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Global Business Languages
Volume 2 Cultures and Cross-Cultural Awareness in the Professions 5-21-2010 Article 4

Business Negotiations between the Americans and the Japanese Yumi Adachi
Weber State University

Follow this and additional works at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/gbl Recommended Citation Adachi, Yumi (1997) "Business Negotiations between the Americans and the Japanese," Global Business Languages: Vol. 2, Article 4. Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/gbl/vol2/iss1/4

Copyright © 2010 by Purdue Research Foundation. Global Business Languages is produced by Purdue CIBER. http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/gbl

Yumi Adachi
Weber State University

BUSINESS NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE AMERICANS AND THE JAPANESE

INTRODUCTION Culture in the business world is not the same as general culture.1 Even native speakers of the language learn business manners and practices, and cooperative culture when they actually engage in a real life setting. It is not sufficient in business for foreigners to understand only the general culture of the target language, since culture and language cannot be separated (King), yet language study by itself is inadequate. Language is constructed with a strong influence exerted by the culture. Indeed, when studying language, it is incumbent upon us to study the culture of the target language (Bloch). Even though culture cannot explain everything (Fallows), and the business world shares a common ground regardless of culture (Bloch), fundamental features of the Japanese cultural values result in a different negotiation discourse from that of English. The purpose of this paper is to study how culture and language differences influence business negotiations between Americans and Japanese, and to demonstrate how business foreign language courses can better accomplish teaching these differences. AMERICAN C ULTURE VS. JAPANESE C ULTURE The Training Management Corporation has identified ten crucial cultural values. Table 1 shows the comparison of American and Japanese cultures’ values for each variable.

1A version of this paper was presented at the Association for Global Business National Conference of 1996, and appeared in the proceedings.

Global Business Languages (1997)

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ADACHI Table 1 Cultural value differences between Americans and Japanese2 Variables Nature Time American Control over nature Present and shorttime future orientation Doing for the sake of success low context private space equality emphasis high individualism competitive low structure informal Japanese Harmony with nature Past and long-time future orientation Doing and Being part of an organization high context public space hierarchy emphasis low individualism cooperative high structure formal

Action Communication Space Power Individualism Competitiveness Structure Formality

The Japanese put their highest social priority on harmony because 1) Japan’s geographical characteristics—a country surrounded by an ocean—emphasizes its isolation; 2) Japan has the densest population per square foot of any country in the world, which creates an unavoidable close proximity of persons to each other; and 3) Japan is a homogeneous society (McCreary). Fulfilling one’s position in a harmonious way, or in other words, not destroying the harmony of the society by taking an inappropriate position in relation to others, is important for Japanese people. The Japanese try to avoid conflict between parties in order to keep harmony. Also, Japanese society is described as a strong vertical society (Nakane; Graham and Sano; McCreary; March). Sempai-Kohai [seniorjunior] relationships determine the role of a person in most situations, and this hierarchical system controls Japanese social life and individual activity (Nakane; McCreary). Equality, a horizontal relationship, is strongly valued in the United States but it is less important in Japan (Graham and Sano). Americans emphasize equality of power, therefore there is less adherence to...
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