III. Specific vs diffuse cultures


Specific cultures have a small area of privacy which is clearly separated from public life (USA). They have many personalities/sectors where they are acting and just there like socializing in clubs and organizations. Diffuse cultures (Germany, France, China) are concerned with keeping people’s face. Therefore why in diffuse cultures so much more time is take to get to the point. It is about to avoid private confrontations so the interlocutor or groups won’t feel offended and won’t take disagreements personally. Germans have a high degree of privacy and share just a low percentage with public. Americans have a small degree of privacy and share these public sectors (clubs e.g.) very easily and freely with members of these areas. It is one reason why the Americans seem to be so friendly and open in view of an Northern Europe but this commitment doesn’t mean that much as in France or in Germany.


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Chinese belong to the diffuse societies. If an European manager gets invited by his Chinese partner at home he would share nearly everything they have to be a good host. The guest becomes a close person because of the established close relationship. This is very important in diffuse cultures to built up close relationships in business life. This requires a lot of information which has to be exchanged in advance of a business deal. Some may look irrelevant but they are important. Chinese become via this procedure capable to get a more detailed picture about their business partner and their characters.

The conclusion which can be drawn out of that is „Don’t do business with strangers, you can just trust friends“. It is sometimes as important if not more important to built up a close relationship than the deal itself. People from diffusive cultures circle around the strange business partner to get to know him more deeply and they will discuss the specific facts only after a relationship of trust has been created.


Americans for instance would feel disturbed while their approach to close a deal. They get normally straight to the point and if the opponent shows still interest then they start circling around him to reach their goal – closing the deal. In a specific culture like in America employees get motivated by giving them a specific task and paying them according to their results. Microsoft e.g. give certain projects to potential employees with the task to present the results as soon as possible. The first who offers the final project will get hired the others get fired. Straight to the American motto „hire and fire“. In diffusive cultures companies have a different business culture than in specific cultures. In case someone fails in his job at a certain task the superior would first try to motivate the employee and show him some ways out of his bad performance. He will probably do it in that way that he guides the conversation to points where the subordinate gets the new ideas himself and it won’t look like the boss has given him instructions. In specific cultures turnover and employee mobility are important. Americans change their jobs usually in a 2-5 years circle. Although times are changing in Europe towards American business styles Germans, French and Finns tend to stay longer in their positions and work places.

6 thoughts on “III. Specific vs diffuse cultures

  • Dezember 17, 2010 um 4:20 am
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    These articles are very interesting, but the English is atrocious! You need an editor with better knowledge of the English language.

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    • März 9, 2011 um 4:20 pm
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      the articles are dated from 1999. my english wasn’t profecient enough at this time. anyone is welcome to help me. unfortunately I don’t have enough time to for this project.

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  • Dezember 17, 2011 um 6:23 pm
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    Me too supports Weihan, as it needs to improve in English. The article will be more helpful if the language is in simple words instead of tuff words. As he says, you should have an editor with better knowledge of English language.

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    • Dezember 22, 2011 um 6:25 pm
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      Hi Jasir, I agree as well but unfortunately I have no time right now to improve the quality of the website. If there is anyone interested in help, feel free to contact me! Thanks, Oliver

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  • Pingback: Diffused culture | Michaelcramton

  • März 25, 2013 um 6:37 pm
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    I appreciate your effort. Don’t worry about your English- it is a stupidly confusing language!
    I am more interested in what we might call „the archaeology of attitudes“- when an how did these cultural form come to be?

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