High Context Culture: Advantages, Disadvantages And Its Examples

High Context Culture: Advantages, Disadvantages And Its Examples

High Context Culture: What Is It?

High context cultures rely more on non-verbal communication and gestures for communication as most communication is done indirectly. High context cultures tend to build relationships slowly, and they are generally stable for a long time and are based on trust and loyalty. Asia, Africa, Latin America, and central Europe are predominantly countries with a high context culture.

High Context Culture And Its Importance

In 1959, Edward Hall published his book ‘The Silent Language’, which founded the field of Intercultural Communication. Intercultural communication varies greatly between cultures and refers to how the message is conveyed explicitly.

The difference between cultural norms and cultural differences can be described in Hall’s concept of Intercultural Communication as High Context and Low Context communication. In high context communication, authority is centralized and a strong sense of collectivism dominates. Faces and gestures are more focused than words.

Boundaries between those who are accepted and those outside the circle are clearly defined. Efforts are made to stay out of conflict or find a quick resolution whenever the conflict arises. A focus on accuracy and group thinking is also made. It is not uncommon for people to ignore change.

High Context Culture Definition
High Context Culture Definition

High Context And Low Context Cultures: What’s The Difference

High versus Low Context Cultures In general, marketing communication differs significantly depending on the culture. In a high-context culture, people advertise their products through a blend of bold graphics, vibrant colors, and a variety of emotions that are designed to portray relationships and symbolic meanings.

It has also been proven that celebrities generally have a higher success rate when endorsing products. The design of the package is also influenced accordingly with an emphasis on loud colors. Likewise, even businesses’ websites are localized depending on the culture in which they operate.

Asian websites make heavy use of graphics and have very little text and have vibrant colors, even though they are designed in the way they are. These websites always use animations, graphics, and sounds, as well as interactive elements that vary from website to website.

Low context cultures have a much clearer idea of the information that they need and convey it explicitly so that there is no chance for confusion, whereas high context cultures communicate with nonverbal mediums and gestures primarily.

The western cultures, especially the British, Australians, and Americans, are considered to be of a low context, or “low context” culture. It is true that in cultures with high contexts, authority is centralized whereas, in cultures with low contexts, social structure is decentralized.

Compared to collectivism, low context cultures place less emphasis on nonverbal elements, and their sense of privacy is much stronger than that of high context cultures.

The low context cultures, however, are more likely to rely on short-term relationships because there is an ambiguous boundary that allows several people to be included in the same social circle in contrast to high context cultures, where relationships are built slowly and clearly defined boundaries are evident.

High Context Culture: Advantages

  • Generally, in social structures based on centralized authority, the top leader is dedicated mostly to keeping the group harmonious and deals can easily be made with those who can influence the group.
  • Due to the sense of belonging that high context cultures have, one feels secure and belonging. Working in groups, cohesiveness and motivation are high.
  • The use of critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and group learning improves efficiency.
  • When conflict arises, humane approaches are brought about by relationships that are long-term, trusting, and based on loyalty.

High Context Culture: Disadvantages

  • In context culture, communication is mostly nonverbal, increasing the chance of misunderstanding.
  • Conflict resolution is generally focused on resolving individual differences before advancing the task, which makes it easy to neglect the tasks or not complete them on time.
  • Adaptation to rapidly changing circumstances is difficult because people are slow to respond to changes.

High Context Culture: Examples

  • Ads for Indian products such as Vick’s, Complan, Colgate, Clinic Plus, Dettol, and Surf Excel depict the relationship between mother and child.
  • There is a story from Fortune Oil that depicts an elderly woman requesting daily that the nurse feeds his grandson in the hospital, which uses storytelling with emotional targeting. Viewers watched the emotional exchange between the grandmother and her granddaughter, as well as the grandson when he finally got to eat some homemade food.
  • A commercial by Birla Sun Life Sun Insurance plays like a short film of three minutes where a father who has lost his wife and job shows the emotional journey of an autistic boy with his father.
  • There is a clear difference between IKEA’s American and Japanese websites. A lot of graphics and animation are used on the Japanese website and it is bright, colorful, with scrolling graphics.
  • Packaging plays an important role in getting customers to try on new products in India.

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