Cultural Differences

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Cultural Differences

Cultural Differences

On the one hand, we hear that doing business in Japan is complex - the market is impenetrable and the business culture full of elaborate rituals.

Yet internationalization is everywhere. Sometimes our Japanese counterparts seem to have a better knowledge of French wines and international politics than the staff at the home office.

Given these contrasting images - Japan as exotic and impenetrable versus Japan as modern and westernized - those entering the Japanese market or working with Japanese companies can easily fall into one of two traps: Either they assume that Japanese are highly exotic and obsess over superficial rules of etiquette, or see Japan as a modern country and expect that what works back at home will work in Japan.

Of course a knowledge of Japanese business etiquette is helpful, but shallow efforts to adapt to the Japanese culture (for example bowing deeply) can give the impression that you are naïve.

The larger mistake doing business in Japan is to miss the hidden cultural differences underneath the surface. These are differences which may not be obvious on a short visit, but which become more apparent the more time you spend in the country. They are subtle yet pervasive and they persist despite industrialization. (Robyns 2005)

The German passenger car industry consists of six major companies: Volkswagen, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Opel and Ford. I am sure that you are familiar with them. I will just mention a few important data.

Volkswagen was founded by the German state in 1937, but production of the

"people's car" designed by Ferdinand Porsche didn't begin until after the Second World War.

Today, the land Lower Saxonia still owns 20% of Volkswagen. Another 10% is owned by the state of Kuwait. The headquarters of Volkswagen are in Wolfsburg, a town which grew around the Volkswagen plant. Wolfsburg is one of the largest automobile production sites in the world. As a partly state-owned company, Volkswagen has a long tradition of social responsibility. It has good relations with the social-democratic government of Lower Saxonia (before he became chancellor for all of Germany, mr. Schroeder was prime minister of Lower Saxonia). It is the only major employer in the region. Volkswagen is the leading brand of the Volkswagen Group which includes also the brands of Audi, SEAT and Skoda as well as the luxury/sports brands Lamborghini, Bugatti, Bentley and Rolls Royce (until 2002).

BMW was founded in 1916 as an engine manufacturer (BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works). Its headquarters are in Munich, the capital of the land Bavaria. It started to manufacture cars before the war, but these production facilities were located outside Bavaria, in the part of Germany that was occupied by the Soviet Union. BMW started manufacturing cars in Bavaria in 1952. Since 1959 the Quandt family has a controlling interest in BMW (and in several other major companies). The corporate culture is in line with the Bavarian roots of the company: relatively closed, with a preference for traditional values of the Bavarian countryside.

DaimlerChrysler is the result of a merger between Daimler-Benz ...
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