TABLE OF CONTENTS
FACE TO FACE COMMUNICATION
Cultural differences in business communication certainly are factors, which should be taken into consideration when getting into contact in a cross-cultural business interaction. Geert Hofstede regards them as a crucial aspect causing considerable problems. On the front page of his website he claims that"culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster". Corresponding to this viewpoint, a lot of literature is dedicated to the awareness of culture in business. Most of these works refer to models of national culture, which are used as a basis for discussion in this essay as well. As the emphasis should lay on the way in which cultural differences in non-verbal communication might influence business interactions, the knowledge about these concepts is presumed and therefore the individual dimensions are not explained in detail.
For the two neighbouring countries, France and Germany, which are used to elucidate the topics, one might expect a more or less common way of communicating and doing business. Yet there are some hidden but rather important cultural differences, mostly rooted in underlying concepts, which shall be taken under the umbrella term of non-verbal communication as well.
The differing attitudes towards time might best become clear by using Hall's model of monochronic and polychronic time systems. A similar approach was made by Trompenaars, which should be briefly addressed as well. In addition, the interrelated topic of pace is introduced.
TWO TIME SYSTEMS
Due to their monochronic / sequential perception of time, Germans place high value on organising life and handling time as a means to maintain order and stability. (Hall/Hall, 1990, p.35). Seizing every moment is regarded as highly important since "once it is gone, you lose it forever" (Trompenaars, 2000, p.295). As a consequence, Germans tend to do things at a time. Time is compartmentalized, everything follows a linear succession and things are arranged according to their importance (Hall/Hall, 1984, p.30). This is why promptness is not only a virtue but a social behaviour, which is taken for granted. Any delay without being announced in advance is an intrusion to the German sense of order. In business, as well as in private life, this is perceived as egocentric and rude (Hall/Hall, 1990, p.3 7). Closely connected to that is the attitude towards waiting times. Germans do not expect to wait if an appointment has been made beforehand. If this is the case, it might be perceived as humiliating, since the appointment does not seem to be of high significance.