Intercultural Communication in the Context of a Danish - German Collaboration - a Case Study

Carina Tommerup

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

The study of cross-cultural encounters in business has become a popular and crucial matter, due to globalization and an increasing level of international business activity across borders. An understanding of the fact that differences in norms, habits and traditions exist is essential to success in international business, which means that cultural differences is an unavoidable aspect for businesses seeking to expand to consider, and a field of research that must be ascribed a great focus from scholars. Culture come in many forms, and is embedded in every part of life as underlying assumptions that direct actions and thoughts. To grasp the concept and analyze it, one must have areas of focus, which in this case is cross-cultural business behavior and the differences that exist between two sets of behavior.
This thesis therefore seeks to gain insight into the aspects of business behavior that differ between Danish and German business culture. Additionally, it aims to uncover which implications these differences in business behavior may have for the Danish company Cotes that plan to re-enter the German market, and to offer a series of recommendations for the company to apply when employees find themselves in Danish-German encounters. In developing its approach to cross-cultural business behavior, the thesis take point of departure in a social constructionist point of view, which emphasizes the construction of reality as a social phenomenon and allows for multiple interpretations of reality. Through this scientific approach the thesis analyzes and interprets a set of interviews and questionnaire responses, in order to reveal the perceived differences in business behavior as seen from a Danish and theoretical point of view.
In the first chapters, the methodological considerations and the research design are explained, along with descriptions of the case company and the case itself. The thesis adopts a qualitative methodological approach and conducts a thematic analysis and discussion of the primary data set based on cultural and communication theory. The empirical data was gathered to gain an insight into the differences found in German business behavior, compared to Danish norms, from the perspective of Cotes’ employees and an external consultant. In addition, the perceived differences uncovered in the interviews and questionnaire responses is contrasted to the differences presented in theory. Moreover, the concept of cultural intelligence is applied in an attempt to disclose the dimensions necessary to the achievement of a successful cross-cultural encounter, and the extent to which the employees of Cotes hold potential to be culturally intelligent.
The findings of the study reveal that despite the minor geographical distance between the two countries, dissimilarities that are crucial to acknowledge exist between Danish and German business behavior. Different degrees of differences are found in terms of formality, dress code, language, business meetings and functions and communication. Stereotypical theory and perceptions take Danish and German business culture to be very similar, however, this believe is dangerous to apply for Cotes, since the minor differences in the above mentioned aspects can lead to a failed partnership, if they are not respected and taken into consideration. Nevertheless, the analysis uncovered that the knowledge on German business behavior with the sales team at Cotes is great and that they are well on their way in the process of developing their cultural intelligence. The recommendations for Cotes are characterized by an application of overall guidelines in terms of appropriate German business behavior, however, they do highlight the need for Cotes to apply a contingency approach, in that local and industry dependent differences exist in Germany in terms of formality, dress code, language preference and business culture in general. Future research must focus on examining the level of formality in German organizations, and whether this differs depending on organizational size, the industry or other organizational characteristics. Moreover, practitioners could gain valuable knowledge from studies looking into the use of English in German organizations and the development in attitude toward this. Finally, studies that take a German perspective in terms of cultural differences must be conducted to supplement this research.

EducationsCand.ling.merc Erhvervssprog og International Erhvervskommunikation (Multikulturel Kommunikation i Organisationer), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages89