VII. Affective versus neutral culture


Affective or neutral context describes how cultures express their emotions. In affective cultures like in China people express their emotions more naturally (Note: different opinions regarding China – see eBook International Business from Aswathappa VERSUS Stefan Broda in his term paper mentions differently. I will check again from the original source of Trompenaars, Fons Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business). Reactions are shown immediately verbally and/or non-verbally by using mimic and gesture in form of body signals. They don’t avoid physical contact, which is well known especially from Italians and Spanish when meeting each other very enthusiastic and with raised voices. In contrast neutral cultures like Japanese tend to hide their emotions and don’t show them in public. Neutral cultures don’t express precisely and directly what they are really thinking which can lead to misunderstandings and certain emotions are considered to be improper to exhibit in certain situations. It is also considered as important not to let emotion influence objectivity and reason in decision making. In general they feel discomfort with physical contact in public and communicate in a more subtle way which makes it difficult for members of other cultures to read between the lines and get the message.


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The Chinese may also use more intuition or feeling in making a business decision. The Americans are in the middle of this dimension. They express their emotions but try to avoid that they won’t influence the rational decision making, especially in business situations. Germany, France and Finland are also more centered within the scale of this context neutral versus affective. These cultures respond from a non-emotional level in business life. They often expect gratification for their work achievements – not immediately but later on.

„When doing business with neutral cultures it is recommended to ask for time-outs from meetings and negotiations and put as much as you can on paper beforehand. „Neutrals“ tend to be reserved which doesn’t mean that they are disinterested or bored. It is just a lack of emotional tone. You may experience that the entire negotiation is very focused on the object or proposition being discussed and less on you as a person.


In comparison to „Neutrals“, members of affective cultures may have a tendency to overact, creating scenes or getting histrionic, but it is suggested not to get confused but to take time-outs for a clear, sober reflection and hard assessment. They don’t have made up their minds when showing their enthusiasm, readiness to agree or vehement disagree. You can respond warmly their expressed goodwill. In contrast to neutral cultures, affective cultures are focused on you as a person and not so much on the object or position.“ *6

*6 „Riding on the waves of culture“, Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, page 79

5 thoughts on “VII. Affective versus neutral culture

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  • November 20, 2010 um 7:18 pm
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    you sure China is in the neutral culture list ?

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    • Februar 18, 2016 um 11:06 am
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      Hi Bill, as mentioned in my comment above, I will check from the original Source of „Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Businessy“. Best regards, Oliver

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    • Februar 18, 2016 um 11:05 am
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      Hi Christina, sorry for my very late reply! I will check from the original Source of Fons Trompenaars and ordered the latest edition just today. Best regards, Oliver

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