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travel - ProFile 1 UNIT 6 Travel WHOOPS COLLECTIVE OR...

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Unformatted text preview: ProFile 1 UNIT 6 Travel WHOOPS! COLLECTIVE OR INDIVIDUAL? When travelling and doing business overseas, businesspeople have always needed to be aware of the customs and behaviour of their foreign partners. There may be, for instance, a strict etiquette concerned with the giving and receiving of business cards, or the exchange of gifts. Showing the soles of one’s feet in an Arab country, or, in Japan, blowing one’s nose in public are common gaffes newcomers make and are easily recognizable as such. A clear difference between cultures is the degree to which they are collective or individual. A Japanese firm, where collectivist norms reign, would rarely single out someone for praise or blame, while this is commonplace in Anglo-Saxon cultures. In Japanese firms, everyone stays until the boss says they may leave, or until the work is finished. In Anglo-Saxon cultures people can generally go when their individual tasks have been completed. MENTAL SOFTWARE More subtle and altogether more dangerous and less obvious errors are those connected with underlying attitudes and assumptions connected with age, religion, and how people are expected to behave in general. Geert Hofstede in his Cultures and Organizations described culture as ‘the software of the mind’. Thus, when recruiting staff for overseas postings, it is important to assess how well they will deal with the shock of living and working in a different culture. This is as important for the employee’s spouse or partner as for the employee themself. FACE If a Japanese person says that something is difficult, what they probably mean is that it is impossible. In Eastern cultures, it is important neither to lose face, nor cause someone else to lose it. Face, this mixture of respecting one’s own dignity and that of others, is of upmost importance. Face can be lost when we appear ignorant or foolish, or where we insult someone else by a crude refusal. Saying something is difficult sidesteps this problem. Similarly, in Thailand or Malaysia displays of anger are considered ridiculous and shameful as they show a lack of self-control. See the ProFile Student’s site: www.oup.com/elt/profile HIGH OR LOW CONTEXT? In cultures which are considered high context, the personal relationships between people are all-important. In Spain or Argentina, which are high-context cultures, it is essential to take the time to know one’s business partners as people, even as far as their home and family environments. The business relationship flows from personal trust. Low-context cultures such as Germany and Scandinavia will focus on their tasks in what may appear to be a totally impersonal fashion. SOCIAL DISTANCE AND UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE The social distance between a company’s hierarchy varies considerably across cultures. In addition, different cultures are more ready to accept uncertainty and ambiguity than others. If, then, we create a simple matrix with social distance on one axis, and uncertainty avoidance on the other, we can map the tendencies of different cultures with markedly different results. Photocopiable © Oxford University Press ...
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