Cultural Diversity and Business

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In a globalized world it gets increasingly important for multinational companies to understand that cultural diversity can affect the business by building communication barriers. Cultural differences do not just mean that people speak different languages, it is also the way they think and feel and what traditions they have. Therefore we have to analyze how this diversity can influence the communication and what the consequences are.

The old Japanese parable of the monkey and the fish is a good example for what happens if you don’t consider the differences between people from different countries. In the story, the monkey supposed that the fish lives in a similar environment like he and that therefore they have the same attitudes. Therefore management strategies that fit in the local environment could be absolutely inappropriate in other countries with other cultures. (Miroshnik 2002, p. 521)

The most important communication barrier is language. If you don’t know the language you have problems to express yourself what will end in a misunderstanding. But even if you speak the language of a business partner you might won’t be able to understand the meaning his words. A good example is that some Japanese use polite expressions to say “no I’m not interested” by saying “this will be very difficult”. Someone who isn’t familiar with this habit would answer “how can I help you”. ( Furthermore (autoren von buch s296) pointed out that some cultures have other beliefs regarding the gender role in business. In the Middle Eastern culture women aren’t allowed to say something what disagrees with a male opinion. Such behaviour would be impolite only because of a cultural difference in the gender role.

However, misunderstandings happen always when we are communicating with people we don’t know as we tend to interpret what they want to tell us into our own meaning. Otherwise they do the same with the message we are...
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