What makes us honour a pre-existing contract? Or, do we renegotiate when stuck in limbo during a crisis? The truth is, our pincode and our parents determine to a large extent, how we react to such situations.

More than the COMMERCIAL CONTRACT, it is about a SOCIAL CONTRACT – the power of cultures!

How does culture affect our approach?

As far as oriental societies (like India) are concerned, renegotiation is a run-of-the-mill job. Be it landlords and tenants, or vendors and corporates, renegotiation does the trick in all situations. In normal times honouring the contract is the language of business, which the world understands. And in this scenario, western societies have a huge advantage for following the rule book every time. However, in times of crisis, these Societies are stuck in the legacy of non-feasible contracts.

Is dragging your tenant to court the only option when they are unable to pay the rent due to prevailing situations?

Now, here’s the thing! Culture is one aspect of globalization that changes gradually, taking its own sweet time, as opposed to the fast-paced changes due to intermingling of people & information. Besides, there are other factors that haven’t changed as much despite globalization.

For example, people have different biological clocks, because of their time zones – which is an act of God.

There’s also the unmitigated understanding that comes across as part linguistics and part non-verbal nuances. All of this despite the heavy strides mankind has taken in translation technologies.

Moreover, the time taken to travel continents has not undergone any major reduction in the last decades.

What does an international traveller notice?

The question might arise on whether one, who frequently travels across the globe, may notice subtle changes in culture across regions? And, how do their observations affect the way they approach doing business?

    Consider REGION A.

  • It is the kind of place where large, noisy gatherings are common; especially during festivals and carnivals.
  • Relationships are more sustainable in general, but they also take a lot longer to build emotionally, compared to other regions.
  • In terms of business, email communications are usually long, with loads of background explanation before they get to the focal point of conversation.
  • Informal understanding holds a lot of value, and is often more important than written agreements.
  • Communication is extremely contextual and very often the written word is interpreted differently depending on the situation.

    Alright, let’s consider REGION B.

  • Contrary to REGION A, it has a more subtle kind of lifestyle. The communication and conversations are specific, explicit and to the point.
  • There is a nice sequence that is followed all throughout, wherein relationships & activities are separated by time and space.
  • Feedback is always direct, whether the review is good or bad. Beating around the bush or stalling in terms of feedback, is considered vague & defeats the overall purpose.
  • Relationships here are short-term and the concerned people only focus on the task at hand. There is a clear differentiation in terms of how they deal with personal relationships and others.

The former is an example of High Context Culture & later Low Context Societies. Anthropologist Edward T. Hall was the pioneer in this field and he coined these terms, succinctly explained in his book “The Silent Language”.

Do we understand these subtle variations in social norms? Do we realize how much these norms matter when we approach anybody for a business proposition? Are we aware that we are a part of a larger social group, and thus, entwined with the decision making that comes with it?

When you think of solving an interpersonal problem, does it cross your mind that the decision may already have been made for you?

It depends largely on where we belong and before we go ahead, the psychology and philosophy that goes behind the concerned person’s actions must be understood.