Culture and Business:
China, Japan, and South Korea
Colorado Christian University
It is pivotal to any aspiring businessperson to understand the roles of differing cultures within the global business market. China, Japan, and South Korea are three developed economies with cultures that are widely misunderstood. It is common practice to assume that because they are geographically similar that they are culturally similar when nothing could be farther from the truth. In order to accentuate these differences five areas of business will be highlighted: greetings, business cards, meeting promptness, gifts, and negotiating. There is an important distinction to be made about the previous five subjects. They will only be touched on briefly demonstrating some of the core values of the specific cultures. They are meant to be starting blocks in order to encourage the reader to explore the topic more. When one finds out about a business engagement in another culture a much more extensive review of that culture is in order.
Culture and Business: China, Japan, and South Korea
Throughout history global business has been a key factor to success for any aspiring business. Individual businesses may not recognize the immense role that other countries and cultures play within their sphere, but it is foolishness to ignore the effects of differing markets on cultures around the world. One fallacy committed by many individuals in the United States is to assume that all countries located in Southeast Asia share a common culture; this could not be any further from the truth. In order to emphasize the diverse nature of cultures found in the region an examination of the cultures of the dominant players is in order. China, Japan, and South Korea are growing forces in the global economic equation, but there culture is often misunderstood as being homogenous. Five areas of culture in business will be examined in order to highlight the similarities, because some do exist, and the differences between these rapidly accelerating economic forces. These areas will be greetings, business cards, meeting promptness, gifts, and negotiating.
Greetings are a chance to make a good first impression, and understanding the message sent by a particular greeting is key to starting off on the right foot. The greeting will consist of either a handshake or bow. Chinese greetings involve slight nods or bows, although handshakes are common. The key is to wait for the handshake to be extended, and the focus is on formality. The Japanese have a similar focus on formality but will also employ a handshake and bow. Handshakes will be longer, and great attention must be paid to the technicalities of the bow. Do not bow lower than your partner and ensure that your eyes are lowered with palms flat at your side. South Koreans are less formal, and a handshake will include eye contact. The younger should initiate the handshake, and special care should be given to become familiar with the elderly. There is a more relational focus which forces individuals to have more personable greetings. Understanding the cultural emphasis allows greetings to be a stepping stone into a great relationship.
Business cards are a universal means of communicating information about one’s self. However, it is important to give and receive business cards in a manner that is appropriate and sensitive to the culture of those around you. In all three cultures the business card should be examined carefully, never written on, or placed into a rear pocket under any circumstances. Business cards in China should have the information printed in Mandarin Chinese on the reverse side preferably in gold ink. In Japan, the business card is presented after the initial greeting with the reverse side printed in Japanese. When receiving cards always inspect them immediately and either ask a question or make a comment. In South Korea, once again have the...
References: Morrison, T and Conaway, W. A. (2006). Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: The bestselling guide to doing business in more than 60 countries. Massachusetts: Adams Media
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