Access to Asia
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Access to Asia

Your Multicultural Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Respect, and Creating Long-Lasting Business Relationships

Sharon Schweitzer, Liz Alexander

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eBook - ePub

Access to Asia

Your Multicultural Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Respect, and Creating Long-Lasting Business Relationships

Sharon Schweitzer, Liz Alexander

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About This Book

Create meaningful relationships that translate to better business

Access to Asia presents a deeply insightful framework for today's global business leaders and managers, whether traveling from Toronto to Taipei, Baltimore to Bangalore, or San Francisco to Shanghai. Drawing from her extensive experience and global connections, author Sharon Schweitzer suggests that irrespective of their industry, everyone is essentially in the relationship business. Within Asia, building trust and inspiring respect are vital steps in developing business relationships that transcend basic contractual obligations. Readers will find in-the-trenches advice and stories from 80 regional experts in 10 countries, including China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, and Korea.

  • Discover the unique eight-question framework that provides rich interview material and insight from respected cultural experts
  • Track cultural progress over time and highlight areas in need of improvement with the Self-Awareness Profile
  • Learn the little-known facts, reports, and resources that help establish and strengthen Asian business relationships

Effective cross-cultural communication is mandatory for today's successful global business leaders. For companies and individuals looking to engage more successfully with their counterparts in Asia, Access to Asia showcases the critical people skills that drive global business success.

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Chapter 1
A Question of Culture

When we marry, most of us discover that our spouse's family has a different set of expectations, values, and beliefs, ranging from broad topics, such as boundaries to specific subjects such as shared holidays. Invariably, these are different from the way we were raised. If we can reconcile our own values with those of our new extended family, we avoid the potential culture clash; if not, and things escalate, the end result can be unpleasant. The same holds true in business.
J.B. (not his real name) is a factory owner in Chennai, in southern India, whose mid-sized business produces revenues of around $250 million a year and has two joint venture agreements. One relationship, with a German company, has happily lasted 18 years. The other, with a U.S.1 company, he wants to draw to a close, because of their less than desirable approach to doing business.
For example, on one occasion, J.B. wanted to spend $5,000 to manufacture a tool for a particular project and was questioned at length by his U.S. partners as to why he didn't just buy the tool from vendors overseas. J.B. responded that these vendors did not allow him to purchase a single item, only items in bulk, which he felt was wasteful and would incur unnecessary shipping costs. Overall, it was going to be considerably less expensive to make the part. After further laborious discussions, his U.S. partners reluctantly agreed.
In contrast, J.B.'s experience with the Germans is such that, “If I make a request, they will ask me if that is the best solution in my opinion. If I say yes, they trust my expertise.” Why would J.B.'s experience with the Germans be so different than the experience with his U.S. partners? In short: cultural differences. But before examining this example further, let's explore what we mean by the word culture.
We use the word culture in many different contexts, including countries, organizations, and groups, and we talk about cultural misunderstandings, cultural clashes, cultural fit, and even culture shock. However, books and articles focused on cultural topics often neglect to define the term. Perhaps that is not surprising, considering the complexities involved in explaining culture.
Culture was originally an agricultural term, used in the Middle Ages, stemming from the Latin word cultura, meaning the care, cultivation, or honoring of the land; we still talk about cultivating plants. But since the early nineteenth century, culture also became associated with the beliefs, values, and customs of different civilizations. Culture is complex and hard to pin down with a single definition because it encompasses many subcomponents.


“Culture is the accumulation of life experiences spanning generations.”
Sheida Hodge, Global Smarts2
One place to start is to compare culture with similar but not synonymous concepts, such as identity, nationhood, values, and norms. Renowned intercultural researcher and the author of numerous books on this topic, including Culture's Consequences,3 Geert Hofstede advises that culture is distinct from identity: Your identity has more to do with where and with whom you belong, as in national identity, or your identity within a particular group. Culture, on the other hand, is concerned with “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.”4 In that regard, Hofstede considers culture to consist of “the unwritten rules of the social game.”5 These are the rules we learn from observing what goes on in our specific environment, together with the learning we get from others, rather than something we are born knowing, such as the human propensity for smiling, or the fear of death, which are innate across all races.
Some of the earliest influences of Hofstede and others stemmed from research conducted by cultural anthropologists. For example, Florence Kluckhohn and Fred Strodtbeck's (1961) value orientations theory postulated six different types of beliefs, influences, and relationships. Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck differentiated them according to the following dimensions:
  • Relationship with nature—especially the need for control
  • Social structure—whether focused mostly on individuals or groups
  • Appropriate goals—being or doing
  • Time—past (traditions), present (current circumstances), or future (desires/goals)
  • Basis of human nature—good or evil
  • Conception of space—public or private
These anthropologically sound dimensions speak to all forms of community, including our business lives.
Culture is not synonymous with nationhood for the simple reason that just under 200 countries exist in the world today,6 whereas, according to Richard Lewis, there are some 700 national and regional cultures.7 Additionally, culture is not synonymous with concepts such as norms and values; it encompasses them.

Pattern Interrupt

“(M)any Japanese executives are reserved, polite, quiet, and rarely display emotion. Somewhere there is probably a loud, boisterous, gesticulating Japanese manager who is as emotional and imperious as any prima donna. Just because we haven't met him (or her) doesn't mean that no such person exists.”

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