Why Can’t You Speak to Germany Like You Do With Japan?

Cross-Cultural Communication: When High-Context and Low-Context Cultures Collide (And No One Understands What Anyone Else is Saying)

Shivani Gandhi
5 min readJul 25, 2022

Will a Japanese company appreciate your attempts to get right to the point? Will a German company become bored if you beat around the bush, instead of directly addressing your points? It’s obvious there seems to be a communication gap here. When the behavior of people from other countries and cultures doesn’t align with our cultural norms, we tend to fall for the fundamental attribution error and attribute their behavior to their personality. We play along with cultural stereotypes without trying to understand how cultures plays a role in their style of communication.

Between high and low context cultures, the difference is meant to highlight verbal and nonverbal communication.

In high- context cultures, communication focuses on underlying meaning and the tone in the message, not just the words themselves. On the flip-side, low -context cultures expect communications to be explicitly stated without leaving anything up for interpretation.

With such a distinction between the two it is essential for multinational organizations to know the difference to effectively communicate and avoid offensive mistakes. An understanding of these differences will improve both outward and client focused communications as well as relationships…