2. How important is time?
3. Orientation of people
5. The image of Age
6. Formality and language
7. Generalization versus Reality
The book „Japan and European Union“1 shows a lot of examples of institutions where Europeans have contact to Japanese. The author mentions a language barrier between both regions of the world but he does not describe what is behind the negotiation in international institutions. I think you can not solve problems together on an international level without knowledge of the other culture and the possible problems during negotiations.
That is the reason why I will write about cultural problems between different cultures during negotiations. Furthermore, I will describe the possible reasons for distinctive behaviour of a culture. As example I have chosen America, Japan and Germany. America because this country represents the strongest economy and the American culture is something like a symbol of world wide mass culture. Japan is interesting because it is totally different to the American style of culture and it is a good example to show more deeply the main problems in conversations and human behaviour. Germany is my personal background and I believe that I can compare and contrast the differences to the other two cultures.
2. How important is time?
At first I will look at the question how important time is in the cultures. Later I will examine some aspects of culture like orientation, achievement, age and I will finish with directness and language. I could explain more aspects of culture but I believe it makes more sense to point out how we can deal with general cognitions about culture in order to draw a conclusion.
In America, time is a very important value and the phrase “time is money” can be found everywhere. Many people have a tight schedule and businessmen want to do a deal as fast as possible. For the Japanese, it is different because they are group-orientated and a big decision needs time. They would not sign a contract on the first meeting and not without asking the head office of the company either. A negotiator from Japan also needs time because everyone from the own company should feel happy or accept his decision. It is just possible if he communicates a lot with his colleagues and sometimes it needs time to arrange a compromise within the network of the company. During the first 20 minutes of negotiations, it is not polite to speak about the topic of the meeting and it is not polite to interrupt the speaker. That is also the reason why the Japanese pay a lot of attention and never interrupt the conversational partner. Germany is between both countries because it is typical for the German culture to watch the time. It is not considered good to lose time but the Germans do not insist on their schedule. Of course German timetables are tight and the people try to follow it but if they want to find a solution, it is possible to spend more time on finding a compromise. In the political sphere for example it is normal to negotiate through the night in order to finish a difficult negotiation. In the year 2006, there were important discussions about the health system in Germany which is a difficult topic. That is the reason why politicians sometimes discussed for a very long time.2 Such long discussions are called “night meeting”.
It is a good example how different cultural behavior is in variable circumstances. It is a general problem of approaches because sometimes they are effective in negotiations but sometimes they are less effective. The reason is a different understanding of a behavior during negotiations. The behavior can vary depending on different contextual factors.3 Even inside the same culture, understanding is not as good as many people believe. In a research, it was found out that the listener understands just 20% of the intention of the speaker exactly. Exact means that the listener understands thoroughly what the speaker means. The cause for the bad percentage is the different personal background because persons connect different experiences with words. I will show how this works with an easy example. If a small child sees a green frog than the mother would say: “It is a frog” and he would connect a frog with the colour green and that is the basic for misunderstanding because the connection of green and frog is not wrong but also not exactly. People make such connections permanently and these are the basics or experiences on which the people judge behavior of other people. Especially between cultures, the misunderstandings are much higher which is normal because the experiences of individuals are more different if they are growing up and living in different cultures. The personal background is the most important thing to consider in order to understand other people.
3. Orientation of people
The second point in culture is the orientation of the people. This orientation has two dimensions, an individual and a company dimension. Americans prepare themselves and structure everything. I read for example that a new successful market in USA is career advice for young people by specialists. Of course this consultation is based on the American values and very expensive. The individual is the highest value and if the boy- or girlfriend will not study in the same town or needs too much time than the advice will be to give up the relationship. In general, the orientation of the Americans is very future orientated. In Japan it is different because the family and also the social group are very important. As I said, the Japanese want to find a compromise and they always speak of ‘we’ (we the family or we the company) and not of ‘I’. This small language example is a good example to show that one person is not important. It is important that the company is in a good position and everyone is working for this aim. That is also the reason why the Japanese focus on long time plans more than the Americans. Americans want to make a good profit in short time to impress other people but sometimes, short profit can be very bad for the long term perspective of a company. In contrast to the Americans, the Japanese hardly ever change the company for which they work. In general, Americans are very future orientated in private dimension but at work they are short time orientated because it is important for the individual career to show the personal success quickly.
Germany, as in the first point, is different to both countries. On the individual side they are similar to the Americans because they are planning their life and it is important to be successful. Some people like to show their success with cars or a beautiful house. I think it is similar to America but in Germany, there also exists another side. Germany is the country of very successful family companies. The reason of the success is a very long term orientation and a strong identification of the employees with their own company. This side contrasts with the individual dimension and is similar to the Japanese. On the End of the Essay I will try to give an explanation why it is possible to find both sides in Germany.
1 Gilson, Julie; Japan and the European Union; UK 2000
2 Examples about long meetings: http://www.aok-bv.de/politik/reformwerkstatt/index_08367.html and