1. Executive Summary
This report will consist of the parts which are:
Critically analyse and evaluate the model of Hall’s High context culture and Low context culture and introduce the main features of them. Explain two countries falling into High context culture and Low context culture. Analyse the AUDI’s official website of business communication respectively in South Korea and China which belongs to High context culture, in Sweden and Canada which is part of Low context culture and demonstrates the performance of company.
The information is provided in this report which came from academic journals, newspapers, textbooks and reliable websites. According to the analysis of Hall’s model, this report considers that this model is helpful for the cross-cultural communication of different countries. And based on the model, it provides some examples such as South Korea and China (high context culture) and Sweden and Canada (low context culture) to demonstrate the different expression way in different countries which can contribute to the cultural communication of each country and make the features of model more clearly.
Then, this report proposes the AUDI as the case to introduce the communication styles of company in high and low context culture and analyse detailedly the performances of its official website in four countries which are South Korea, China, Sweden and Canada. The successful development of AUDI in these four countries also certifies the effectiveness and contribution of Hall’s model.
Critically evaluate and analyse the main characteristics of high context and low context culture model of Hall (1990).
Propose four countries that two high-context culture countries (China and South Korea) and two low-context culture countries (Sweden and Canada) to analyse Hall’s high and low context culture model (1990). Present the example of business communication about Hall’s (1990) high context and low context culture model. And illustrate the different communication styles of AUDI’s official websites respectively in high context culture country of South Korea and China and in low context culture country of Sweden and Canada. Make the conclusion according to the above contents.
2.2 High and low context model of culture of Hall (1990)
The famous American anthropologist Hall, according to accuracy and clarity of people’s information transmission and receiving in the process of communication, puts forward the analysis framework of high and low context culture. Hall (1976) thinks that “Context” is surrounded by the information of an event, and the “events” is to express the contents of communication, the combination between them reflects the characteristics of a culture. According to the different combination of “Context” and “Content”, the culture can be divided into high context culture and low context culture.
3. Main Findings
With the rapid development of economic globalization, the link between countries become more and more closely. Because different countries have different cultural context, the cross-cultural communication are emerging, which also have some issues in the communication (Koeszegi, 2004). Many scholars have do some research and analysis on the different culture in the world, this part will introduce the Hall’s model of high and low cultural context detailedly and give some cases of different context culture as below. 3.1 Analyse the model of high and low cultural context of Hall
The Definition and Features of the High and Low cultural context model (Hall, 1990) Hall (1976) thinks that the human communication, including language communication will be affected by the context. Hall (1976, pp.81-83) emphatically pointed out without context, symbols are incomplete, because it only contains a part of the information, context does not have the specific meaning, but the meaning of communication often depends on the context, and meaning is inextricably linked to context. Hall (1976) divided the context into high context and low context. The type of context determines all aspects of the communicative activities, the use of language is no exception. It means that, in low context communication, people more and more depend on use language to achieve communicative purposes. While in high context communication, the role of language use may be much smaller, people are relatively sensitive to the hints of subtle environment. Most Asian cultures such as: Chinese culture, and culture of South Korea and Africa culture can be regarded as high context culture. And the United States, Canada, Sweden and most Nordic culture belongs to low context culture (Hall and Hall, 1990).
In these two kinds of different cultures, the role of the transfer meaning on context and language which is not the same, therefore the position and status of communication is different. The features of high context culture are that in the process of communication, after only a few information is encoded by clearly transmitting, people attaches great importance to the “context” rather than the “content”, and pay more attention to the establishment of the social trust and highly evaluate the relationship and friendship, which can sustain a long relationship (Moran, et al, 2007). Besides, communication is implicit, people is very sensitive to these implicit information and early learns to accurately explain the implicit information. The two kinds of communication and information have certain advantages: high context culture can better inherit the oriental righteousness and the humanistic spirit of the love with China as a representative. It is favorable to the harmony of society and the stability of management (Dozier, et al, 1998). Whilst low context culture through the system the rigidity expression achieve the standardization of the order and management better. The comparison of this two context culture’s features is as follows in Table 1. Table 1: The comparison of the HC and LC Culture’s features (Lustig and Koester, 1999)
High Context Culture
Low Context Culture
Implicit and Veiled Communication Way
Explicit and Direct Communication Way
Some Differences between Internal and External
The Flexible Relationship between Internal and External
More Nonverbal Code
Detailed Verbal Code
Strong Interpersonal Relationships
Estranged Interpersonal Relationships
Less Demonstrative Response
Highly Flexible of Time
Highly Structured of Time
The above analysis shows that the characteristic of HC and LC have large differences on culture and communication, Lustig and Koester (2001) points out HC culture mainly depends on the preset program of people’s thought to convey information, such as many unwritten traditions, unspoken values and society generally accepted patterns of behavior. And yet LC culture, it emphasizes the reason and logic, which is on the basis of rationality to deduce with the conclusion to use the logical method, transfer information clearly through language, and regard the implicit expression way as unclear thinking or lack of politeness. In the actual enterprise and social management, the two cultures should be mutual penetration and fusion, and complement each other, which help the enterprise to create the harmonious and efficient management mechanism, and promote the harmonious development of society (Ahmed, et al., 2009).
3. 2 The compared analysis between South Korea, China and Sweden, Canada falling into each category
Each culture is forming in the long-term historical development process of accumulation. And every culture has its own potential and unique, namely the recessive culture, the recessive culture has the intangible influence to people, so to the success of cross-cultural communication has more threatening (Chua and Gudykunst, 1987). The distinction between high and low context culture of Hall that is the overall summary to the characteristics of different cultures, especially the features of recessive culture, and to explore their historical origin and understand their characteristics which is the necessary subject of cross-cultural communication. According to the research of Hall, South Korea and China belong to the high context culture, while Sweden and Canada are biased towards the low context culture.
3.2.1 The High Context Culture of South Korea
South Korea belongs to high context culture country, because Kim, et al. (1998)suggest that South Korea is influenced by traditional Chinese Confucianism, after many years of accumulation of culture, it has a similar background of China, and has formed a certain values, beliefs and code of conduct, etc., this is a long-term accumulation of life, which has relative stability. Therefore, in the process of communication of people in South Korea, a lot of information already contains the background information, and do not need to explicitly expressed, they can fully understand, this creates the more hidden interpersonal communication in South Korea. In South Korea, people especially pay attention to courtesy, and avoid calling name of each other directly in the communication. In business communication, Avruch (2004) suggests that South Koreans prefer to use the un-opposite and indirect attitude, and language strategy, the true meaning of expression often need to through reasoning to understand, even if they do not agree with each other’s opinions, they will not say “no” and rarely directly refuse or refute, sometimes they will also use silence instead of rejection. Language is polite and veiled, which avoid friction directly. Due to the high context culture, the oral expression of the wooden people will get more trust in South Korea.
3.2.2 The High Context Culture of China
Because of tradition and history, China has become a typical high context culture. People live in a fixed place for a long time, the pace of life is orderly. In the long term, social change is slow and amplitude is small, people’s life experience and network are very simple (Kim, et al., 1998).
The Chinese language expression is fuzzy and implicative, much information is in the cultural connotation, most of the information is not clearly expressed, which always use the indirect and roundabout expression, the meaning of the words usually exist in language, this communication way both leave wiggle room for each other, and also avoid loss of face. In addition, the language need not be the main channels of information in the China, the gestures, space distance and even silence can also convey ideas and communicate the feelings. Therefore, Chinese people are more sensitive to the things around and environment, do not through language can also express their feelings. As Hall (1976) pointed out: “high context culture is more dependent on and familiar with nonverbal communication.” In high context culture, through the surrounding environment, people can gain a lot of information, there is no need to reveal everything. In China, for example, such as the sentence of “I love you” which show the word of like, they seldom speak out directly, because this information has transmitted from the context.
3.2.3 The Low Context Culture of Sweden
While the culture of Sweden is the opposite, which is a part of low context culture. They do not like Chinese and Koreans in order to take into consideration the feelings of others, to express their ideas euphemistically. They will directly show their attitude (Niemeier et al, 1998). In Sweden, people are articulate and usually good at verbal expression that will more popular. In the process of business communication, the conflict does not mean that their dissatisfaction, which will reflects their own thoughts, they think when face the disagreement, clearly tell their ideas can be better for solving the problem. In addition, negotiations between companies in Sweden, they will straight into the theme, and complete the scheduled agenda quickly, which hope to separate work and play fully, achieve the deal as soon as possible (Jarvenpaa, et al., 1999). And the Swede is a representative of the linear concept of time, who pursue the speed and efficiency, they asked to do anything in accordance with the schedule strictly, their work habits are that to carry out the negotiations in order, and after make sure the involved issues clearly, then step by step to solve, the first terms does not completely solve they will not negotiate the second. While in same meeting negotiates a few issues in China which is very normal, which reflect the differences between high context and low context culture.
3.2.4 The Low Context Culture of Canada
Canada also belongs to low context culture, which emphasize straightforward, and come straight to the question when they are in process of communication, all the information need to be conveyed with the clear and easy words by language, and often have no hidden meaning between the lines of words, the Canadians willing to bluntly express their views (Hall and Hall, 1990). In the process of business communication, Canadians usually energetic and outgoing, who like the direct honest way of negotiations, the expression has obviously transactional and economic. In the process of negotiation, they sought to clarify their own point of view, who utilize the simple and clear language to express the idea, they think that argument is not only the rights of presenting the individual opinion, but also can solve the problem, but this kind of practice for countries that have high context culture is hard to accept, which think Canadians are very aggressive. In the eyes of Canadians, they believe that silence is impolite behavior (Salleh, 2005). 3.3 The weaknesses of Hall’s high and low context model of culture (1990) However, though the model of Hall’s high context and low context culture has made great achievement on the analysis of national culture, and also provides reference for many scholars to help them to research the world culture. It still has some weaknesses in this model. Hall only proposes that the concept and features of high and low context culture, which does not provide the integrated system and detailed data to demonstrate his argument, and he does not classify all the countries, thus causing the fuzzy classification of some countries. Some scholars such as Hofstede’s (2008) Individualism vs. Collectivism Dimension, Trompenaars’s (1998) Seven Dimensions of Culture, GLOBE authors (House et al., 2004), etc. which will have more evidences to argue the high and low context culture, which prove the disadvantages of Hall’s model. Kramsch (1993) proposes that high context culture often has too much emphasis on the human feelings, by rule of people instead of the legal system, which often lack of efficiency on operation. While low context culture emphasize on the rationality, and fall into the mechanical and rigid in the process of execution.
3.4 The Cases of Business Communication on High Context Culture and Low Context Culture of Hall
According to the above analysis and critically evaluate of Hall’s high and low context model, this report will provide the example of business communication such as AUDI’s official website in different countries which are South Korea and China (high context culture) and Sweden and Canada (low context culture) as below. AUDI is the world famous luxury car brand, and is also one of the world’s most successful brands in Germany which sells all over the world. As following, this report will illustrate the different performance of AUDI’s official website in different countries of high and low context culture.
3.4.1 AUDI in China
When opening the official website of AUDI in China as show in Appendix of Figure 1, on the background of red jump into the view of consumers, because this is the Chinese Spring Festival recently, the red represents the good fortune and the best wishes, which brings the Chinese customers to the impact on the vision. The forms of picture is rendered on dynamic and the second picture (see Appendix of Figure 2) reflects the activity of valentine’s day which is to buy a car to present the luxurious gift, the text on the image is that ‘ their holiday is a day, every day of your holiday is youth ‘, the company uses the reserved words to express that AUDI’s provide the activity of presenting the gifts when the customers purchase the car, rather than directly express the activity content (AUDI, n.d.). Because Chinese people can find deeper meaning in the process of watching pictures, and it also embodies that the communication type of AUDI in high context culture of China. In addition, the AUDI in China’s official website use more gorgeous and colorful images, which also reflects the Chinese pay attention to the visual enjoyment and feeling in the process of cultural communication.
3.4.2 AUDI in Sweden
Compared with the business communication of AUDI in China, Sweden as the low context culture country, the official website of AUDI provides more compact words and single color of picture (AUDI, n.d.), which do not like the picture in China website which has the red background, it mainly has the color of black and white(see the Figure 3 in Appendix). Each picture has the link to transfer another page which has long paragraph to introduce the car in detail (see the Figure 4 in Appendix). This also reflects that the AUDI according to the low context culture of Sweden to implement the special business communication. It is different from South Korea and China, the home page of AUDI in Sweden utilize the simple words and single color pictures to present the clear information about the performance and type of car, which satisfy the requirement of low context culture in Sweden because in the business communication, Swedish prefers to choose the direct information of car to help them to find the new product.
3.4.3 AUDI in South Korea
The official website of AUDI in South Korea is similar with the design style of AUDI in China. Because South Korea also belongs to the high context culture, the style of website is simple and laconic, there are little words to decorate the pictures. When open the AUDI’s official website in South Korea, it is the advertising video about “The New Audi A3 Sedan”, advertising is not directly express the car’s performance and technology, just using the vivid images and implicit text which is “it changes everything” to make the metaphor of the perfect performance of the car, and will let the customer to love it (AUDI, n.d.). Because South Koreans are also high context culture, Korean customers can easily understand the meaning of advertisement. Besides, while browsing the web, the customer will find that every picture below has the button which can be directly connected to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (see Figure 5 in Appendix). It is convenient for customers to search and share the interesting video content, it also can help company for indirect propaganda and increase the pleasure of Korean consumers (Würtz, 2005). All design of website presents a wonderful and luxuriant content, this is because the Korean tends to present their own information to the others in the process of communication, and they also hope that to grasp more information slowly through their own understanding, which reflects the features of high context culture.
3.4.4 AUDI in Canada
When browsing the home page of AUDI in Canada, the design of web page is simple and clear. (see the Figure 6 in Appendix). Although there are four rolling images in automatic replacement, but the contents on the picture are also very compact (AUDI, n.d.). As well as to introduce the AUDI’s new car which is “The New AUDI A3 Sedan”, on the South Korea website is an advertising film and implicative words to express, while in Canada website which is the publicity pictures of the car and write the sentence directly on the picture which is “The all – New 2015 A3 Sedan is coming “. (see the Figure 7 in Appendix). This is associated with the culture of Canada, because Canada is part of low context culture country, when they make business communication, Canadians prefer straightforward way to express their opinions, that is the reason why the website information of AUDI in Canada is only about the direct introduction. The color of the website design is very single (AUDI, n.d.), but each propaganda of picture has a link to analyse the detail about the information of product, which to help customers to understand the performance of the car better. It conforms the simple and direct cultural factors of Canada.
This report is as the aim of cross-cultural communication to discuss the high context culture and low context culture model of Hall. Firstly, this report defines and explains the Hall’s high and low context culture and its features. Then, based on the traits of model, it gives some cases of countries such as South Korea and China which belongs to high context culture and Sweden and Canada which are the representative of low context culture and also introduce their communication way that prove the practicability of Hall’s model. Furthermore, although the model has more contribution to the research of cross-cultural communication, on the basis of the research of some scholars, some weaknesses of this model will be reported. In order to realize different business communication in different countries, this report provides the performances of AUDI’s official website in South Korea, China, Sweden and Canada, which respectively belongs to high context culture and low context culture. In AUDI’s official website, it clearly shows that in South Korea and China, the website reflects the high context culture which utilizes more the rolling pictures and the simple words to show the significant activities of company which can reflect the AUDI’s excellent services. While in Sweden and Canada, the communication style of AUDI’s official website is simple and brief, and directly put the performance of cars on the pictures, which embody the business communication of AUDI in low context culture country. The success of AUDI incarnates the availability of Hall’s model.
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Würtz, E. (2005). A cross-cultural analysis of websites from high-context cultures and low-context cultures. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(1), article-13.
Figure 1: AUDI China
Figure 2: AUDI China
Figure 3: AUDI Sweden
Figure4: AUDI Sweden
Figure 5: AUDI South Korea
Figure 6: AUDI Canada
Figure 7: AUDI Canada
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