Japan and the Netherlands through Hall’s eyes

March 8, 2023
March 8, 2023

By an OTC student

Online collaboration between a Dutch and Japanese student
I have now worked with the international exchange student for about four weeks and we have had several meetings. In these meetings there were of course some differences in our way of communication. Also there were some cultural aspects that were different, but some were also the same as in the Netherlands. In this blog I will explain the Japanese culture and the Dutch culture through the use of three cultural factors from Hall.

Japan: a high-context culture
The Japanese culture is a high context culture. You can expect that you’re the one who’s taking all the initiatives when talking with a typical Japanese person. Normally Japanese people are shy, quiet and reserved. However, the virtual exchange student with whom I and Stijn were pared with, was only like this in the first meeting. At first, she was shy, quiet and it was difficult to keep the ball rolling, but after two meetings we were already having fun and joking around. She might have already gotten used to talking in English and the Dutch directness because of her study abroad to Amerika. If I were to explain the Japanese culture with high and low context, I would say that Japanese people are really quiet and reserved when you meet them for the first time, there is a lot of silence and nonverbal communication. They also talk a lot about family and friends, but they will open up
more when you get to know them a little bit better.
I myself found it quite hard to pick up some of these cultural aspects, but I especially think that the silence was very uncomfortable for me as a person. It gives me as Dutch person, which is more of a low context culture, the feeling that the other person doesn’t like me. I think it was quite clear from my side that I tried to avoid these silences by changing the topic or by going straight to the main point of the meeting.

Similarities between the Japanese and the Dutch
The Dutch and the Japanese culture differ culture, but there are also similarities. Especially when we look at monochronic and polychronic actions. For example, when our meeting is at 9:30 am in the Netherlands, the meeting starts at 9:30 am with everyone present. In both cultures time is important and being on time is polite, while being late is seen as rude. We as a group were also very focused on the time and we were planning several weeks ahead to make sure that we achieve what had to be done for the virtual exchange assignment. In the meetings both sides were really focused on the meeting, so we were focusing on one thing at the time. I think these are all similarities between the Dutch and the Japanese culture and you could say that both are monochronic cultures.

Non-verbal communication
Lastly, I would like to touch the topic of non-verbal communication. I did mention that I did notice non-verbal communication through silence. In Japan silence is seen as something polite and not as uncomfortable, but what I personally want to highlight is the fact that I didn’t notice non-verbal communication at all. I think this might also be due to the meeting being online, but it is important to be aware of. In The Netherlands we don’t have much indirect communicational signs. We normally explain ourselves through verbal communication. For example, When we were planning our next meeting, I always say when is fine for me and when is bad for me, also including the reason why it’s bad. Japanese people wouldn’t really do this, because this could cause problems for the others. In general I think that our meetings so for were great and I hope to explore both cultures further in the upcoming meetings.