Culture-Specific Values Essay

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For American companies to conduct successful business  globally, cultural  values must  not  be ignored. The attitude  of “if it works in America, it will work anywhere” should  not  prevail. If cultural  values are ignored, a businessperson’s effort to forge a relationship will be met with resistance, for even though some cultural  values are elective and are not  deal-killers, some are cultural  exclusives and  must  be honored. Americans  conducting  business  in  other  countries must be aware of all cultural values, for any disrespect could be a deal-breaker. Singapore and India present two contrasting  examples of the role of culture-specific values in business.

Singapore is the smallest country in southeast Asia. The ethnic makeup of Singapore is diverse, with Chinese as the majority, followed by Malay and Indian. When  conducting  business, English is the preferred language. Singapore is a group-oriented culture; therefore, a businessperson  must form personal relationships. Just like in the United States, in Singapore, businesspeople  can  take  their  time  and  work their way into cliques or get in through being introduced.

In  comparison   to  the  United   States,  conducting business in Singapore is more formal; therefore, protocol  is valued. Appointments must  be made in advance, with writing a letter  the number  one preferred choice. Punctuality  is essential, for being late for appointments is viewed negatively.

Conducting   business  in  Singapore  is also  more slowly paced than in the United States. Singaporeans frown upon being rushed; therefore, a businessperson must allot adequate  time to conduct  business. Business is not discussed immediately; small talk always comes prior to the business discussion. Therefore, businesspeople eagerly wanting to make a connection must be cognizant of being too aggressive. In Singapore,  upon  entering  a business  meeting,  one  must never take a seat immediately. One must  wait until being told where to sit. This is in sharp  contrast  to the United States, for in many cases upon entering a business meeting, the businessperson  will sit in any available seat.

Singapore, dubbed one of the safest countries in the world, deals with crime differently from the United States. A businessperson  must  be cognizant  of the differences, for Singapore’s laws are as applicable to noncitizens  as to citizens. For example, crimes such as first-degree murder  carry an automatic  death sentence; minor offenses are dealt with harshly. A violator on public transit can be fined up to $500 for eating or drinking. Chewing gum is prohibited unless for medical or dental reasons, as is spitting in public.

In  contrast,   the  U.S. legal  atmosphere   is  more lenient  than  in  Singapore.  Even though  penalized in Singapore, Americans  can eat and drink on public transit, chew gum, and spit virtually anywhere. A businessperson  must be aware that commercial  disputes that may be handled as civil suits in the United States can escalate to criminal cases in Singapore and result in heavy fines and prison sentences.

India, a country in south Asia, has more than 1 billion people. Even though India has a large population of English-speaking people, at times, confusion  can arise over words’ meanings. Unlike Singaporeans, Indians  value punctuality,  yet may not  be punctual themselves. Even though  it is advisable for appointments  to be made at least one month  in advance, a businessperson   should   confirm   the   appointment upon  arrival. Business appointments should  ideally be made for late morning or early afternoon, between the hours of 11 and four.

Like Singaporeans, Indians do not like to be rushed when  making  decisions; therefore,  a mild,  relaxed demeanor  is valued, whereas impatience  is frowned upon and viewed as being rude and disrespectful to their culture. Unlike the United States, where the purpose of the meeting is stated almost immediately, in India a meeting usually begins with friendly small talk. The talk normally involves questions  about the family unit, for in India, the family is highly valued; therefore, discussing the family unit shows respect.

American businesspeople must be aware that even though in the United States disagreements are usually directly expressed, in India disagreements  are rarely expressed  directly due to the value placed on well-established honest business relationships.  Therefore, to avoid hurt  feelings, Indians use indirect  communication  and  nonverbal  cues. Because of the  value placed on structure  and hierarchy in Indian companies,  senior  colleagues  are  highly respected  and obeyed. Therefore, Americans  must  be sensitive by showing the needed respect.

Even though it may be a company’s dream to expand overseas, it is important that  cultural  values not be ignored. Familiarity with business customs specific to a culture  can determine  the success or demise of a venture.


  1. M. Brett, Negotiating Globally: How to Negotiate Deals, Resolve Disputes,  and  Make  Decisions Across Cultures (Jossey-Bass, 2001);
  2. Cellich and S. Jain, Global Business Negotiations: A Practical Guide (SouthWestern Educational  Publishing, 2003);
  3. Chaney and J. Martin, Intercultural  Business Communication (Prentice Hall, 2005);
  4. Dresser, Multicultural Manners: Essential Rules of Etiquette for the 21st Century (Wiley, 2005);
  5. Milligan, Culture Smart! (Kuperard,  2006);
  6. Carlos Noronha, The Theory of Culture-Specific Total Quality Management: Quality Management in Chinese Regions (Palgrave, 2002);
  7. Salacuse, The Global Negotiator: Making, Managing and Mending Deals Around the World in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

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