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High Context Cultured People vs Low Context Cultured People

Updated on December 2, 2012

Have you ever had an Asian friend and American friend? If so, what differences have you noticed while interacting with them? The entire population of the world seems to behave differently and handle the situation with a different approach. Let’s take an assumption. If you need to borrow 10000 cash from a friend of you who is an American, you do not need to start with a background scene or a long story, but all you need is to directly state your main message which is the loan. However, if you need to borrow the amount from an Asian friend of you, you definitely need to come up with a long story of a background and then after the scene, you politely state that you need loan. Why does the difference exist between such people from different ethnicities? What is the major factor differentiating the behaviors of the individuals? People around the world are different based on High and Low Context culture.

High context cultured people are different than low context cultured people in behavior. High context cultured are traditional bound people and would follow the entire minor and major points while interacting people. Low context cultured people, on the other hand, are not traditional bound people and do not need to follow all the required minor and major points when meeting others. Furthermore, high context people build up a background and after the background is developed, they would mention their real message, while low context cultured people refer to what exactly they want to say or their main message. So, low context cultured would behave directly. However, high context cultured people would behave indirectly. If you interact a high context cultured person directly, he or she would mind it and same is the case with a traditional bound person. To conclude, one of the significant factors distinguishing low from the high context cultured people is attitude or behavior.

The second quality that segregates high from low context cultured people is time. Consumption of time really varies between traditional bound and nontraditional bound people. For instance, when a traditional bound person would like to rent a car from any of his or her friend, first of all he or she would speak about the problem he or she has encountered or first provide a scenario describing the root of the problem and then would speak that he or she needs a car. So, imagine how much time consuming is the task done by a high context cultured person. Low context cultured person, on the other hand, need not mention root of the problem or scenario but directly would mention the problem and talk to you in a direct manner. That is to say, it is precise that low context cultured people would take less time to accomplish any task as compare to high context cultured people. Consequently, traditional bound people are less efficient than low context cultured people in completion of their respective jobs.

The third element that differentiates traditional bound people from nontraditional bound people is family structure. Low context cultured people like individual life; however, high context cultured people like collective family system. That is to say, high context cultured people live together with their parents, uncles, siblings, even grandparents, but such things cannot be practiced by low context cultured people as they move up after being matured and start their life separately just with his wife and children. In traditional bound societies such as Asian countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India and so on collective family system is practiced. Even it is a big shame for sons to give up parents’ home and live alone with their wife and children, whereas in nontraditional bound societies such as European countries, it is a common practice to live alone just with your wife and children. To sum up, low context cultured people are different from high context cultured people on the basis of family structure.

The fourth issue differentiating low from high context cultured people is the decision making process. Decision making process is centralized in traditional bound societies and seniors and elders of the society would make decision, not the juniors. Even if the decision goes against the personal interest of the juniors, juniors dare not interfering. . But in low context cultured societies the decision making process is decentralized which means everyone has the authority to make his or her decision by his or herself and does not necessarily need to ask his or her elders what to do. Everyone is concerned to make his or her decision the way he or she wills and does not require to know if the others are happy or unhappy. In short, the decision making process is centralized in high context cultured people but decentralized in low context cultured people.

As discussed above, there are major four differences between low and high context cultured people, known as time, behavior, family structure and decision making process. Tradition bound people would indirectly talk with you and negotiate the issues with you. However, the same issues would be discussed directly with you if you talk with a low context cultured person. In addition to that, a tradition bound person would consume less time while accomplishing a task. Nonetheless, the same task would be done faster and sooner by nontraditional bound person. Also collective family system is frequently and commonly practiced in high context cultured societies. On the other hand, individual family system is commonly practiced in low context cultured societies. For instance, family system in European countries and Asian Countries differ. One thing else the decision making trend is unilateral in high context cultured societies but bilateral in low context cultured societies. To summarize, my entire essay, low context cultured people differentiate from high context cultured based basis four basic elements called time, behavior, decision making style and life style.


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