High Context Culture

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high context culture
Japanese culture is an example of a high-context culture

High Context Culture

A high-context culture is one in which contextual cues are the primary and dominating method of transmitting communication rules. These include particular types of body language, a person’s social or familial standing, and the tone of voice used when speaking. High-context cultures typically lack explicitly stated or written regulations. Low-context cultures, in contrast, are those where rules are explicitly expressed or written down for everyone to see and where most communication occurs verbally.

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Recognizing that all cultures incorporate high-context and low-context communication elements is crucial since no culture can be completely classified as belonging to either one over the other. The mixture of these elements in number and type is unique to a given culture. For example, verbal communication in certain situations may involve more low-context cues, while other situations may rely largely on high-context cues.

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Characteristics of high context culture

1. Homogeneous

Homogeneous cultures are those in which the entire group speaks one language, such as Chinese and Japanese. In homogeneous cultures, a person’s social standing is often based upon what his or her skills can be used for, such as knowledge of making pots or crafts from a particular material.

Homogeneity may also affect how people relate to each other in other aspects, such as how many people tend to gather together, the types of food they cook together at home or on their own, and so on.

2. Implicit

Implicit cultures are those in which there are no written rules or regulations governing what people should do. Often times, implicit cultures have a loosely defined cultural code that is not told to each individual in the culture. For example, people of certain ethnic groups, such as Hispanic or Asian, tend to follow the culture of his or her ancestors rather than their own, but they may not even know of it.

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3. Reliant on non-verbal cues

These cultures are characterized by a lack of importance placed on verbal communication. For example, people in such cultures often avoid speaking their native language when doing so would be considered impolite. Rather, they will rely on nonverbal cues to communicate with each other, such as facial expressions, body language, and mannerisms.

4.  Collectivistic

Collectivistic cultures tend to place great importance on interaction with the group. This can include making eye contact when speaking, eating with others, and saying “thank you” after being served food. Groups in these cultures value harmony within the group over individual goals.

Significant Differences Between High and Low Context Culture

The following are the differences between high and low-context culture in terms:

1. Learning

Learning is the main reason why high-context cultures are different from low-context ones. In high-context cultures, much of the learning is implicit or indirect. For example, people in a high-context culture learn the rules of their society by observing the actions of others and by experiencing certain events, such as weddings or funerals. Low-context cultures rely more on direct and explicit teaching to pass information and learning.

2. Temporality

 For high context, there is no concept of personal time since time is seen as a natural process that belongs to nature and other people, not individuals. However, low context time is a valuable resource that can be used or conserved. Personal time is a real idea, and it is the basis of what it means to be human.

3. Change

High-context cultures resist change since they rely on consistency within specific societal rules and social structures to define their identity and the unity between members of their culture. Low-context cultures are more likely to change their social rules, norms, and lines because they do not need to change to be themselves or socially unified.

4. Example

An example of a high-context culture is China. It has a long history with a set of rules and customs understood through tacit understanding and experience, without needing to list them formally. Most Chinese people do not question their values because this would lead to confusion and possibly shame or embarrassment. One must conform to societal norms to be accepted in the Chinese community.

Another example of a high-context culture is Japan. People in Japan are expected to follow the rules and customs that are passed down from their parents and ancestors. For example, people are expected to bow when they enter a house or do not mind being shoved into trains because this is something that most Japanese must do. You should never laugh in public, or else you may be seen as very rude and disrespectful. For a Japanese person to fit in, he or she must observe the traditions of Japan.

The U.S exemplifies a low-context culture. People have a sense of time as an important resource that should be managed, so they are in a rush to do things on time. The laws in the U.S are very clear and well defined, and people rely on those laws to teach them how to act socially. For example, if you want to go through the door first, you should politely say “after you” or “let me through.” Unlike the Chinese, Americans are taught to speak out when they disagree with someone instead of keeping it to themselves.

A segment may be something that does not extend over a certain time. For example, in some ways, it’s used to express the idea “to some extent.” Usually, it can be replaced by a phrase containing “more” or “less.” 


To summarize, culture is shared attitudes, values, and beliefs common to a group. As for us, Chinese culture has been formed over a long period of history. By sharing our own experiences and comparing them with others’ experiences, we understand that our own experience is just parts of the process of Chinese culture. It’s important to share with other people to make life more colorful.

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