High Context Versus Low Context Cultures
Developing a Deeper Understanding of Cultures
You travel to an entirely new country with a drastically different culture. This is dramatically different than you ever imagined. With a bundle full of ideas and goals in mind, what do you do to put these plans in to action? Develop and establish strong relationships with people living in the area you’re in. How do you as a businessman, explorer, or budding entrepreneur create these meaningful relationships that will help you put your future goals into realistic ideas? Part of this is learning the differences between high context versus low context cultures.
A step towards that goal is by realizing the type of culture you are involved with and how to best approach that region’s people. Understanding how that culture communicates and handles its business relations will go a long way. To further understand this you must understand the differences between high context and low context cultures. What does this mean in terms of high context versus low context cultures? Let the explaining begin.
Learn the Cultural Traits
Every culture has its own traits and characteristics that make its’ culture unique. This can range from traditions, history that make up the face of the country it is today, to the country’s people and they way they present themselves within the public eye.
We can gather a great amount of knowledge about a person just by how they communicate. This can include the use of gestures, eye movement, or the words that come out in vocally expressive manners. This is how we can determine the culture behind the mysterious personality that performs before us. A flowing hand gesture or excessive use of gestural movement can give us a closer clue of the cultural origin. The verbs and words spitting out the mouth gives us a better idea as to the nationality or culture. We can then determine based of these actions the culture they range from and generate an idea of the cultural context behind.
What is a High-Context Culture?
A high context culture in a broad definition could be defined as a culture based around its cultural roots and communicates in less verbal, formal ways. Examples of countries that come from high context cultures include China, France, Italy, and Latin American countries. All these countries have rich long histories that have defined and made lasting impacts on its people. As a result, these people emphasize in the way they communicate with their respective backgrounds.
Italians communicate with an assortment of bodily movements and loud verbal tones, making for very hearty conversations. The Chinese, a country based on respect and honor convey their messages through subtle , but powerful ways that get their message across. Through these two conversations we can define a few other characteristics of high context cultures. High context cultures go through indirect ways of communicating. That is a certain gesture or bodily movement can give the hint as to what they are trying to.
Establish the Background Details
Cultural backgrounds can are also be a indirect way of communicating. People with similar backgrounds may already know the thought process and actions of others based on prior knowledge gained. In return, information spoken during meetings may already be known by high context cultures prohibiting any further needs to ask for explanations. High context cultures are also group oriented, tending to perform and communicate together when possible. Goals accomplished with the team instead of by solo actions are more valued. A few simple words from someone with a high context background may be all that’s said in a conversation. Those few words are usually loaded with power and meaning.
What is a Low-Context Culture?
Low-context cultures have their own distinct ways of communicating. Cultures based under the low context category are public and open about communicating their information to the public. While as high-context cultures may sit back and let people communicate as long as they want, low context cultures find the need to be in main speaker on stage. High context basically explains itself in a sense that more information is centered around these types groups. Low context cultures as mentioned earlier many times have prior knowledge and experience on a situation, and not find the need to do anything.
Being more direct, high context cultures take over the stage and share everything they believe they need to. They will take all the time they want. Hence, more information flies around in a low context speaking environment. The time it takes to share, could range from an extra few lines to a hour long speech. Time is valued much differently in regard to high context cultures. In developing a business relation a low context culture such as the US, will want to get straight to the point. In these situations a decision is expected to be made right away.
A high-context culture such as Japan would feel disrespected in a situation such as this. A culture like Japan and many other Asian nations value strong relations. In order to reach these points, high context cultures do not believe in conducting the business negotiations right off the bat. The first thing could be to take the new friends out to eat or see a show. This is where meaningful relationships are believed to be created. High context cultures believe in testing out and becoming friendly with potential partners first. Business comes second. If there is a sense of a strong relationship between the two sides, then it will follow through with their business connections.
Always Be Aware and Be Willing to Adapt
We should always understand that people communicate and receive information in many, many ways. There is not one right way to that works in every situation. Therefore, being able to adapt to different cultural situations such as communication and traditions is vital. Developing strong bonds with both low and high context cultures is vital to developing everlasting foreign relations. How you approach the situation and represent your party will showcase the relationship your searching for. Go ahead and start testing out the differences between high context versus low context cultures.