Cross Cultural Communication: What is Low Contextual Culture and High Contextual Culture ?

As part of my assigned training in Hewlett Packard today in the field of Cross Cultural Communication, I've learned that according to modern research on different cultures. Nations and people belonging to them can be grouped generally in 2 major groups people / nations with Low Contextual Culture and people with High Contextual Culture. Its quite interesting to know this concept as it can explain plenty of clashes between civilizations and why some people from certain nation gets obsessed with Chineese, Japanese and generally Asian Cultures, where some gets obsessed with Western / American Culture – Civilization. This concepts catched my attention and I decided to blog on that because I myself hold deep interest in Anthropology and this concepts can give some scientific explanation on why certain people belonging to a nation behave the way they do? Dual Conceptual Culture concept idea was introduced by antrophologist Edward T. Hall in a book Beyond Culture dating from year 1976. What this theory stands for is that nation cultures can be divided by two general groups. One that are more definitive and express themselves right to the point being descriptive and direct where verbal communication mostly matters – (Low Conceptual Cultures) and 2. Cultures which are more easy going not so strict with a lot of non-verbal communication (so called kind cultuers) – where things like pride, dignity and respect are much higher than in Low Conceptual Cultuers.
Where this two cultures has to communicate / negotiate often as a consequence for a difference big culture problems occurs thus it is useful that one is aware of existence of both types of culture and having to communicate with International people (especially in Field of International Business deals), one keeps always in mind to try to communicate in Low or High contextual cultures waves based on people with whom communicating.

Its interesting word emphasis and "deepness" meaning differs between two, in High Contextual Cultures more can be said by less words, where in Low Contextual Cultures words said meaning is not so strong and communication is much more casual just like for instance in (American Movies). Of course cultures exist which are mixture of Lower and High Contextuality and with modern life globalization the merit between two starts to disappear and well known High Contextual Cultures like Asians start to become more Low Contextual, where Low Conceptual ones like Americans start to become more High Conceptual as result of encountering High Conceptual ones. However in general because the fact that Western World Cultures still are richer and more business developed, the influence fo Low Contextual ones to Higher Contextual ones is higher than the other way around. Of course both concepts strongly can vary on various individuals part of certain nations, where some Asians might be more Higher Contextual influenced as a result with encountering and interested more in Western Civilization and on other hand Western People can be more influenced by Asian Cultures for their internal set to be more Asian by nature (I myself am a good example for that).

It is typical that Higher Conceptual Cultures by nature are more relational, collectivist, intuitive, and contemplative, where Low Conceptual ones are more individualistic and logic driven.

nations-of-low-and-high-contextual-cultures basic anthropology

An examples of Nations which are more Lower Conceptual are;
British, Canadian, Australian, Finnish, Dutch, German, Hebrews, New Zealand, Scandinavians, Swiss, Americans (not including Southern United States) etc.

Main Nations who might be categorized as High Conceptual Categories are;

Japanese, Southern Americans, Spanish, African, Arab, Brazilian, Chineese, French, Greek, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Indian, Indonesian, Irish, South Slavic nations, Thai, Turkish, Viatnamese, Persian, Nepali, Koreans

low high contextual cultures curve by country flags

Its interesting fact that High Contextual Culture is more to be seen in cultures with less ratial diversity. Cultures more rich in tradition and history are also usually more Higher Contextual Cultures.

low high contextual culture nations and profession fields of expertise

Lower and Higher Culture is highly used in modern marketing and thus are must have skills for anyone who wants to enter International Business field. According to modern business theories there is connection between Low / High Contextual Cultures and fields of expertise. In my view according to Contextual 2 types Spirituality in general is filling up more into cultures with High Contextual Cultures than in Low. Knowing and identifying type of Contextual Culture of person is very helpful for example when you have to give presentation in audiences in countries around the world. Identifying the audience can help you to present in a way so audience is not offended by presentation. There is plenty of real life examples where knowing of Low and High Contextual Culture existence gives you big advantage if you work for some big company like IBM, Hewlett Packard or Comverse in multi-national environment knowing your colleagues culture is vital to build good colleague relations and work succesfully in teams.

 

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