Cultural Misunderstandings

Cultural misunderstandings Xi Yeng is a Chinese entrepreneur visiting America for a business meeting at Annex Enterprises. He arrives at the airport, and Tom Stewart from Annex Enterprises meets him. The two men glance at each other and immediately recognize each other since they are public figures who are always in Business magazines. Tom wears a frown while Xi smiles as he moves towards him. Here is how their conversation goes. T stands for Tom while X stands for Xi. X: Hello, Mr. Tom. He stretches out his hands while Tom pats him in the back. (Xi’s thoughts: Why is he touching me like this? He could just have shaken my hand). T: Hi, you are ten minutes late. I have been waiting for some time now (Tom’s thoughts: Now I will be late for my business dinner, why can’t you just keep time.) X: Am sorry man, my flight was delayed for a while. (Xi’s thoughts: What does it matter, I am here now) T: It is okay. let us go start the meeting (Tom’s thoughts: Let us go and sign the deal already) X: Yeah (Xi’s thoughts: why the rush? We could socialize first) Research and observations have displayed the differences in cultures among different communities, be it in their communication, work, or lifestyle. One such example is the difference between the American and the Chinese work and etiquette ethics. From the dialogue above, it is evident that the Tom and Xi misunderstand each other due to their cultural differences. Xi is Chinese, whereas, Tom is American. Despite the two being both businesspersons, there still, are misunderstandings between them. For instance, Xi stretches out his hand hoping for a handshake from Tom, who just pats him in the back. Chinese consider handshakes respectful and formal while Americans prefer a ‘hi’ as good enough greeting (Thompson, 2013). From his thoughts and his frowns, it is evident that Tom is angered by Xi’s late arrival. Americans value time and operates by deadlines. Chinese, on the other hand, do not mind time as long as they perform business eventually. From the conversation, differences exist in how the two men air their opinions. Tom frowns and directly tells Xi that he is late. Despite being offended by Tom’s pat and direct approach, Xi still maintains a smile as he meets Tom. It is also evident that he avoids telling off Tom directly, and even when he does not agree with his host, he says consents to Tom’s suggestions. This also brings out the difference in culture between the two nations. Americans are straightforward and do not beat around the bush with their points, even when they offend you. Chinese, on the other hand, avoid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers (Thompson, 2013). Instead, they find ways of sugarcoating their replies so that it does not appear as rejection. Another difference is obvious when Tom suggests they go and sign the deal immediately. Xi is used to a culture where signing contracts do not have weight. Instead, they depend on building friendships and trusts first before forming a business deal. From the dialogue and individual thoughts, Tom is concerned more with signing the deal than getting to know Xi. Americans trust formally signed contracts, and to them friendship comes second after business transactions. To avoid misunderstandings arising from cultural differences, each and everyone must respect the other’s culture. This will work since no one will view their culture as superior to others. In addition, all parties involved will feel that they have been treated with dignity. Another way of avoiding cultural misunderstanding is by training of some of the common cultures in various institutions like schools and workplaces, those frequented by multicultural citizens. Such trainings should target cultural awareness, information about anti-discrimination laws, tolerance, and empathy. This will prevent intentional offenses caused by differences in culture. When planning to travel to a different culture, one should take the initiative of learning a few basics about that culture. In addition, one must be accommodating and forgiving when such misunderstandings occur since most of these are caused by communication problems (OTPIC, 1998). Organizing cultural celebrations can also ease cultural tension and avoid misunderstandings. This will enhance cultural diversity in institutions and workplaces, thus, emphasizes communication and mutual respect between different cultures. In a multicultural area, it is also fundamental to use different forms of communication. These may include the use of pictorial signs and translations in areas with many people from different cultures. This will make the visiting culture feel welcomed as opposed to feeling left out. References OTPIC (1998) Cross- Cultural Communication Strategies Colorado: Conflict Research Consortium Retrieved November 28, 2013 from www.colorado.edu/ Thompson V. (2013) American versus Chinese Business Culture Chron Hearst Communication Inc

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