To be successful in international business and to be a good citizen of the international community one should learn how to honour and respect his own culture and also to develop appreciation, tolerance and respect for other cultures. Representatives of other nations doing business in China or other Asian country gain a real advantage when they show knowledge of local culture and cultural differences.
Status. A person’s position or rank is much more important in Asian countries than in the United States. In Japan, for example, when business people meet, the first thing they do is exchanging business cards. This allows the members of the group to establish their rank, or importance. Only after this has been determined they can continue with the tasks assigned to them.
Tone of voice. In China voice is very important. A person lowers his or her voice when asking a favour or attempting to show respect. It should be noted also that the voice is only raised in negotiations, or when in a confrontation with an enemy. The voice is often lowered in a threatening situation to show that a confrontation is not desired.
Group versus individual behaviour. Most Americans find their strength in individualism. They judge success on advancement toward individual career and personal goals, and their motivation derives from the ethic of individual effort which embodies competitive behaviour, individual responsibility and accountability. By contrast, the cultures of Asia tend to be motivated toward group rather than individual effort. In addition, Asians tend to be disturbed by aggressive behaviour. According to their culture, one does not have the right to venture, to question, to request proof or to make changes.
Chinese “Yes” versus American “Yes”. One of the great difficulties embarrassing communication between the American and the Asian cultures is their concept of what is polite. The Chinese, as many
Asian people, have a great fear of offending others. Promises and commitments will have a greater relationship to the desire to be courteous and to please than to the actual fact or the real intent. A Chinese will immediately avoid any kind of behaviour that will offend or cause inconvenience. If an American business person wants to make an appointment with his associate, he will call him, and they will agree on a date and time for the meeting. It is expected that both business persons will be present at the appointed date and time. If one of them is unable to keep the appointment, then he will call and make other arrangements. All this is understood when an American says “Yes”. In the same situation, saying “Yes” does not mean that a Chinese will meet at the agreed time and place. In this culture, an individual will agree to meet even if he or she has another obligation at the same time. The reason for this is that in the Asian culture, the desire to please – not to offend or cause immediate inconvenience – is much more important than the fact that the individual cannot meet at the appointed time.