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Copy of High Context Culture vs. Low Context Culture

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drue Combs

on 1 February 2014

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Transcript of Copy of High Context Culture vs. Low Context Culture

High Context Culture vs. Low Context Culture
Example: Low Context
Example: High context
High or Low Context Culture?
Low context ad: Denmark: Carlsberg Lite

”Finally a lite products we, as men, understand. 30 % less calories, 4.1 % alcohol. ”

Comprehensible meaning: Dilemma between health and taste.
The Carlsberg solution: Same amount of
alcohol, less calories.

Meaning resides in:
- Explicit non-verbal language, outward reaction .
- Sound effect.
- Overt messages - Summarizing statement.

High Context advertisement
However, originates from a low context country - Canada

Many things are left unsaid, letting the culture explain

Outsiders to the in-group of Canadians will not know the contextual meaning behind

1) The reference of a lumberjack
Abroad, Canada is often stereotyped as a vast, frozen wasteland, populated by “Eskimos” and lumberjacks.

2) Not knowing Jimmy, Sally or Suzy
Foreigners generally have a difficult time grasping the enormity of Canada (which actually spans 5,000 km (3,000 miles) from Atlantic to Pacific) (34.5 million inhabitants).

3) “about,” not “aboot.”
Officially bilingual country since 1969
Canadian English is a mixture of standard British and American English, with a bit of French and a sprinkling of First Nations and Inuit words thrown in for good measure.

High Context Culture
High Context ad: Japan:
Suntory beer

- Comprehend: Corporate meeting/social gathering
over beer at night.

Uncomprehensible meaning resides in:
- Non-verbal language, hand gestures.
- Unexplaind interactions/relationships.
- Implicit communication.

Not translated into low-context cultue.


• Definition: the factors shaping the circumstances of a statement and the perception of it, in terms of how much of it can be completely understood.

• Countries in Asia, the Middle East and Southern Europe are typically dominated by ‘high context’ culture

• Countries in North America, Northern, and Western Europe often are ‘low context’ cultures

American anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher

Influential colleague of the well-known media theorist Marshall McLuhan

Gradually developed his concept of “cultural dimensions”, which he described in several books.

Published in 1976

Contains simple but logical comments on culture and its influence on our behaviour

-> “it provides a good understanding of the manner in which culture conditions us to perceive our world, and the people who inhabit it, in certain predetermined ways.” (Pacific Sun)

Introduces the concept of “high and low context culture”

‘High context’

•Requires people to understand the rules, by using their knowledge of contextual elements

•People in ‘high context’ cultures rely more on indirect language, many covert and implicit messages, with use of metaphor and reading between the lines.

•Communication tends to be through words, the tone of the voice, body language, timing, facial expressions, eye contact, and the use of silence as pauses

• ‘High context’ cultures are more relationship-oriented, community and the traditional way of doing things are very important

Edward T. Hall (1914-2009):
Beyond Culture:
‘Low context’

• In ‘low context’ cultures most messages are overt and explicit

• Highly mobile environments such as the Canada and the US, where people come and go, need lower ‘context’ culture

• Communication in ‘low context’ cultures is direct and clear & Low commitment to relationship, transmitting the task is more important than relationships

• ‘Low context’ cultures argumentation and rhetoric are used in advertising, whereas symbolism and indirect expressions are commonly found in advertisements in ‘high context’ cultures

• Behaviour (verbal / nonverbal)
• Emotional expressions
• Relationship-building
• Directness/indirectness

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