Different cultures can be classified along a continuum at two conceptual extremes. These extremes are high and low context cultures. “High context” and “low context” are expressions popularized by Hall (1976) used to describe the great cultural differences between human societies. This article examines high- and low-context cultures. Context is about people doing business in different countries where context can be low or high.

Introduction

Different cultures can be classified along a continuum at two conceptual extremes. These extremes are high and low context cultures. “High context” and “low context” are expressions popularized by Hall (1976) used to describe the great cultural differences between human societies. This article examines high- and low-context cultures. Context is about people doing business in different countries where context can be low or high.

High and Low Context

High context refers to groups of people or societies where individuals have had close ties over a long period of time. Most aspects of cultural behavior are not transparent, as many members are aware of what to do and what thoughts should be made. This is because these people stayed together for a long time (Biero, 2003).
On the other hand, low context is when people have many connections with each other in society, but those connections are only short-lived for special reasons. In such societies, beliefs and cultural behavior must be as clearly defined as possible so that people entering such a society can behave in such a cultural environment (Hooker, 2008).
Low-context messaging is found mostly in cultures with Western European roots. Such countries with low communication include Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe. In other parts of the world, high-context communication is much more likely. However, in many countries the context is between low- and high-context communication. A country like Great Britain lies between high and low context cultures, ie. in the middle of the classification continuum (Lee, 1966).

A common feature of low-context culture is the abundance of signs and the widespread presence of written instructions. These can include, for example, maps detailed on streets, walls, buses, etc. But on the other hand, in high-context countries or cultures, there is very little information to help someone outside the loop find their way. In such places people already know what to do and don’t need much guidance.

A person who arrives in a country with a high context culture and wants to do business may encounter many difficulties and it may take a very long time to get used to business. This is because there is not much guidance when it comes to the new person’s own tasks. People in such a place are used to knowing what to do, where to go, etc., and do not depend on someone to guide them. In such a situation, a new person needs more time to learn the culture and build relationships with the people here before they can comfortably do business.

The case is not the same when entering a low context culture. Here, people rely on written instructions, and most people do not have long-term social ties to a level where they understand each other to the point where they no longer need to rely on written instructions. We can have a situation where a person comes from a high context culture and comes to do business in a country with a low context culture. This person may find it difficult to work in an environment where people must rely on business instructions. Man is used to being in a society where there are long-term relationships that have created mutual understanding between society members. Unfortunately, that person is no longer in such a society. Therefore, this person needs more time to adapt to the new environment, learning to act according to instructions; both orally and in writing.

However, it can be very easy for a person who is used to being in a low-context culture to go to another country or place with a low-context culture. If such a person wants to enter the business, it will not take him long to settle down and run his business comfortably.

Conclusion

People from high-context cultures may still have problems entering a low-context culture. It is difficult for them to communicate with people. An individual of a high-context culture is used to depend on the long-term relationship that they have established between members of the group or society from which they come. This long relationship would facilitate mutual understanding between them and neither needs much guidance in what they are doing. Now, entering a culture where people are led by others with written instructions can feel unusual for a person. It takes time before a person learns to live and do business in such a society, because initially there are no social ties with other people in this new society.

Conversely, a person from a low-context culture faces problems when operating in a high-context culture. Such a person is used to reading both instructions and signs. In addition, this person is used to living in a society where people do not have long-term social ties to understand each other to a level where they understand what to do without instructions.

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