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Chinese Firms Face Tough Cultural Challenges in US Marketplace


We hear a lot in the news about cultural differences with Western companies going East, but rarely about Eastern companies coming to the West.

A great little article in the South China Morning Post by Mark Magnier suggests that when it comes to navigating different business cultures, Chinese companies are finding very similar challenges when working on the global stage, especially in the USA.

As more and more Chinese brands venture overseas their ability to work and communicate across cultural lines is becoming an increasingly important factor in their potential success.

According to a survey by the China General Chamber of Commerce-USA, cultural differences are the greatest problem members face in hiring and retaining American workers. US-China cultural divergence was among the top strategic challenges.

The problem is not solely a Chinese one as the article notes that Japanese and South Korean companies face very similar problems.

The Japanese are well-known for their insular management style and groupthink; the South Koreans for being blunt in how they communicate as well as hyper-sensitive when it comes to matters of protocol and face.

American-Chinese Cultural Differences in Business

So, what are Chinese firms finding tough about American culture? Well, a lot it seems.

An example of a typical cultural difference faced by Chinese companies entering the US market is the different approaches to hierarchy, decision making and a chain-of-command.

Whereas Chinese workers feel comfortable with this, when it is transplanted into an American workplace it does not sit well. American culture is individualistic, meaning speaking your mind, challenging authority and disagreeing with seniors publicly are all healthy attributes; for the Chinese is a total no-no.


chinese culture quote

[Screenshot from original article]

Another area in which the Chinese struggle are the different communication styles.

The Chinese have an indirect communication style, where protecting face and harmony are prioritised. People don’t say what they think. In American culture, however, this is the total opposite – you have to say what you think. This can lead to the Americans causing offence to the Chinese and the Chinese totally confusing the Americans!

Other examples of cultural differences faced by Chinese companies in the USA include the different approaches to contracts and legal obligations, working hours, timeframes, spending and even respect for the environment.

The article is a perfect example of how different cultures approach business and what can happen when you enter someone else’s marketplace wearing your own cultural lens.

If you want to be a success in a foreign marketplace, you have to understand it from the bottom up.

Need to make a good impression when working with the Chinese or Americans?

Then stay ahead of the competition and confidently navigate Chinese or American culture by enrolling on our comprehensive eLearning Cultural Training Programmes:


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