Cultural differences are important to be aware of in modern society. Irish culture is unique and has gained the following of many people worldwide. In order to analyse the different characteristics of Irish culture I chose China as my comparison country. The most paradoxical culture I could imagine. I will first evaluate Chinas history, values and beliefs and investigate their influence on Chinese intercultural communications. Then compare these communication attributes to those of Ireland.
Chinese history dates back as far as 5000 years ago. Since then there have been various mythical and non-mythical rulers; emperors and kings (Szczepanksi, 2018). These monarchs shaped the Chinese culture as the people had to deal with periods of anarchy where various rulers fought for power. Most Chinese natives are extremely proud of their extensive history and believe it belongs in the top tier of the major countries worldwide (Swaine, 2015). According to Swaine (2015), Three attitudes are common in Chinese culture as a result of its history. A “fear of chaos”, a belief in a strongly independent government and in “mutually beneficial international relations”.
There are many cultural values present in China. However, the most prevalent values include trust, family and ‘Guanxi’. China has a culture that promotes trust (He and Jackson, 2015). A study showed that Chinese natives scored high in levels of both dispositional natural tendency and interpersonal specific person in specific environment trust (He and Jackson, 2015). Thus proving they are a naturally trusting nation. Family is one of their most important values. Respect for elders and family interrelationships are the most generally known (Centanni, 2018). Family members must show respect and be obedient in the household. Interdependence is portrayed through the commonality of grandparents living with the family and being carers for young children. ‘Guanxi’ describes the interpersonal relationship between two people (Yeung and Tung, 1996). It differs between family, friends and acquaintances and is measured through intimacy and distance (Chang et al., 2016). It involves “the exchange of favours” with acceptable gifts changing based on the persons distance from the giver (Chang et al., 2016). This value is tied to trust in Chinese culture.
History and values have massively shaped the Chinese cultural norms, behaviours and communication styles. This high- context culture makes use of a subtle messages and non-verbal cues.
Behavioural norms include behaving with etiquette, humility and respect. Etiquette, as previously mentioned, is highly influential in behaviour. It determines who one can speak to; sit beside or even look at (Upton-McLoughlin, 2013). Humility and modesty are pillars in Chinese work place behaviour, a person will not accept admiration for a job well done but will insist on a group effort i.e.: Collectivism (Upton-McLaughlin, 2013).
Respect with regards to communication style involves an indirect manner of speech. The Chinese do not directly answer questions. In particular, they rarely use the word ‘no’ because it is seen as disrespectful (Upton-McLaughlin, 2013). They often make suggestive comments or try to illustrate an idea instead of saying what they actually mean. ‘Guanxi’ effects communication style also. It alters how open or emotionally charged a conversation will be between people. Therefore the more animated a conversation is, the more likely the people are closely tied in ‘guanxi’.
The cultural ‘user manual’ used in china is therefore a mixture of behavioural and communication norms. Attitudes that have been passed down through history and values and beliefs are important in intercultural communication. They will avoid eye contact as a sign of respect to higher ranking officials, will speak indirectly and succinctly.
Contrastingly, Irish behaviour, communication styles and cultural “user manual” are more similar to those of western culture. It is a country that lies somewhere in the Mid-range context of cultures.
Irish behaviour is largely made up of humour and, ironically, etiquette. Humour is a huge part of Irish culture, we pride ourselves on being able to find humour in the most unlikely situations. Often, Irish people use self-deprecating humour and it is a sign of closeness for them to tease each other (Commisceo-global.com, 2018). Politeness is common practice in Ireland. Warm and friendly greetings usually include a handshake or simple hello and often shift into long conversations (Commisceo-global.com, 2018). This opposes Chinese cultural norms, as our verbal style includes personal and elaborate speech. Similarly to China, modesty is a valued part of Irish behaviour ; people who brag about themselves are met with indifference (Scroope, 2017).
Communication style in Ireland also has a lot to do with humour. Differently to Chinese culture, the Irish use emotion as part of conversation. This kind of emotion-use lies somewhere between affective and instrumental verbal style. The Irish are known to be bad at conveying deep emotions but it is common practice to use facial expressions and exaggerate stories and jokes (Scroope, 2017). However, like in China, the Irish also communicate indirectly (Scroope, 2017). We avoid creating conflict at all costs and cannot directly accept any form of gift (a drink/ meal), instead we change the subject or revert back to the use of humour (Scroope,2017).
Cultural ‘user manual’ describes the way in which a native from a particular culture interacts with people from differing cultures. The shallow Irish cultural user manual involves a mixture of both communication styles and behaviour. Kindness, using eye contact to convey interest, being animated and the use of humour are all various aspect the Irish use to interact with others.
To conclude, cultures can be extremely different in many different ways, but similarities can be found in even the most opposite cultures. Ireland and China have many dissimilarities. These include; verbal style being (elaborate vs succinct), communication style (affective vs instrumental) and norms when it comes to meeting someone new (shaking hands). Although these differences are prevalent in both countries, the cultures are similar in that natives use indirect speech in both countries and respond well to non-verbal cues. Modesty and politeness are also two characteristics present in both countries societies and is something they values.
After researching the Chinese culture and investigating its attributes I think it would still moderately difficult to work with a manager from this culture. At the beginning, in particular. However, using the information I have gathered would reduce the level of difficulty over time. I have become more interculturally competent as a result of this research and therefore can alter my behaviour and communication style in order to make working together easier (McKinnon, 2018).
The overlap of similar values between the cultures would allow me to gage their response and relate to the manager to a certain extent. The knowledge I have acquired includes; cultural self-awareness, culture-specific knowledge and socio-linguistic aspects, which Deardorff (2006) argues are important parts of intercultural competence (McKinnon, 2018). I believe the historical attitude of the Chinese that fosters “mutually beneficial international relations” would make the process easier, as the Chinese will see the potential of working together and therefore would be understanding to cultural differences (Swaine, 2015).
The things I would need to be more careful about include; using eye contact, being overly personal in conversation and possibly talking too much. Being animated and using facial expressions could be an advantage as non-verbal communication is very high in China and other high context cultures (Cardon, 2009).
I think in the workplace situation it would affect how I work, however, I think it is something one would have to become accustomed to. I think with the knowledge I now know it will be easier to adapt to this situation. Understanding of the cultural differences would result in effective communication and therefore, a good quality of work. ‘Guanxi’ could be used to build a trustworthy relationship with the manager. Exchanging favours and maintaining a positive report of work done would foster improvement in ‘Guanxi’ and create a potential bond.
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