Entering the Asian market can be particularly difficult for British and American companies, due to the various cultural differences. This paper will show how various cultural models can aid a British company to overcome cultural problems when establishing a business unit in Japan.
Before looking at these models, we must first look at what culture actually is. Geert Hofstede's much-used definition of culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another (Hofstede, 1980:25). Yet this does not actually tell us anything about the characteristics of culture. A more detailed definition of culture is that it is the shared beliefs, attitudes, norms, roles, and values found among speakers of a particular language who live during the same historical period in a specific geographical region (De Mooij, 2005:36).
[...] Considering that the UK has a lower power distance score than Japan, this suggests that in Japan, workplace hierarchy roles should be more clearly defined; Japanese subordinates would expect more clearly defined instructions from bosses, compared to the more autonomous UK workers. In terms of customers, De Mooij explains that higher power distance cultures generally give old people more respect because of their age, giving the example of a Japanese advertisement for curry where an old man tells a young woman which is the best brand. [...]
[...] Japan has a score of 92, and the UK has 35. This means that in the workplace, the Japanese have a need for rules, and that “even ineffective rules satisfy people's emotional need for formal structure” (Hofstede, 1994:121). Perhaps the most fascinating Hofstedian dimension is long-term orientation, also known as Confucian dynamism. This is a measure of the “deferment of gratification” (Hofstede, 2006:883). Countries which score high on long- term orientation such as Japan, which scored 80, place a lot of importance on patience and thrift (Hofstede, 1994:173). [...]
[...] On the other hand, because Europe as a whole is less masculine, the game was published as Pro Evolution Soccer there. Interestingly, the name Winning Eleven not only appeals to the Japanese on the basis of masculinity, it also fits with their collectivist culture: being part of an eleven-man football squad. This is the sort of highly focused cultural understanding which a British company would need to apply to succeed in Japan. Uncertainty avoidance is extent to which people in a society tend to feel threatened by uncertain, ambiguous, risky or undefined situations” (Usunier, 2000:67). [...]
[...] Yet when a British company communicates with Japanese workers or customers, there is even more distortion in the encoding and decoding of the message. De Mooij explains this with a key point. Her assertion that language is either a cause or an effect of culture (1998:52), means that language contains cultural messages such as symbolism which are difficult or even impossible to translate. Yet we must keep in mind that these cultural theories are not necessarily facts. While Hofstede's theories are widely accepted, there are still some criticisms. [...]
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