A socio cultural environment is a sum of practices, customs, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that occur within population. It is influenced by cultural norms, demographic information and religious information. International organizations often do an inspection of a socio cultural environment before entering target market, because it helps the company to modify products and services appropriately. There are a lot of details that are important to understand, in order to do business in Venezuela and Japan (Varner, I. I., & Beamer, L., 2011).
In Venezuela, the business etiquette says that people should be greeting the most important person or the oldest person first. Interesting is that most Hispanic people have two last names – one from their father and one from their mother. We should use the father’s surname when addressing someone. Venezuela has more flexible attitude towards time. People could be late, as well as business meetings or social events can begin late (Hofstede, G., 2013).
Business companies in Venezuela are hierarchical. Decisions, ideas and recommendations are generated from the top. Status is very important here, so people should show respect to their supervisors and colleagues as well. In this society, business relationships are based on the trust and the knowledge of each other. This is why personal contacts and networks are extremely important in making business deals. Working on friendships will improve one’s success in the business environment. Venezuelans usually do not separate work from private life. Sometimes they may not trust someone first, so it is very important to take the time to develop interpersonal relationships with your future business partners.
Business in Venezuela is conducted mainly in Spanish. A lot of people from Venezuela do have the knowledge of English, but it is better to bring an interpreter to business meetings if someone does not have the best knowledge of Spanish. It may be surprising to someone, that Venezuelans do not hesitate to interrupt, argue and criticize when it is needed during a discussion. Exchange of arguments and ideas is considered positive and constructive. In this society, people prefer dealing with immediate issues and do not deal with the future too much. People should not be surprised if their Venezuelan colleague is in their personal space. Many people from Latin America use a close physical proximity as a way of communicating to each other (BusinessInfo.cz, 2010).
Japan, on the other hand, has completely different traditions and customs. When you meet your business partner a handshake is appropriate. The Japanese handshake is not strong and with little or no eye contact, which is completely different from Venezuelan way of greeting. Some Japanese can do so called “bow”. It is a gesture of respect and is highly appreciated by Japanese people. The deeper the bow is, the greater respect a person shows (Varner, I. I., & Beamer, L., 2011).
Very important component of conversation in Japan is nodding. When a person listens to some speech, he/she should nod, because it is a way to show that a person is listening and understanding the speaker. For people from Venezuela, it would be probably very interesting that Japanese value silence. It is an expected form of non-verbal communication. Long eye contact is considered rude in Japan as well as standing in a personal space of some person. Touching is also absolutely inappropriate. Japanese do not like exhibiting in public, which means it is not good for example to hug someone in public. During the business meeting it is suitable to sit erect and with both feet on the floor. People should never sit in any other position (Hofstede, G., 2013).
When it comes to hierarchy, both personal and business relationships are hierarchical, which means that older people have higher status than young people, man have higher status than women and in business environment senior executives have of course higher status than junior executives. It is always very important to send a manager of the same position to meet with Japanese colleague, because titles are extremely important in Japan. Work is always done in groups. Everyone must consult everything before he/she is making some decision. We are talking about decision-making by consensus and it is a very long and slow process in Japan.
Business meetings are formal in Japan, so there is usually no space for humor. But Japanese as well as Venezuelans, put emphasis on establishing friendships and good relationships, so it is good to spent 10 minutes with polite conversation before the business meeting starts. Harmony is extremely important in this society. That is why “saving face” is necessary. Japanese people want to avoid unpleasantness, misunderstanding, conflicts and confrontation. It is not good to say “no” during the business meeting. Instead of “no”, it is better to say “This could be difficult” and try to find another solution. People should count on the fact that it takes several meetings to conclude a contract (Varner, I. I., & Beamer, L., 2011).
Everyone should be prepared to give and receive a gift during the first business meeting. Gifts are usually given in the end of first meeting. Not having a proper gift for your business partner could destroy the cooperation. The ritual of gift giving is actually more relevant than the gift itself. Wrapping of the present is also very important. Japanese can sometimes refuse the gift once or twice, but then they will accept it (Hofstede, G., 2013).
An understanding of these differences, which have a big impact on country’s development, is the key to effective cross-cultural communication. What can work in one country, might not necessarily work in the other one. Understanding social and business culture of country where you want to operate (in our particular case Venezuela and Japan) will ensure successful working relationships there (Varner, I. I., & Beamer, L., 2011).
Varner, I. I., & Beamer, L. (2011). Intercultural communication in the global workplace. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Hofstede, G. (2013). Cultural Insights – Geert Hofstede. Retrieved June 03, 2014, from http://geert-hofstede.com/index.php
Organizační kultura a národní kultura | BusinessInfo.cz. (2010, December 22).
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