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The Interface of Business and Culture

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Michael B. Hinner

Humans need to communicate in order to interact with one another, and culture helps regulate such interaction and communication. The same is true in the world of business since there, too, people interact and communicate with one another. And in today’s globalized world, it is inevitable that many such encounters and interactions involve people of diverse cultural background. That is why it is so imperative that business people understand how culture influences human behavior and communication, including their own. This knowledge will provide a better understanding of not just one’s own behavior, but also that of one’s international business partners, employees, and customers. So who better to explain the influence of culture than some of the leading experts in the field? These contributing authors cover a wide spectrum of topics that range from general principles of intercultural communication to very specific aspects of culture’s influence in particular business contexts. These insights should prove to be interesting, perceptive, and useful to many international business transactions and interactions.

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The Great Cultural Divide in International Business Communication: High and Low Context Communication - Tadasu Todd Imahori 245

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245 Introduction to The Great Cultural Divide in International Business Communication: High and Low Context Communication By Tadasu Todd Imahori Tadasu Todd Imahori has more than twenty years of experience in international business consulting and training. While a number of factors cause problems in international business transactions, it has been his experience that more prob- lems are actually caused by differences in how people try to communicate with one another than anything else. It became clear to him that many international business situations led to failure because of cultural misunderstandings caused by differences in high and low context styles of communicating meaning. Ima- hori also notes that German culture is considered to be at the one extreme end of these communication styles, i.e. low context, which is why German business practitioners may experience pitfalls in international business communication with representatives from high context cultures without even being aware that this is happening. A high context communicator states very little explicit infor- mation, but a low context communicator expects much more information. Con- sequently, the low context communicator does not feel satisfied with high con- text messages because they do not reveal what a high context communicator is actually thinking or feeling. Conversely, the high context communicator thinks that the low context communicator is too verbose with too many unnecessary details. High and low context can also refer to nonverbal messages, including photographs, for example. Imahori notes that Edward T. Hall was the first to point out that cultures have different...

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