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Cultural awareness is no longer optional in the global marketplace. It determines who gets the contract. Being aware of your client’s cultural preferences and sensitivities in advance helps gain a positive advantage. These preferences and sensitivities must be recognized throughout business and social relationships.
Anthropologist Edward T.Hall defines two types of cultures:
- monochronic (doing one thing at one time)
- polychronic (doing several things at a time)
These terms define how cultures are different; not only in terms of time but in way they approach life and go about their business.
- Do one thing at a time and concentrate on the job
- View time as a commodity and take time commitments ( deadlines / schedules) seriously
- Follow rules of privacy – private offices, no borrowing or lending
- Need Information - clear descriptions, unambiguous communication and high degree of specificity
- Deal with short-term relationships
E.g. U.S.A., Canada, Western Europe, Australia.
- Do many things at once and are highly distractible
- Take time commitments lightly and are never “on time”
- Are involved with people – family, friends, customers, etc.
- Share space, information and are constantly borrowing & lending
- Focus on building lifetime relationships
E.g. India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Middle East, Egypt.
The Japanese, interestingly, have elements of both cultural styles. They are monochronic about appointments and schedules, but polychronic about sharing office space and being loyal to relationships and customers. The Japanese started being monochronic during the American occupation and chose a very structured approach to time. It is easy to fail to recognize basic differences in behavior and communication. Before going to another country to conduct business, you must be aware of how much the culture varies from your own.