Chinese Culture And Europe: Business Norms

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This research paper aims to compare the Chinese culture with Europe. Especially in terms of business, providing some examples of traditional Chinese norms when you are going to negotiate with a Chinese company that is important to take into account. To continue, with the help of Hofstede, it includes five dimensions related to the Chinese culture.

Before talking about the comparison between Chinese culture and Europe, it is necessary to define the term culture. It is not something easy to find. There is no clear definition for this term. 'for the definition of culture, some say there are more than a hundred, others say there are thousands'. (Shen Yan)

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Edward Dale, a British cultural anthropologist proposed a definition in his book entitled 'Primitive Culture' (1871). Culture is something complex, which includes knowledge, science, art, morality, law, custom and habits as well as the abilities and vices obtained by society. Culture is based on the psychological structure, the form of thought and the system of moral values of a nation. (Edward Dale)

When talking about the society we could say that humans are organized into groups of individuals to achieve common goals. Goals such as the search for progress and social welfare are universal paradigms for humanity, therefore there are many features that we share all the people, regardless of the society to which we belong. It is these social features that make intercultural communication possible. However, each community presents a specific social production and activity, that is, culture - as a whole of knowledge, beliefs, artistic manifestations, moral norms and habits acquired by man as a member of a community - is the symbol of a society concerning others. The behavior patterns are defined according to the culture in which they are registered, that is, cultural conditions directly influence our way of being.

Therefore, the cultural aspect is fundamental for human and social relations. Taking into account as we have said that the different cultural aspects, characteristics of the social group in which we are enrolled, delimit our perception of reality and patterns of appropriate behavior. Humans transmit their characteristic way of understanding the world. All this makes us feel more related to those who share our beliefs, aesthetic tastes, moral norms and other habits of our social group. For such affinity to exist between natives of different languages ​​it is necessary that in addition to learning the language and using it as a linguistic tool, they know what unites them and what separates them, so that they know what are the common and different cultural traits that will be reflected through of language in the communicative process.

So, if we intend to communicate with a speaker of another language - taking into account the trouble of significant elements that transmit the cultural patrimony through language - we can only get into their way of thinking. If we are aware of the cultural contact through which we perceive the world, it will be easier for us to understand and accept other social norms than ours. In other words, we must learn other ways of conceiving reality, which will increase our vision of the world and facilitate intercultural communication.

Since our ancestors pronounced their first grunts, misunderstandings have been part of our daily lives. A colleague misunderstands a task; a couple is confronted by a misunderstanding about who should pick up the child; a group of friends got mixed up with what day and time there were going to meet…

Misunderstandings are often caused by a certain connection to the explicit and implicit meaning between the individuals involved in the conversation. Simple messages can be loaded with implicit words. 'Enjoy that cookie' could be a neutral message. But it also could be said in a way in which the transmitter is trying to make the receptor feel guilty. Some people are direct; others expect you to read between the lines.

The type of misunderstandings are actions that are seen every day. Nevertheless, there is also another way of having a conflict or an issue in a certain situation. This is when culture comes into place. Every culture has its way of seeing things differently. European cultures indeed have a more similar style on many different topics that culture englobes, however, they also have differences. For example, in Spain, they start the year by eating grapes when they hear the twelve bells that indicate the beginning of the new year. While in Italy, they start the new year with lentils. Similar traditions but involving different ways in different countries.

But when we face an unfamiliar cultural practice when traveling to other societies we can be overcome by a sense of unfamiliarity which is compounded by a feeling of isolation due to being far from home. However, what is often forgotten is that in the more familiar surroundings of 'home' we also have to deal with unfamiliar cultural practices as a normal part of getting on with life, for example, going to school for the first time. We have to deal with a new situation that we didn't have to do before and we adapt our traditional routine to the new routine that we are facing at that moment. We also experience culturally strange behavior when we visit our neighbors or friends' houses and find that they have a different organization for eating or rules about when things happen, or maybe how to be polite to each other. They may seem more or less formal, more or less friendly. We might find that the expression that we have grown used to at home does not quite work in someone else's home. Running into new cultural habits is continued when we learn to manage it more, within new social settings, in education, when we form relationships and marry and become parents, or when we take a new job and more from one work settings to another.

In this last case, having to move to another country is sometimes shocking and especially if they have a different culture than the one you have back home. But as you live in the new country and you start creating a routine, a life their you start 'acculturating'. This term means, the process of cultural and psychological changes that takes place as a result of contact between cultural groups and their members. This concept was introduced by Robert Redfield, Ralph Linton and Melville Herskovits in 1930. They meant with this new concept, that people start to adapt themselves to the environment from the place in which they live. For example, Spain is a country where it is normal to have dinner between 8:30- 10:00, while in China they have dinner between 6:30-8:00. If you are a Spanish person and you more to China, the first few days you are going to keep following your culture of having dinner late. But as the days pass by, you start meeting people, creating a social life with Chinese people, finally, you end up adapting yourself to the country and having dinner at the same time they have it. This is in what acculturating consists, putting your culture on a side and learning a new one. (Intercultural communication in china; p.1)

Comparing Chinese culture with a European country as it is Spain, it is possible to appreciate many differences. Especially in terms of negotiating.

If you are a businessman and you are planning to negotiate with a Chinese company, it is very important to understand the Chinese culture. The same happens if you are going to do business with another country in which they have a different culture. It is important to know their culture because many thinks can lead to a misunderstanding or into a disrespect action without you knowing it. In this case, China has a lot of strict rules to be able to please a Chinese businessman.

Power distance is one of the most highlighted rules that is followed in this country. Much Chinese pay attention to their position in the hierarchical structure and to how or how much they speak. Status and role relationships make communication listening centered, asymmetrical, and deferential. A spoken voice is generally equated with seniority, authority, age, experience, knowledge, and expertise. Even today, Chinese students listen to their teachers most of the time. In work situations, the subordinate must learn to listen with full attention to his or her superior. The subordinate needs to appear conciliatory and agreeable to show deference and honor and thus tends to use phrases such as I think, I'm not sure, and I don't know. (Understanding intercultural communication; p.12)

This hierarchically is often seen in business. When businessman A arrives at the office or the place where he is meeting with businessman B, B has to start by introducing himself starting with the company's name, the position that he has and his surname. Also, the first person that has to be a tribute, has to be the boss. You are not allowed to introduce yourself to another person who is not the first person in the hierarchy. The same happens when you enter the room. The first person to enter the room is the president of the company, the vice-president and going down.

Chinese students are expected to show total obedience or submission to their teachers and to be passive receivers of knowledge and tend to offer little input to the class. (Intercultural Spaces: language, culture, and identity)

Body language is a concept that is broken down into gestures, facial expressions, other body movements, eye contact or eye movements, the distance from the body to the receiver's body, which means a non-verbal communication. Chinese culture has a very low Haptic culture. Haptics is the study of communication that involves touching. They believe in business terms that it very rides if you point out with your hands, you have to extend the palm of your hand and point it out whit your whole hand. Also, they don't like hugs or pats on the back, in their culture that is something rude. Specially they can't stand people that blow their nose in a meeting and put their blowing paper back into their pockets. That is something in which they believe it is a lack of courtesy. (Understanding intercultural communication; p.35)

Collectividualism, according to Hofstede, China is a culture in which they care more in the success ungroup than the individual. In terms of business, Chinese companies prefer to meet other businessmen with their team. If businessman A decides to go to the reunion with businessman B (Chinese man) without his team, just by himself, the negotiation will not go well. In the Chinese culture, they like to see that there is a good team and that even that the boss is 'superior' to the rest, they have confidence with their employees while at the same time the employees have respect towards the boss. (Hofstede).

Chinese culture is very Masculinity, they have a very high score according to Hofstede (66). Chinese society places more value on their work than in most European countries, they are strongly driven towards financial success. They prefer to sacrifice family and leisure priorities to work. For example, in China, the luxury hairdressers and clothes shops, open until late to these people that work until very late can go and buy clothes or cut their hair. Also, some of them can go to your office while you work and give them the service that they need without leaving their office and losing time.

As Hofstede notes, people are motivated by the things they would have rather than the desire to enjoy what they do. (Hofstede).

In the dimension of uncertainty avoidance, Chinese culture scores low. Although the relationship is very important in this culture. Business decision making is based on legal observation as opposed to the concern for business ethics. A narrative from my MBA business ethics professor should clarify. She mentioned a past incidence in her Chinese MBA lesson where one of the students, a business entrepreneur, told her that everything that had been learned in the course was useless to him as a private business owner. His decisions, he said, are based on whether he would make a profit, and only at government enterprises should the manager make socially responsible corporate decisions (Lewis, personal communication, 2013). Low uncertainty avoidance implies there should be less trust and honesty would be taken as dependent on the 'situation, context and time' (Hofstede).

Chinese values and communication culture are being analyzed and are found to be different from European cultures like Spain. Managers and any other individuals from Western culture operating in China must pay attention to the cultural dissimilarities while in China and should respect the Chinese cultural values such as saving face, establishing, avoiding confrontation especially with superiors, and use the optimal employee motivation strategies recommended. Finally, it is important to consider the differences in light of cultural relativism instead of using etic procedures to establish judgment according to home culture (Wen, 2013)

Reference

  1. Compare countries - Hofstede Insights. (2019). Retrieved 25 November 2019, from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/
  2. Edward Dale, 'The Primitive culture', commercial edition, Heijing 1987.
  3. Holliday, A. (2018). Understanding intercultural communication: Negotiating a grammar of culture (Second ed.). London: Routledge.
  4. Intercultural communication in china (2015).
  5. Lewis, R. D. (2013). Cross-cultural competence is the basis for a successful international business.
  6. Pearson-Evans, A., & Leahy, A. (2007). Intercultural spaces: Language, culture, identity. New York; Oxford; Peter Lang.
  7. Shen Yan, 'El principio de la enseñanza de la lengua' p.78, edición Chongqin, 1990.
  8. Wen, G. (2013). Cultural differences cause Chinese 'misbehavior' abroad. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from China.org.cn: http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/2013-08/23/content_29804708.htm
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Chinese Culture And Europe: Business Norms. (2021, September 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/chinese-culture-and-europe-business-norms/
“Chinese Culture And Europe: Business Norms.” Edubirdie, 24 Sept. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/chinese-culture-and-europe-business-norms/
Chinese Culture And Europe: Business Norms. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/chinese-culture-and-europe-business-norms/> [Accessed 14 Jul. 2024].
Chinese Culture And Europe: Business Norms [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 24 [cited 2024 Jul 14]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/chinese-culture-and-europe-business-norms/
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