Before coming to Canada, Abe worked in Ethiopia. In her studies in Canada she learned about how different countries can be categorized based on their cultural dimensions. She is concerned that business etiquette in her home country is different from that of Canada. For instance, recently she was in a situation where she felt that it was expected of her to shake hands with a male co-worker. This is not an accepted practice in her home cultural context. She worries that there may be many differences between Canadian and Ethiopian cultures and hopes she can navigate the differences and adapt to her new environment.
After learning more about cultural differences in business contexts by studying the content provided in this chapter, what advice do you have for Abe? Should she assimilate and just shake hands with male colleagues? If it’s important for her to maintain some of her customs, how might she communicate about that with her new colleagues?
Key Terms to Know
- Culture – the ongoing negotiation of learned and patterned beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviours.
- Direct cultures – business conversations can move directly to business without informal conversation.
- Feminine orientation – a cultural value of modest, caring values.
- High-power distance culture – there are clear hierarchies of power, especially in manager-subordinate organizational roles. You may need to take extra care to elicit feedback and involve senior administrators in discussion because their cultural framework may preclude their participation.
- Indirect cultures – business conversations may start with discussions of the weather, or family, or topics other than business as the partners gain a sense of each other, long before the topic of business is raised.
- International communication – communication between nations, or two or more people from different nations.
- Long-term orientation – relationships often marked by persistence, thrift and frugality, and an order to relationships based on age and status.
- Low-power distance culture – people relate to one another more as equals and less as a reflection of dominant or subordinate roles.
- Masculine orientation – a cultural value of assertive and competitive behaviour.
- Materialistic culture – members place emphasis on external goods and services as a representation of self, power, and social rank.
- Monochromatic time – interruptions are to be avoided, and everything has its own specific time.
- Polychromatic time – more complicated, with business and family mixing with dinner and dancing, events do not necessarily start on time.
- Political systems – framed in terms of how people are governed, and the extent to which they may participate.
- Relationship cultures – value people and relationships more than material objects.
- Rites of Initiation – marks the passage of the individual to become part of the community.
- Short-term orientation – a culture whose people value immediate results and grow impatient when those results do not materialize.
- Global Affairs Canada. (2020). Cultural Information: Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view https://www.international.gc.ca/cil-cai/country_insights-apercus_pays/ci-ic_ca.aspx?lang=eng
- Fantino, A.M. (2006). Cultures at work: Intercultural communication in the Canadian workplace. http://volunteeralberta.ab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Cultures-at-Work-Ana-Maria-Fantino-2006.pdf
- Conestoga College: Welcome to Intercultural Communication https://www.conestogac.on.ca/intercultural-communication=