Cultural Differences and Their Impact on International Business
As the world of business becomes more and more connected than ever before, people from across the world over are becoming more consolidated in the same working space. However, while diversity in the workplace is as colorful as the flag which each represents, cultural differences among people of various civilizations remain an issue even in a supposedly more open-minded world, that is the present.
Sure, there may be a good reason why multinational and cross-cultural teams exist in the workplace—that is, because people of diverse cultural orientations provide unique views and approach to different problems and, thereby, an eclectic of solutions. However, even this perceived benefit may not always outweigh the weight of the issues which could arise from it.
After all, when you speak of “culture,” you talk about what the dictionary describes as “a set of common and accepted norms that are shared by the society.” Put in the world context, it means that culture is merely an umbrella term for each civilization’s unique way of living that, more often than not, has friction with another.
To put together people from the assortment of cultures is to inevitably create misunderstandings which often underly cultural differences and subsequently affect international business. What better way to resolve issues coming from cultural differences and its affectation to international business than to see the point in its three major facets: organizational hierarchy, etiquette, and communication.
Many companies which exercise power to employ people from different parts of the world frequently have one common denominator to them all—they speak a common, unified language.
However, communication is not only always conducted with speech. With the English language being the world’s de facto language, people are not only differentiated by their unique accent and diction about the word, they are also separated from their different way of expressing it.
One significant challenge therefore in keeping solidarity between people of a different culture but speak a similar language is in finding common ground among them which might entail knowingness in each culture’s differences. However, when the body language is ambiguous, the best logical step is to ask.
Workplace ethics is another major issue in the corporate world which highlights diversity in its constitution which, more or less, affect someone’s view of what makes right or wrong in the work setting.
Two of the most common differences between work ethics from the Tiger Economy countries and those from Canada and the US are the formality of address to someone and the idea of what is being “on-time.”
For instance, employees from Singapore, South Korea, and China refer to other people with either the honorific “Mr.” or “Ms.” Plus the Surname whereas their Canadian and US counterparts prefer the first name. Another noteworthy example is the US worker’s notion of being “on-time” by arriving at the workplace a few minutes early vis-à-vis his Italian and Mexican counterpart which sees arriving 7 minutes after the scheduled time is “on-time.”
Some companies pay little regard to organizational hierarchy in that every member of the workplace is equal to another which creates a flat organizational hierarchy, such as in the Scandinavian country of Norway.
However, for Asian countries like South Korea or Japan which pay strict adherence to organizational hierarchy, junior members are typically placed in a lower position than their senior counterparts. Often, the divergence of the stature is ostensive in how junior members pay regards to those who are in the higher ranks.
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