Hofstede’s six dimensions of culture can be used for better understanding the elements of the Japanese culture and gaining advantage in business. The dimensions are discussed below.
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Power Distance – It expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of the society accept the unequal distribution of power and believe that everyone has a pplace in the society according to the power he / she enjoys. In Japan, the difference do exist between the social classes, but not as in many other countries.
Individualism Vs. collectivism – In the former, the social structure of the society is loosely knit, in which people take care of themselves and their immediate families, while in later, there is a tight knit framework in which the all people in the group take care of one another, as if they all are family members. Japan’s family patterns have changed to a nuclear family with one or two parents and relatives residing along, in modern times, particulary in urban areas.
Masculinity Vs. Femininity – Masculinity represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success, making the society more competitive. Femininity stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. Japanese society is more inclined towards the later, through it promotes competitive spirit, while being modest and careful.
Uncertainty Avoidance Index – It defines the extent to which the members of a society feel comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. Japanese like the things to be in order and dislike ambiguity. However, they know it very well to cope up with uncertainty, as they live in a region with high incidents of seismic activity and tsunami.
Long Term Orientation Vs. Short Term Normative Orientation – This dimension defines the society’s tendency to maintain links with the past by sticking to age old trraditions and having conservative approach Vs. encouraging efforts to excel in the future through reforms through education and modern outlook. Japanese society is a mix of the two, sticking to their traditions, while being progressive.
Five rules of business ettiquettes in Japan.
1. Understanding the importance of non verbal communication and try to understand between the words.
2. Being respectful to the traditions and modest while dealing with locals.
3. Following the informal codes of conduct while interacting in groups or individually.
4. Being punctual in all appointments.
5.Refrain from being too much assertive and pressing. Never try to confront.
Risks – Offending a potential business partner may lead to a loss. Acting differenty may lead to isolation and alienation from the groups.
Opportunities – Adhering to local customs may help to mingle with the locals and lead to a trust building process. Understanding of non verbal communication will lead to more successful business interactions.
Areas of management to be adjusted – Inducing cultural sensitivity, informal training for local accustomization, Language proficiency.