Cross Cultural Comparison of Tendencies in the German and Japanese Communication Style

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Cross Cultural Comparison of Tendencies in the German and Japanese Communication Style

Table of Contents

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Introduction ................................................................................................................3 Context and Values in Communication .....................................................................4 Nonverbal Communication ........................................................................................5 Linguistic Characteristics ...........................................................................................7 Conflict Management, Criticism and Decision-Making................................................9 Conclusion ...............................................................................................................11 References ...............................................................................................................12

1. Introduction
The German and Japanese culture are by nature profoundly different and characterized by contrasting cultural standards. These distinctions and idiosyncrasies also manifest in the style of communication seen within these cultures.

While most characteristics completely contrast there are few analogies. Being aware of these is the groundwork for mastering intercultural communication and managing cultural diversity. It is therefore of uppermost importance, especially with regard to business matters, to identify values, context levels, nonverbal communication patterns, linguistic characteristics as well as tendencies in conflict management, criticism and decision-making that are prevalent in the Japanese and German style of communication. It must be stressed, however, that these attributes are only common tendencies and do not claim conformity among all individuals raised within either the German or Japanese culture. Thus this analysis strives to pinpoint and compare differences and similarities in speech caused by cultural conditioning in order to raise awareness and to prevent misunderstandings as well as misinterpretations.

2. Context and Values in Communication
Being famous for the very straightforward and explicit style of communicating, the German culture is the paragon of “low-context” communication whereas Japan‟s society exemplifies the exact opposite – extreme “high-context” communication. The term “context” describes the phenomenon that occurs when not all of the information that we need to understand a situation is vocalised, so that something remains unspoken. (Schroll-Machl 2008, p. 170) Schroll-Machl‟s definition of “context” indicates that Germans tend to say what they think and indeed mean what they say. That is they express their opinion in a very clear, unambiguous and outright manner without any kind of concealment.

Truth and objectivity are regarded as undisputed values in the German culture and hence account for the German manner of speaking. This very precise and straightforward style is believed to be the most authentic, credible and honest way of expressing oneself whereas excessive politeness or complimenting are typically attributed the negative connotation of hypocrisy and falsehood (SchrollMachl 2008, p. 173). In the Japanese Culture on the other hand harmony and politeness are of uppermost priority. Most Japanese believe that truth is relative and dependent on the given circumstances while harmony and sound relationships must be maintained at any time. As a result a Japanese person might give a certain answer simply because he is cognizant of the fact that it will please his interlocutor and not because he wants to state his actual opinion. Japanese society demands an outward behavior that reflects harmony and thus requires the suppression of any antagonistic feelings one person may have towards another. „This dichotomy is expressed in the Japanese concept of tatemae, or pro forma aspects of social relationships, versus honne, ore...
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