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Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Respect, and Creating Long-Lasting Business Relationships by Sharon Schweitzer, Bob Waisfisz, Liz Alexander

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Chapter 1A Question of Culture

When we marry, most of us discover that our spouse's family has a different set of expectations, values, and beliefs, ranging from broad topics, such as boundaries to specific subjects such as shared holidays. Invariably, these are different from the way we were raised. If we can reconcile our own values with those of our new extended family, we avoid the potential culture clash; if not, and things escalate, the end result can be unpleasant. The same holds true in business.

J.B. (not his real name) is a factory owner in Chennai, in southern India, whose mid-sized business produces revenues of around $250 million a year and has two joint venture agreements. One relationship, with a German company, has happily lasted 18 years. The other, with a U.S.1 company, he wants to draw to a close, because of their less than desirable approach to doing business.

For example, on one occasion, J.B. wanted to spend $5,000 to manufacture a tool for a particular project and was questioned at length by his U.S. partners as to why he didn't just buy the tool from vendors overseas. J.B. responded that these vendors did not allow him to purchase a single item, only items in bulk, which he felt was wasteful and would incur unnecessary shipping costs. Overall, it was going to be considerably less expensive to make the part. After further laborious discussions, his U.S. partners reluctantly agreed.

In contrast, J.B.'s experience with the Germans is such that, “If I make ...

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