus and the Ukraine constitute a cluster but only just as their common cultural behaviours are relatively weakly shared. We also uncovered evidence of many intra-regional differences within Western Europe. For example, Scandinavia is often viewed as a homogenous region but we found that Denmark shares more common cultural traits with the UK than its Scandinavian neighbours. Likewise in Eastern Europe, Romania emerged as more culturally similar to Spain and Italy than its Eastern European neighbours, while in southwest Europe, there is significant cultural distance between Spain and Italy. Pinpointing shared cultural behaviours has both practical and strategic implications for businesses operating across European borders as cultural behaviour influences brand perception and how people decode advertising and marketing messages. It influences whether people will respond positively or negatively towards a campaign that celebrates individualism and material wealth or one which appeals to more nurturing collective values within a society. There are also profound implications for the development of customer service networks both from an operational and strategic perspective because service expectations and preferences are culturally bound. For example the Latin cluster of Spain, Italy and Romania (high context cultures) prefer highly personalised service and to engage with a ‘real’ person. By contrast, the UK and Denmark (low context cultures) place a higher value on efficiency and speed. Also, some cultures are more open to disclosing personal data than others, even if the information is being sought in order to improve the service provided to them. As a result, reorganisation or rationalisation of customer service operations across geographic lines for instance can be problematic if these issues are not fully understood. It can result in lower customer satisfaction or even customer alienation and defection - the bottom line implications are clear. There are also implications for performance metrics used in customer service operations, as some cultures might not respond favourably to an organisation where staff are rewarded for the brevity of calls. (Average call handling times are common key performance indicators within customer contact centres). Being aware of whether you are dealing with a high or low context culture is important when deploying self-service solutions which often entail greater use of technology such as webchat, SMS or automated voice response. These might be more cost-efficient, but could alienate customers in cultures which are less impressed with speedy service than personal engagement. The key message from our research is that if the battle for the hearts and minds of European consumers is to be waged effectively, organisations need to put cultural issues at the heart of their strategic planning process.
Appendix 3: Source Article 3
Blog Post: India: Why are communication styles important?
ALEKHYA YECHOOR – APRIL 5, 2012POSTED IN: INTL. EDUCATION TOPICS
Different people can have different communication styles. This preference in communication style is greatly influenced by the culture one grows up in. Before students can understand their communication style in relation to that of others, students should understand what their communication style is because this influences how they interpret other communication styles. They can then understand how to adapt their communication style to that of others. This would help prevent students from creating misinterpretations about a culture, such as treating the culture as strange or backward. It would also help them recognize similarities and acknowledge the differences in communication styles. An example of a culture that shares some similarities in communication style with America, but also has many differences is India. One of the most important features of Indian communication is that it is more of a high context culture, in which emotions and body language are of great importance. Indians utilize head motions, and hand motions etc. that are very important to the message. Many of the movements involved are similar to movements used in America, such as the way hands are used to express oneself, but in India it is used with much more intensity and frequency in a conversation.
This goes along with the norm of a more attached communication style than the US. A high level of emotions and body language go together when trying to express oneself in India. When trying to communicate with an Indian it is important to be aware of these emotions and body language being expressed as well as listening to the words to understanding the message. Another important feature of Indian communication is the permeation of culture in the way of communicating. Story-telling traditions are a huge part of Indian history and this contributes to the prevalence of story-telling style of communication or circular form. Giving details and going on tangents when communicating are an important part of the culture. Students from the US that would be more used to a linear form of communication would have to be aware to search for the main points being made. The most important concept that students should learn about communication styles when communicating with someone from India, or any other culture, is that communication styles vary by situation. Like in the US, Indians tend to be quite direct and idea-oriented, but this varies greatly depending on the context. For example, in most cultures, people will be more indirect when speaking to elders or strangers. Indians also act very differently with Indians and non-Indians. With other Indians, Indians are much more expressive with emotions and body language, are much more relationshiporiented, and direct. They communicate on a much more personal level, discussing family etc. even with strangers. However, with non-Indians they act in nearly the opposite manner. They act in a more distant manner utilizing more direct, detached, and linear communication styles. Like in the US, Indians adapt their communication style to fit the situation. Therefore, to truly understand Indian communication style it is important for a student to personally interact with various Indians both to understand how Indians interact with the student and how they can adjust themselves to an Indian communication style.
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