Japan and Asia: Oceans Apart

It is a common perception that since Japan is in Asia, it should be culturally closer to Asian economies like China and the four tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) than Western countries in Europe and the USA. However, research in the area of cultural values suggests that this is not the case. In fact, Japan is found to be more culturally dissimilar to Asian countries than are the USA and European countries. Based on the well-known cultural dimensions articulated in Geert Hofstede’s Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations, the masculinity index of Japan is 95. Singapore and Hong Kong’s masculinity scores are 48 and 57 respectively while those of the UK and the USA are 66 and 62. The masculinity index focuses on the degree to which a society reinforces the traditional masculinity work role model of male achievement, control and power. A high masculinity index for Japan indicates a high degree of gender differentiation. In such a culture, males dominate a significant portion of society and its power structure, with females being controlled by male domination. In Singapore and Hong Kong, this is not the case.

In addition, the uncertainty avoidance scores of the UK and the USA are 35 and 46, once again in between Japan (92) and Singapore (8) and Hong Kong (29). Uncertainty avoidance index focuses on the level of tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity in a society. A high uncertainty avoidance index indicates that Japan has a low tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. This creates a rule-oriented society that institutes laws, rules, regulations and controls in order to reduce the incidence of uncertainty. Thus, Japanese culture encourages less risk-taking while in Singapore and Hong Kong, risk-taking is almost mundane.

While culturally distinctive, Japanese culture and business practices are perceived to be closer to those of South Korea than to China and other Chinese-dominated countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. Relationship building is a key element of business transactions in Japan. To be able to join an existing network is especially important for companies trying to conduct businesses in apan or trading with Japanese companies. Reciprocity in relations and saving and maintaining the “face” of Japanese counterparts are priorities fo sustaining relationships. The high uncertainty avoidance index suggests that when dealing with Japanese companies, it is important to show one’s commitment to a plan of joint action.

For more information, refer to Fundamentals of International Business: 1st Asia-Pacific edition by Michael Czinkota et al. 

The Cost of Freedom

People talk about the large segment of the world population that is poor and therefore supposedly excluded from any international marketing efforts; the World Bank’s former president called them the 3 billion $2-a-day poor. By contrast, international marketers see them as an attractive $6 billion-a-day opportunity for valuable exchanges.

What is more is that global marketing provides the opportunity to acquire resources without the deployment of force. Why fight if you can trade? Countries that have been historic enemies such as France, England, and Germany are now all united in their close collaboration though international marketing. The field is, therefore, at the very least contributing to freedom from war while providing additional choices for consumption.

But the cost of freedom is  rising. Terms such as “free trade” or “free choice” are misleading since they all come with a price. Global marketers pay that price in terms of preparing their shipments, scrutinizing their customers, and conforming to government regulations.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Czinkota’s book Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead, co-authored by Dr. Ilkka Ronkainen.

Michael R Czinkota and Ilkka A Ronkainen, Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead (New York: Routledge, 2011), pg. 235.

Click here to acquire the full book.

International Business Jeopardy

Answer this week’s questions in the comments for a chance to win a great prize at the end of the summer!

One of the smallest nations in the world is also the oldest country in Europe, and the oldest Republic in the world. Most of its citizens earn their living making and selling postage stamps. Name it.

Learning More About The Global Consumer: The Boston Consulting Group

If you are interested in reading a little bit more extensively about how consumers have been affected by the financial conditions, I recommend reading this recently released report by the Boston Consulting Group. They describe and contrast the consumer climates in several different regions, highlighting key differences between Western nations and the BRIC( Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets. The report ends with six suggestions for businesses to adapt to the new consumer conditions.

Click HERE to read the report