Cultural Differences in Doing Business: Germany and the South Pacific

Article excerpt

Before attempting to market goods or services to a foreign country, the businessperson must understand other cultures and their inherent differences since the nature of marketing is meeting the needs and wants of one's customers and those needs and wants are culturally based. It is the understanding, respect, and acceptance of another culture and an ability to put aside one's own cultural mores which distinguish the successful international marketeer from others. This paper discusses examples of cultural differences between the German and the South Pacific Island cultures, their implications in the marketing and business decision making function, and provides recommendations for the conduct of a successful business arrangement between Germans and Pacific Islanders.

Culture

The function of culture is to establish modes of conduct, standards of performance, and ways of dealing with interpersonal and environmental relations that will reduce uncertainty, increase predictability. and thereby promote survival and growth among the members of any society. In the process of social evolution. people find certain behaviors and values to be adaptive and helpful; others, nonadaptive and even harmful. Helpful practices are shared and rewarded; harmful practices are discarded and discouraged. Over a period of time. useful behaviors, values, and artifacts become institutionalized and incorporated as part of the cultural traditions.

The successful international marketer seeks to understand the cultural mores of the country that is the focus of the marketing effort. If a product does not adequately address the particular cultural values of a society, then the firm must be ready to adjust or revise the product. For example, the Japanese live in much smaller housing units than do Americans. Their needs are for smaller and more compact refrigerators. The Japanese also drive on the left hand side of the road as do the British. One of the major problems Detroit has had in its effort to penetrate the Japanese market was to continually send cars with steering wheels on the left side; correct for Americans, wrong for Japanese. The companies that recognized these culturally induced needs have prospered; the companies that attempted to sell standard and identical American-type products (be it refrigerators, cars, or other such consumer goods) into the Japanese market have for the most part failed. The international businessperson must address a potential market from the cultural point of view.

This paper examines the cultural contrasts between the German and Pacific Islander societies for a multitude of cultural facets. It describes their implications for business transactions and decision making and provides a set of recommendations on how to succeed in cross-cultural transactions between the two societies. This is examined from the macro social system level which allows us to generalize across all members of the society, recognizing the limitations inherent in such generalizations. These cultural differences are compounded by the vast economic gulf that separates the two entities, a large industrialized economy on one hand, and small third world, undeveloped entities on the other. This cross cultural survey is not intended to be used solely by Germans or Pacific Islanders. Any international businessperson should be able to utilize the information and cultural profiles to better understand and hence better serve the needs and wants of another culture, not just the German or Pacific Islander cultures.

The first author is a native German who has lived and consulted in the Pacific Rim for nearly thirty years. He thus is well versed in both cultures. This paper is an extension of his vast experience and is based primarily on his experiences and first hand impressions with both cultures.

Cultural Contrasts in Doing Business

Future orientation

German society believes anyone can create their own future: "Where there is a will there is a way! …