A wide variety of societies, religions and ethnicities shape the culture of Asia. The Asian culture is an aggregation of diverse customs, traditions and social values that form the core of the Asian society. The continent of Asia is comprised of the geographic and cultural subregions of central, southern, western and eastern Asia. The Asian continent boasts of a rich cultural heritage that has given the region, an identity of its own. The different forms of Asian art and literature are widely popular around the world and the widespread influence of the Asian philosophy and religion, especially of East Asia, is worth making a mention of. The cultures of the continent of Asia are the most diverse of world cultures. Let us take a look at them.
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East Asia is usually thought to consist of China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Macau. The dominant influence historically has been China, though in modern times, cultural exchange has flowed more bi-directionally. Major characteristics of this region include shared Chinese-derived language characteristics, as well as shared religion, especially Buddhism and Taoism. There is also a shared social and moral philosophy derived from Confucianism.
Apart from the unifying influence of Confucianism, Buddhism, Chinese characters, and other Chinese Cultural Influences, there is nevertheless much diversity between the countries of the region such as different religions, national costumes, languages, writing systems, cuisines, traditional music and so on.
Southeast Asia consists of Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia is usually thought to include Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, East Timor, Brunei and the Philippines. The region has been greatly influenced by the cultures and religions of India and China as well as the religions Islam and Christianity from Southwest Asia. Southeast Asia has also had a lot of Western influence due to the lasting legacy of colonialism. One example is the Philippines which has been heavily influenced by America and Spain due to the invasion.
West Asia largely corresponds with the term the Middle East. However, the usage of the term Middle East is slowly fading out due to its obvious Eurocentrism as the region is east of Europe but it is south of Russia and west of India. West Asia consists of Turkey, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. The region is the historical birthplace of Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Today, the region is almost 93% Muslim and is dominated by Islamic politics. Culturally, the region is Turkish, Arab and Persian.
Central Asia is deemed to consist of the five former Soviet Socialist Republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are sometimes included. The predominant religion in Central Asia is Islam. Central Asia has a long rich history mainly based on its historic position on the famous Silk Road. It has been conquered by Mongols, Persians, Tatars, Russians, Sarmatian and thus has a very distinct, vibrant culture. The culture is influenced by Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arabian, Turkish, Russian, Sarmatian and Mongolian cultures. The people of the steppes of Central Asia have historically been nomadic people but a unifying state was established in Central Asia in the 16th century: The Kazakh Khanate.
Cultural advantages can arise from different values and ways of seeing the world. To realize
competitive advantage from them, it is first necessary to try to understand them.
For cultural differences to be lower these should be managed. According to Hoecklin (1994)
there are four strategies for managing cultural differences:
1) Building a strong corporate culture internationally
2) Developing a common technical or professional culture worldwide
3) Relying on strong financial or planning systems.
4) Leaving each culture alone
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
‘Hofstede identified five dimensions and rated 53 countries on indices for each dimension, normalized to values (usually) of 0 to 100. His five dimensions of culture are the following’:
â€¢ ‘Collectivism vs. individualism’
â€¢ ‘Femininity vs. masculinity’
â€¢ ‘Uncertainty avoidance’
â€¢ ‘Long- vs. short-term orientation’
Uncertainty avoidance (UA)
(Hofstede, 1980, 1983, 1994a; Trompenaars, 1993)
Degree to which people in a country prefer structured over unstructured situations: from relatively flexible to extremely rigid.
Power Distance (PD)
(Hofstede, 1980, 1983, 1994a)
Degree of inequality among people, which the population of a country considers as normal: from relatively equal to extremely unequal.
(Hofstede, 1980, 1983, 1994a)
Degree to which “masculine” values like assertiveness, performance, success and competition prevail over “feminine” values like the quality of life, maintaining warm personal relationships, service, caring, and solidarity: from tender to tough.
(Hofstede, 1980, 1983,, 1994a)
Degree to which people in a country have learned to act as individuals rather than as members of cohesive groups: from collectivist to individualist.
Degree to which people in a country promote collective welfare and harmony, resulting in psychological collectivism.
‘Hofstede notes that some cultural relativism is necessary: it is difficult to establish absolute criteria for what is noble and what is disgusting. There is no escaping bias; all people develop cultural values based on their environment and early training as children. Not everyone in a society fits the cultural pattern precisely, but there is enough statistical regularity to identify trends and tendencies. These trends and tendencies should not be treated as defective or used to create negative stereotypes but recognized as different patterns of values and thought. In a multi-cultural world, it is necessary to cooperate to achieve practical goals without requiring everyone to think, act, and believe identically’.
Importance of understanding culture in Asia
The meaning of studying international culture
Business can be influenced by culture in several ways such as language issues and culture collisions, especially in the beginning. The company must be able to solve these difficulties in a way that is satisfying also for the other part. It is difficult to correct and disrespect mistakes of the foreign culture and it can destroy the entire operation.
Different cultures have different methods of doing business, for example some people prefer to do their business meetings with foreigners in a formal way, and would be offended to be addressed by their first name; some might believe that the use of an informal style and first name would signal to the partners that they are trusted. Two partners from these different cultural
backgrounds could easily misunderstand each other if they negotiate without a previous knowledge of one another’s assumptions and values.So if an investor from western countries wants his business in Asia-Pacific success, he must understand the culture of Asia.
Different cultures between Australia and Asia
Relationship between business and culture
How culture impact on business
According to Czinkota, cultural factors have an important impact on the flow of business. Each society has its own elements of culture. These elements of culture are manifested through:
ƒ¼ Values and attitudes
ƒ¼ Manners and customs
ƒ¼ Material elements
ƒ¼ Social institutions
Adaptation of these elements for an international company depends on its level in the market
participation -for example, licensing versus direct investment and the product or service
The most important issue for a foreign company is cultural analysis, which includes
information that helps the company´ staff to take planning decisions. This information from the cultural analysis must be more than collecting the facts; these must also be interpreted in
the proper way.
Another significant issue about culture is the levels manifested through artefacts, values and
In the below presented model the cultural influence in each country is presented. Culture in
each country is meditated through three factors: cultural forces, cultural messages and
consumer decision process. Family, education and national identity manifest cultural forces.
Ethics and morality, behaviour and roles and design influence cultural messages. Culture is
also influenced from universal needs and wants in the society and consumer trends.
These cultural differences are different in country A and country B. The foreign company
must analyze and cope with these cultural differences and harness the tension to bring about
reconciliation between these countries. ‘With combining and synthesizing cultural differences the foreign company can integrate different cultural perspectives and seek a dynamic solution
to problems that may arise (Bradley, 2002)’.
Tayeb says that in some cultures, the persons involved in international business deals
would like to build up personal and closer relationships first and establish the fidelity and trust
of their trade counterparts before doing business contracts and activities with them.
Tayeb also mentions that in other cultures, business negotiators would prefer to do
contracts directly, relying deeply on the legal rights and obligations clauses included in that to
safeguard their interests.
Johansson states that it is to have in mind that even if adaptation to the foreign culture
is good when it comes to future negotiations and co-operations, there is a limit for how far a
manager should go to try to accommodate this foreign culture. Mistrust from the other part
can be created if for example a manager is trying to adapt to the foreign culture and is doing
this superficial and with lack of deeper meaning. This can lead to misinterpretation and seen
as false and insincerely.
According to Ball et al. doing business with another culture is not an easy task and to
be successful, every foreign company should be aware and follow some rules that make their
business activity more compatible. They state that there are six rules of thumb for doing
business in another culture. Even if these can be important when doing business in the home
country, they become more crucial when going abroad. These rules consists on:
· Be prepared
· Slow down
· Establish trust
· Understand importance of language
· Respect the culture
· Understand components of culture
Why culture is important for business
The international business that the company has decided to begin can get some consequences
that have strong effects on the success of the firm. A bad choice of a new country reduces
opportunities and increases the risks for high financial losses. This in turn can lead to loss of
control on the foreign market.
When conducting international business it is of great importance to consider the political,
legal and economic environment. However, according to Mayrhofer¼Œthe socio-cultural
environment is an even more important aspect. For instance if the issues regarding political,
legal and the economic environment are successfully fulfilled, the cultural aspects can
seriously affect the company’s future if not properly considered in advertising. Mayrhofer
even said that companies, who want to be “a step ahead” of their competitors, need to
be aware of the importance of the home-country factors. By this he means that companies
should not neglect the cultural and institutional differences.
The most important issue is to be prepared for the different culture and all that comes with it.
If people are open and respectful for the country´ way of living and thinking, without forcing
its own beliefs on people, co-operations have a good chance to be successful.
To give information to personal before sending them abroad can be a good investment that a larger number of companies should consider. We believe that this is a crucial issue and must be
handled in a correct way. Because culture and all the differences that culture includes, being
prepared and to know what to expect makes it possible to minimize the risk for misunderstandings and conflicts.
Whenever a conflict cannot be solved and cannot lead to agreement, the co-operation will be difficult tocontinue. Smaller mistakes, of course, can be managed but if the mistake continue or grow,they can be very difficult to correct.
Mistakes can come from for example sending the wrong kind of personal abroad which in the worse case scenario can lead to failures that cannot be corrected. Some cultures are very strict when it comes to mistakes and cultural reverences.
Trying to cope with mistakes can be a much more difficult assignment then being properly
prepared and do the right things from the very start.
The companies should also have a follow-up system, which helps them to analyze both
mistakes and successes. This is also a good way to learn from its own failures and try to
correct them so that they do not influence international business in the future. We can even
see in the model that if all the underlying factors in culture are handled correctly, successful
collaborations are the outcome. The companies and the countries are learning from each other
and can in the future do business with each other much more easily.
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