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Working with different cultures

We are proud to say that we are a company with different nationalities spread over 3 continents :).
Working with different nationalities and cultures is fun but it can also create some unforeseen problems. Read the section below to understand why our founders are always so direct :).

The eight dimensions on cultural difference

In the book “The Culture Map” Erin Meyer explains how each culture operates over 8 dimensions. It is important to understand the meaning of each dimensions and when you work with different cultures in your team you understand how they score on these specific dimensions. The 8 dimensions are.
Communication - high vs. low context
Trust - task focused vs. relationship focused
Time - flexible vs. planned
Decision - consensual vs. top down
Authority - flat vs. hierarchical
Feedback - indirect vs. direct
Disagreeing - confrontational vs. avoid confrontation
Persuasion - principles vs. applications first

1. 💬 Communication: high vs. low context

People have different ways of communicating because of their culture. This difference is often explained by ‘low’ and ‘high’ context way of communicating.

High context

“High-context” cultures rely heavily on nonverbal communication, using elements such as the closeness of their relationships, strict social hierarchies and deep cultural knowledge to convey meaning. Someone that is used to communicate in a ‘high context’ way is used to ‘read between the lines’ and a lot of interpretation is expected of things that are not explicitly mentioned. People used to a ‘low context’ way of communicating can feel this way as unclear and not trustworthy.

Way of communicating:

Communication tends to be indirect, harmoniously structured and understated.
In conversation, people are expected to speak one after another in an orderly, linear fashion.
Disagreements are personally threatening. It is important to solve conflict immediately or avoid it completely in order for work to continue.
Physical space is considered more communal. Standing very close to others is a common practice.
Verbal messages are indirect. Speakers often talk around a point (instead of directly to it) and use embellishments to convey meaning.
Accuracy is valued. How well something is learned is important.
Some countries considered “high context” include Japan, Greece and various Arab nations.

Low context

In contrast, “low-context” cultures depend largely on words themselves. Communication tends to be more direct, relationships tend to begin and end quickly, and hierarchies are more relaxed. A ‘low context’ way of communication is a very direct way of saying what you mean without ‘reading between the line’. People used to a ‘high context’ environment can feel this way of communicating as aggressive and untactful.

Way of communicating:

Communication tends to be linear, dramatic, precise and open.
Because words are so highly valued, they are used almost constantly.
Disagreements are depersonalized. Conflicts do not have to be resolved immediately for work to continue. When solutions are found, they tend to be rationally based.
Privacy and personal space are highly valued. Physical space is considered privately owned.
Verbal messages are explicit and direct. Words are valued above their context.
Speed is valued. How efficiently something is done is important.
Some countries considered “low context” include the United States, the Netherlands, Israel, Germany and various Scandinavian countries.

It is important to note that no culture is “better” than another; communication styles simply convey differences, rather than superiority.
When two people from different cultures have a high context way of communicating like Japan and Spain it is important that they deliberately switch to a ‘low context’ way of communicating. The ‘reading between the lines’ is very different between cultures.
The Netherlands is a typical example of a ‘low context’ way of communicating. Please keep this in mind when Maarten & Adriaan communicate with you 🙏.
For more information read the book or check this .

2. 🤝 Trust: task focused vs. relationship focused

The way to build trust in a (working) relationship varies across cultures. In a task focused culture like the US and the Netherlands trust is build by following up on your actions and keeping to your promises.
In a relationship focused culture like Japan and China trust is formed at the coffee machine and especially outside of work.
In relationship focused cultures its important to significantly spend time with your counterpart on non work related activities to establish a level of trust. In japan for example it is common to go out for drinks (and get very drunk) several nights per week with your colleagues.

3. ⌛ Time: flexible vs. planned

In a flexible time culture a plan can be (constantly) changed based on the latest information. Not much time is spend on planning and it’s more important to agree on when things need to be done and get to work than spend a lot of time of creating a detailed plan.
Countries like the US have a flexible way of planning.
In a ‘planned time’ culture a lot of time is spend on creating a plan with strict deadlines and clear priorities. In a planned culture it is very uncommon to deviate from the initial plan.
Germany is an example of a planned time culture.

4. 👍 Decision making: consensual vs. top down

In a consensual focused culture a lot of time and thought is spend to get everyone aligned and agree. It is important that the whole team is behind a certain decision and everyone’s opinion is valued.
Countries that have a consensual way of making decisions are: the Netherlands and Israel
In a ‘top down’ focused culture decisions are made by one or a very small group of individuals. This is usually the boss. Team members often don’t do ‘anything’ before the boss has approved or made a decision and its expected that the boss rules by his authority.
Countries that are an example of this are: Russia and China

5. 💪 Authority: flat vs. hierarchical

With respect to authority a culture that has a flat culture is defined that the boss is one of the guys/girls. Often the boss doesn’t have a separate office, has a desk between the team and titles are not so important. In a flat culture it is common that someone from a ‘lower rank’ directly communicates with people many ranks above them.
Countries that are an example of this are: the Netherlands and the US
In a hierarchial type of culture, hierarchy plays an important role. Titles are important and respect for the boss is very important. If you want to talk to someone above your boss it is important to ask for approval from your boss first.
Countries that are an example of this are: Japan, Korea and Russia

6. 👨‍💻 Feedback: indirect vs. direct

In an indirect culture feedback is often given in, well an indirect way :). When feedback is given indirectly it is often swaddled in several positive messages. Feedback will often be given by first starting out with several positive points before addressing something that could/should improve. For people coming from a direct culture it is important to be aware of this and even ask for a summary to make sure that the feedback is understood.
Examples of countries with an indirect culture are: France, the US and China
In a direct feedback culture feedback is given directly and as plain as it is. For people not used to this this can often be seen as rude and offensive.
Countries that are an example are: the Netherlands, Ukraine and Israel

7. 😡 Disagreeing: confrontational vs avoid confrontation

In a direct disagreeing culture, confrontations are not avoided and addressed. Disagreements are seen as positive for the the team and organization. Confrontation will not impact the relationship.
Countries that have a direct confrontation culture are: France, Greece and Ukraine
In a indirect confrontation culture, confrontation is avoided at all costs. Disagreements are seen as a negative for the team and organization. Confrontation will not impact the relationship.
Countries are: Japan, India and Brazil

8. 😇 Persuasion: principles vs. applications first

In a country where principles are dominant individuals are trained to first develop a theory or complex concept before presenting a fact, statement, or opinion. The preference lies in beginning a message with a theoretical argument before the conclusion. The conceptual principles under the conclusion are valued.
Examples of countries are: South Africa, United States and India
In a culture where application triumphs over principle, individuals are trained to begin with a fact, statement or opinion and later add concepts that back this up. The preference is to begin a report with a key executive summary or bullet points. Theoretical or philosophical discussions are avoided in a business environment.
Examples of countries are: Greece, Germany and Ukraine

Examples of how countries are ranked

Ukraine, Netherlands, Greece, South Africa


United States and France


Israel, Romania, Czech Republic, France and Germany


Portugal, Russia, Brazil, Hungary and India


Mexico, Spain, Sweden, USA, Turkey


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