The Low Context United States
The High Context Mexico
By Kimberly Garcia Pacheco
As the title of this paper states I will be investigating the differences between the low-context United States country and the high-context Mexico country, and how these differences might impact the work environment. I will explain what Hall’s theory of low- and high-context cultures is. Then explaining what a high and low context country are by examining and comparing differences between cultures. In conclusion I will show how this applies to the two countries stated above.
“Edward Hall’s theory of high- and low-context culture helps us better understand the powerful effect culture has on communication. A key factor in his theory is context. This relates to the framework, background, and surrounding circumstances in which communication or an event takes place.” (Руфия-Исмаилова, 2013) The key to effective communication between countries is an understanding of each other's culture, especially a working knowledge of how each society conveys meaning.
“In a high-context culture, the social context or social environment is more important than the words being spoken. This means that in a high context culture, nonverbal communication is even more important than in low-context cultures. It may take time to build a relationship before your international business partner feels comfortable in talking about business dealings. If you have come to the meeting with an introduction from someone who knows you and the other business representative, this could take a few hours. But if you have come without with a formal introduction, and without a “go-between” to explain who you are, it might take months or years before you are trusted enough to be able to close a deal.” (Lamberton, 2010)
“In a low-context culture, the words themselves are more important than the surrounding social context. This means that nonverbal communication, while still very important in understanding others is less important than it is in high-context cultures. A written agreement can be taken at face value in a low-context culture. A contract, for example, means exactly what it says, no more and no less than that. A contract is considered the final product of negotiations, not the starting point.” (Lamberton, 2010)
“Mexico is what is called a high context culture. As a direct consequence of the high context nature of Mexican communication, it is necessary to build a personal relationship in conducting business with Mexicans. Without the context of that personal relationship, little if any substantive communication can take place, and necessary levels of trust are inadequate to undertake most business arrangements.” (MEXICO, DOING BUSINESS IN, n.d.)
The United States is called a low context culture. The low context nature of American communication is direct. “They value logic and linear thinking and expect people to speak clearly and in a straightforward manner. To them if you don’t “tell it how it is” you simply waste time, and time is money. Americans will use the telephone to conduct business that would require a face-to-face meeting in most other countries. They do not insist upon seeing or getting to know the people with whom they do business.” (USA - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette, n.d.)
“As in most high context cultures, Mexican behavior is more likely to be governed by individual interpretation and the need to save face rather than on external rules and regulations. As a result, in Mexico, personal understandings are more binding than contracts. Indeed, contracts in Mexico are often seen as the beginning of a relationship that can be subject to change as the business progresses.” (MEXICO, DOING BUSINESS IN, n.d.)
While as in most low context cultures, American behavior is regulated by rules and regulations. In the United States, a contract is thought to be the ultimate goal and more of a focus than a personal