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Business in high context cultures.

Updated on November 8, 2015

High Context Cultures

In Asia there are many High Context Cultures. High Context Cultures are cultures that place high value on interpersonal connections between people. They are more worried about the overall status of a group rather than the best interest of the individual. That being said, they also take high value on the reputation and "saving face" of reputations of individuals. In business meetings it is normal to spend time getting to know the people you are conducting the business with before "getting down to business". Things like exchanging business card, giving detailed backgrounds of one employment position, education and other credentials will take place during these introductions.

High Context Cultures place a great value on long term relationships and fully trusting those they do business with. High Context Cultures aren’t concerned as much about "spelling everything out", rather they take for granted that its "being understood" what the group focus is and doesn't spend much time lining everything out.

Using the same example as before, the employee would be very willing to put in extra time at work so that the company with definitely make the production needs of the new customer. They will sacrifice their personal time to meet the needs of the group to "save face" for the company. This will be in hopes to build bonds with the company for a more long term relationship and to put the group above the one.


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Hypothetical situation.

Let’s take this a step further, let’s say the company that I work for wants to branch off into an Asian, High Context market. What may be some things to keep in mind?

  • The company needs to research what business in High Context Cultures is like
  • The company needs to educate all employees involved in the move and acquisitions for the expatiation on High Context Cultures
  • The company may want to higher some talent that has experience working with High Context Cultures.
  • The company NEEDS TO REMEMBER to hire employees in top level positions from the local culture that has experience working with low context cultures to help bridge the cultural and business gabs inherent in this type of expansion.
  • The company needs to conform to the local market norm and market treads of the local culture.
  • The company needs to make sure they change the way documentation is written so that it conforms to the norms of the local culture but still shows the best interest of the company.
  • The company needs to make sure that all due respect both in business and in traditions ways is expressed at all times.
  • I think the company needs to send a team over to the new market ahead of time to start to develop relationships with local prospects to build bonds and trust as per the typical High Context Cultural norms.


As you can see the need for understanding the context and culture of any potential market is as important and the prophet or potential growth of that market. If companies from a low context cultures just jump new markets and assumes that what worked in the U.S. will work anywhere is doomed to fail. Especially in a High Context Culture where it is assumed that you would come into a business arrangement giving the highest respect to the local customer’s culture and it would be very disrespectful if a company came off ignorant to the local culture and business practices. A High Context customer would not desire to create a bond due to a lack of trust that would be invoked from a lack of respect for the delicateness of coming into a new cultural market.

This page was written in a Low Context communication form on purpose being that the intended audience would be from Low Context Cultures.


  • Muraya, J. G., Neville Miller, A., & Mjomba, L. (2011). Implications of High-/Low-Context Communication for Target Audience Member Interpretation of Messages in the Nimechill Abstinence Campaign in Nairobi, Kenya. Health Communication, 26(6), 516-524. doi:10.1080/10410236.2011.556083


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