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A cultural fluency within an organisation never happens by accident ...

Understanding the diversity in work ethics and business culture can be difficult at times.

Working on successfully implementing your expansion strategy across Asia brings the challenge to a new level.

Many of the challenges related to a company’s entry in Asia is caused by a lack of local cultural fluency. People tend to take the same approach to everything, every time and everywhere – they embrace a “one size fits all” mentality. Understanding the wide variety of societies, religions and ethnicities shape the culture of Asia is crucial more than ever.

The Asian culture is an aggregation of diverse customs, traditions and social values that form the core of the Asian society. The continent of Asia is comprised of the geographic and cultural subregions of central, southern, western and eastern Asia. The Asian continent boasts of a rich cultural heritage that has given the region, an identity of its own. The different forms of Asian art and literature are widely popular around the world and the widespread influence of the Asian philosophy and religion, especially of East Asia, is worth making a mention of. The cultures of the continent of Asia are the most diverse of world cultures. The following is a brief look at each region.

East Asia

East Asia is usually thought to consist of China, Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, Japan and Korea. China being the dominant in the Asia Pacific especially the culture of Chinese has influenced many countries and religions whether in old times and modern times. The culture of East Asia has many characteristics such as shared Chinese-derived language characteristics, shared religion (especially Buddhism and Taoism) and shared social and moral philosophy derived from Confucianism. Apart from the unifying influence of Confucianism, Buddhism, Chinese characters, and other Chinese Cultural Influences, there is nevertheless much diversity between the countries of the region such as different national costumes, languages, religions, cuisines and so on.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is usually thought to consist of Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia which is also include Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, East Timor, Brunei and the Philippines. This region has been influenced by the cultures of India and China greatly. Also it has been influenced by the the religions Islam and Christianity from Southwest Asia and Western culture due to the lasting legacy of colonialism.

West Asia

West Asia is usually thought to consist of Turkey, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen which are the term the Middle East. However, the usage of the term Middle East is slowly fading out due as the region is east of Europe but it is south of Russia and west of India. The region is the historical birthplace of Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Today, the region is almost 93% Muslim and is dominated by Islamic politics. Culturally, the region is Turkish, Arab and Persian.

Central Asia

Central Asia is usually thought to consist of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan which sometimes include Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The predominant religion in Central Asia is Islam. Central Asia is famous for its Silk Road and it has a long history. The natural culture of Central Asia is influenced by Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arabian, Turkish, Russian, Sarmatian and Mongolian cultures. The Kazakh Khanate people have historically been nomadic people of Central Asia since 16th century.

Business can be influenced by culture in several ways such as language issues and culture collisions, especially in the beginning when looking to set up a new business entity, a branch office or launch a new brand and hire a new team. No knowing how to navigate in a new jurisdiction could lead to a disaster. leading to your busienss or brand not being accepted, understood or even able to conduct business and moreover, not being able to return again. to that city.

Your company needs to be able to find a way to understand to solve these difficulties in a way that is satisfying for all parties. It can be challenging, juggling all the necessay rules, regulations and also resepcting customs, traditions and etiquette in order to ensure all parties are respected and the desired outcome are achieved.

Different cultures have different methods of doing business, for example some people prefer to host their business meetings with foreigners in a formal way, and would be offended to be addressed by their first name; some might believe that the use of an informal style and first name would signal to the partners that they are trusted. Two partners from these different cultural backgrounds could easily misunderstand each other if they negotiate without a previous knowledge of one another’s assumptions and values.

Developing a cultural fluency within an organisation never happens by accident. It needs careful planning, training and targeted interventions.

Sources: "National culture when doing business in asia pacific." 11 2018. " the Great Leap Forward, The Economist. 30 September 2004. Business Council of Asia


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