Sample Research Paper on Cross-Cultural Communication

Cross-Cultural Communication

Communication plays a vital role in human interaction and business. Communication determines the success of a business in the increasingly competitive business environment, especially for multinational organizations (Guang & Trotter 6457). On the other hand, culture is another important element of human organization and socialization. Apart from defining an individual or a group of individuals, culture also determines how such individuals interact within themselves and with individuals from other groups. The difference in culture is central in conducting business. It determines how smooth or rough business dealings will proceed. Profitability and business growth mainly rely on communication tactics as well as worker skills (Tian Borges 110). However, with an increasingly globalized world, and therefore cultural interaction, communication, more than ever, comes to play in determining an organization’s success in a cross-cultural setting (Vance & Paik 62; Huang 196). Different cultural variables can therefore impede or facilitate business negotiations and communication, in cross-cultural settings, particularly those that involve individuals from the western world and the middle-eastern world (Alteren 1). The difference in cultural orientation between these two groups can therefore be deal breakers in instances when the differences are not factored in, in business communication.

A stark difference between American and Kuwaiti (and most middle-eastern cultures and countries) goal in business is the contract nature of the American (and most western cultures) business negotiation, while the Kuwaiti is more relationship-based (Yeganeh 220). For this matter, therefore, communication between business partners from the US and Kuwait may be hindered by this factor. The difference in negotiation between the Middle-Eastern and American forms of negotiation is based on one of Hofstede’s cultural variables of individualism against collectivism. According to (Neuliep) this factor “is the degree to which individuals are supposed to look after themselves or remain integrated into groups, usually around the family” (82). The US largely puts emphasis on the individual, as well as on individual achievement (Yeganeh 227). On the other hand, Kuwaiti nationals function within the framework of a social system, with a lot of influence coming from friends, relatives, and the family. Given such an orientation, therefore, communication in business negotiations between the two may in fact be impeded by the need to take into consideration the interest of the group for Kuwaiti nationals.

Communication between the collectivist and the individualistic societies as is the case between the US and Kuwaiti nationals, is, therefore, dependent on the orientation of the culture. Given the low level of individual and press freedom for the Kuwaiti (Kononova 1692), free expression of intentions from such individuals will be minimal. The use of indirect language will therefore prevail from the Kuwaiti in communication between the two. Without knowledge of the ambiguous and indirect nature of the communication from the Kuwaiti, it is easy for the westerners therefore to mistake the intentions of the Kuwaiti, in addition to frustrations from such forms of communication. Moreover, the medium chosen for communication is also important, given that collectivist cultures, like Kuwait, prefer more face-to-face communication to email or telephone conversations, word of mouth from one person to another within a given group, to mass media advertising (Yoo, Donthu & Lenartowicz 193).

The frustrations, especially for Americans (and other individuals from western cultures) may not only stop at the indirect communication present in the Middle Eastern cultures. The sense and attitude towards time is yet another cultural variable that can be a major hindrance to effective communication and ultimately to doing business between organizations or individuals from the two cultures. Thus, while Americans have a strict sense of time, with scheduling of business activities and communications made in time, Kuwaitis lack this strict sense of time (Huang 198). In the communication of business meetings and activity timeline, therefore, while the Americans will find it necessary to keep time, Kuwaitis will be slow in making rendezvous or deciding on actions within a stipulated timeframe, something that may not sit well with people from the western cultures.

Communication does not stop at the verbal and written signs between individuals; it goes further into the use of signs and gestures, which may have different meanings in different cultures. Gestures such as patting the head to show affection as is used in the western cultures may end up being offensive in Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries given the sanctity of the head (Huang 198). Even in the use of eye contact and facial expressions, differences exist between the Middle Eastern and Western cultures. Therefore, while Americans expect eye contact in business negotiations even between people of the opposite gender, Kuwaitis do not uphold the idea of eye contact, especially when negotiating business with females. Therefore, by not maintaining eye contact, these females (Kuwaiti) have a feeling of showing respect to the males. This, on the other hand, may be deemed as shyness or lack of confidence in western cultures.

An aspect of the Middle Eastern culture is the sanctity of the female gender, whether the wife, daughter, or sister. A man’s wife in the Middle Eastern cultures is thus for his eyes only (Neuliep 401), and any inquiries to her whereabouts are usually highly forbidden. Western culture conversely does not have many restrictions on inquiries about females during business meetings. Such inquests from the westerners to the middle easterners can therefore be deemed inappropriate, with repercussions on current or future dealings. In communicating with the middle easterners, care should therefore be taken to ensure that one does not cross such cultural orientations in the exchange of pleasantries.

As a hierarchical culture (Hosfstede 50), emphasis in Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries is on respect of social stratification. Most individuals, therefore, respect the already established social strata. American culture is however largely based on individual performance and achievement. Kuwaiti organizations may therefore require that employees at the same level do any communication between the two companies. While American CEOs may have a propensity of sending representatives to close deals, this may communicate disrespect to the Kuwaiti organizations. It is therefore important that business dealings and communication between the two companies be started and completed by individuals holding the same positions in both companies to avoid such misunderstanding.

Moreover, given the high masculinity among the Middle Eastern cultures, sending a female representative or the idea of having more females than males in a team-leading negotiations is unwelcome. Middle Eastern cultures have high male dominance in business dealings and the idea of having females as negotiators in the western side of the negotiations and business communication may not sit well with them. Thus, although this has been changing over time, a male should do business communication between Western and Middle Eastern businesses, especially if the Middle Eastern side has a male as the negotiator. Although females may be good negotiators, the idea of cross-cultural competence plays a vital role in such cross-cultural communications (Johnson, Lenartowicz & Apud 525), and the respect of the other culture is therefore important for smooth business dealings.

Culture plays an important role in business communication, especially in cross-cultural contexts. Given the difference in culture between the Western and Middle Eastern regions, care should be taken to ensure that communication falls within the reasonable cultural acceptance of both regions to avoid any misunderstandings. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions present a fundamental platform for understanding different cultures and their cultural orientations across the world. While this may be a good starting point for effective cross-cultural communication, it is important to consider an individual even within the context of national culture, since individuals may have their own cultural orientations even within the context of a collectivist culture, as is the case of most Middle Eastern countries. An understanding of the individual and national culture is therefore important for Westerners hoping to conduct business with Middle Eastern companies or individua

Annotated Bibliography

Yeganeh, Hamid. “The “Great Satan” talks with the “Evil” A cross-cultural analysis of the American-Iranian communication/negotiation styles.” International Journal of Conflict Management, 22.3(2011):219-238

The study analyzes American and Iranian cultures with the intention of finding out the difference in communication between the two nations. The research relies on theories of cultural orientation such as Hall’s model of context space and time, Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture, Inglehart’s model, and Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s model. In analyzing the difference in culture between the two, the research first defined the concept of culture and constructed an integrative cultural analysis model to bring all the three theories together. Finally, through a review of literature and secondary data, the author analyzed the distinctive features of the two cultures and then discussed the effect on communication.

The findings indicated the difference between the Iranian and American cultural orientations had huge implications in communication between the two cultures, with the possibility of creating a hindrance to bilateral communication.

The underlying theories (Hall’s model, Hofstede’s five dimensions, Inglehart’s model, and Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s model), provide a wider area and array of theoretical perspectives into understanding different cultures. By bringing these together, the author provides a wider view of understanding cross-cultural communication as fronted by the theories. The idea that difference in cultural orientation has implications in cross-cultural communication provides an insight into better cross-cultural business dealings.

The research provides a new cross-cultural way of comprehending international affairs. It is also representative of situations involving Middle Eastern and Western countries. The research does not however consider the diversity in the US and Iran, as well as the differences present within each nation. Moreover, the research does not also consider the dynamic nature of culture.

Yoo, Boonghee, Donthu, Naveen & Lenartowicz, Tomasz. “Measuring Hofstede’s Five Dimensions of Cultural Values at the Individual Level: Development and Validation of CVSCALE.”Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 23 (2011): 193-210

This research analyzes Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture, indicating that the dimension has been widely used as the cultural metric rule. In analyzing Hofstede’s theory, the research extrapolates the use of the theory for contextual variables, yet the measure has also been related to individual values. The research, therefore, aims at developing a scale for the application of Hofstede’s dimensions of culture to an individual. Thus, although past research has developed a scale for Hofstede’s dimensions, the scale has only considered one item and is therefore highly unreliable. Consequently, the authors develop the CVSCALE that considers all the five dimensions and entails 26 items assessing the values at an individual level.

The findings indicate that the scale is effective and allows the assessment of individual cultural orientation as opposed to national culture. Additionally, the findings indicate the possibility of the use of the scale across countries and therefore the possibility of individualized communication as opposed to national or group communication.

Hofstede’s model of cultural dimensions has proven effective in profiling countries. However, it has largely been a generalized theory without individual consideration. It is possible therefore that within a highly masculine nation, the orientation of a particular group will not necessarily be highly masculine.

The individualized approach gives a more realistic image of the nation, as well as provides a way for more individualized communication approaches. Additionally, companies can replicate the approach to countries with similar profiles, and further into consumer segments and similar dealings across the world. The research’s credibility may be in question given the small sample it used for creating the scale. It is therefore comprehensively representative given the absence of other regions such as India and the Emirates.

Yeganeh uses a different approach to the research, contrasting Iran and US through literature review and national culture. In contrast, Yoo Donthu & Lenartowicz have developed a scale for testing Hofstede’s cultural values at the individual level. Therefore, while Yeganeh’s findings can be used at the national level, for countries with similar cultural orientations, Yoo Donthu & Lenartowicz’s findings are more flexible as they target individuals or segments within a market for communication and business conduction.

Work Cited

Alteren, Gro. Doe Cultural Sensitivity matter to Maintaining Business Relationships in the Exports Markets? Oslo: BI Norwegian School of Management, 2007

Deresky, Helen. International Management: Managing Across Borders and Cultures, 7th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2011

Guang, Tian & Trotter, Dan. “Key issues in cross-cultural business communication: Anthropological approaches to international business.” African Journal of Business Management, 6.22 (2012):6456-6464

Hofstede, Geert. Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001

Huang, Liangguang. “Cross-cultural Communication in Business Negotiations.” International Journal of Economics and Finance, 2.2(2010):196-199

Johnson, James, P., Lenartowicz, Tomasz & Apud, Salvador. “Cross-cultural competence in international business: toward a definition and a model.” Journal of International Business Studies, 37(2006):525–543

Kononova, Anastasia. “Multitasking Across Borders: A Cross-National Study of Media Multitasking Behaviors, Its Antecedents, and Outcomes.”  International Journal of Communication, 7 (2013):1688–1710

Neuliep, James, W. Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th ed. Sage Publications, 2011

Tian, Kathy & Borges, Luis. “Cross-Cultural Issues in Marketing Communications: An Anthropological Perspective of International Business.” International Journal of China Marketing, 2.1(2011):110-126

Vance, Charles, M. & Paik, Yongsun. Managing a Global Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities in International Human Resource Management. New York: M. E. Sharpe, 2010

Yeganeh, Hamid. “The “Great Satan” talks with the “Evil” A cross cultural analysis of the American-Iranian communication/negotiation styles.” International Journal of Conflict Management, 22.3(2011):219-238

Yoo, Boonghee, Donthu, Naveen & Lenartowicz, Tomasz. “Measuring Hofstede’s Five Dimensions of Cultural Values at the Individual Level: Development and Validation of CVSCALE.”Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 23 (2011): 193-2