Cross Cultural Communication. The Lewis Model and the Differences between Cultures

Term Paper, 2018

37 Pages, Grade: 1,7



Table of contents

List of figures

List of abbreviations

1 Introduction
1.1 Aim and structure
1.2 Richard Donald Lewis

2 Definitions
2.1 Culture
2.1.1 Core Beliefs
2.1.2 Iceberg Model of Culture
2.1.3 Organizational Culture Model
2.2 Communication
2.3 Cross-cultural Communication

3 Lewis Model of Culture
3.1 Linear-active
3.2 Multi-active
3.3 Reactive
3.4 Intercategory comparisons
3.5 Critical reflection

4 Practical relevance of crossing culture

5 Managing and leading in different cultures
5.1 Germany
5.2 Mexico
5.3 Japan
5.4 Intercategory comparisons

6 Summary


List of figures

Fig. 1: Core Beliefs of Japan

Fig. 2: Iceberg Model

Fig. 3: Organizational Culture Model

Fig. 4: Cultural Types: The Lewis Model

Fig. 5: Levels of Difficulty in LMR Interactions

Fig. 6: Comparison of Linear-Active and Multi-Active Horizons

Fig. 7: Comparison of Linear-Active and Reactive Horizons

Fig. 8: Comparison of Multi-Active and Reactive Horizons

List of abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1 Introduction

A German who is constantly punctual, a Mexican who always interrupts one, or a Japanese who doesn't keep eye contact during the conversation. All these are examples of cultural behavior. While the Mexican can't understand why a German has to leave the meeting at four o'clock on the dot, the Japa­nese finds it impolite that the Mexican won't let anyone finish the sentence. One often only become aware of cultural characteristics and specialties when you move within another culture.

These kinds of cross-cultural relations only exist as a result of globalization, the internationalization of markets and new communication technologies. To­day, almost everyone is able to communicate and collaborate with people from all over the world. These developments show that intercultural commu­nication and competence is becoming an increasingly important topic. Hardly any large company operates only in its own country. If one wants to make profit, one has to offer ones products not only in ones home country, but all over the world. It is essential to know the cultural values and behaviors of other nations to be succesful in other markets. Also, political and economical associations like the EU or NAFTA support international collaboration and it is seen as essential and desirable.

But also on a private level intercultural communication plays an important role. Many international friendships arise through programs like student ex­changes and travel.

Refugee movements and migratory flows increase the need to find out about other nations as well and thus facilitate their integration into a new country. But migrants also have to inform themselves to gain a foothold in their new homeland and to avoid a culture shock.

As briefly explained above, intercultural communication is often associated with problems, misunderstandings and prejudices. In order to smooth com­munication and to understand the cultures of other countries there are count­less models that try to condense cultural behaviour. While some researchers have looked at geographical divisions like north, south, east and west, others classified people by religion (Muslim, Christian, Hindu) or even by race (Afri­can, Idian, Arab).

But how do you define the east? How do you classify a person that is African- Arab? Lewis seems to have found a solution to the problem by developing the culture type model in 1996. There are three types of cultures and each nation is analyzed and assigned in detail. Since it is represented as a trian­gle, hybrid types are also possible. The present work focuses on this model, which is explained in more detail in part 3.

1.1 Aim and structure

The aim of this work is to explain the construct of cross-cultural communica­tion using the Richard D. Lewis model and to analyze the differences be­tween cultures. It begins with an introduction to the subject and then briefly introduces the inventor of the model. The model is still considered the most known and most appropriate in the context of cross-cultural research. The second part of the paper deals with definitions of terms. First, culture is de­fined and further explained by the core beliefs of Lewis (2006), the Iceberg Model of Hall (1976) and the Organizational Culture Model by Schein (1989). This is followed by the definition of the term communication as well as the explaination of the term cross-cultural communication. The third part is the main part of the presented work. It illustrates the cross culture model of Lew­is. The model differentiates linear-active, multi-active and reactive types of culture, which are brought closer to the reader in sub-chapters. It then shows how the different types of culture get on with each other. As the conclusion of the chapter, the model is critically verified. The fourth part of the work ex­plains why it is so important nowadays to have intercultural skills. Subse­quently, the model is applied in practice. Germany, Mexico and Japan shall each display one representative of the different cultural types and also will be compared. The work ends with a reflective summary.

1.2 Richard Donald Lewis

Since the present work revolves around the cross-culture model of Richard D. Lewis, he is briefly presented below. Lewis was born in 1930 in Lanca­shire, England and is a communications consultant, writer, polyglot and so­cial theorist. He holds a degree in Modern Languages (University of Notting­ham) and Cultures and Civilizations (Sorbonne, Paris).

In 1955 he founded the Berlitz School of Languages in Finland and opened further locations in Norway and Portugal three and four years later. In 1966, another location in Tokyo followed. Lewis lived and worked in various places around the world and therefore speaks 11 languages. He already started do learn foreign languages at the age of 9. Furthermore, he travelled over 135 countries. He also founded the Richard Lewis Communications Ltd., a con­sulting, training and coaching company for communication and cross cultural topics (Cross Culture, 2018).

Over the past few years, Lewis and his organization have advised more than 500 companies so that over 70,000 people have received intercultural knowledge (Chudy, 2013). He is still working with many reputable people. Examples include Konrad Adenauer, Prince Mikasa and Sir Stanley Rous (Cross Culture, 2018). He has also given linguistic and cultural advice to German chancellors, prime ministers of Finland and the head of NATO. His book When Cultures Collide explains the Cross Culture Model and has sold over a million copies since its first publication in 1996. It was also the „US Book of the Month" in 1999. He introduced many entirely new concepts to the cross-culture field such as cultural black holes and data-oriented and dia­logue-oriented cultures (Lubin, 2013). Thus, he is regarded as the founder of the cross-cultural communication research field.

2 Definitions

In the context of this work, certain terms will appear very frequently. To en­sure that these are clear and that the reader has an equal understanding of them, the terms and concepts are defined below.

2.1 Culture

A generally accepted definition of the concept of culture can not be found in scientific literature. Depending on the field of research, different emphases are set, so that one can speak of cultural concepts in the plural (Germ, 2006, p.4). The term ,culture’ comes from the Latin word ,colere’, which means cul­tivating, ordering’.

Every culture has its peculiarities and orientations that are typical for it. They form the identity of the culture and characterize their relatives. The orienta­tions influence not only the perception and thinking of the relatives, but also the values and the actions. They define their affiliation with society (Kuckel- berg, 2009, p.1). According to Hall, an American anthropologist and cross- cultural researcher (1973, p.97f.), culture is communication. It is the total sum of the everyday life of a person.

Hofstede (1984, p.51), another cross-cultural researcher, defines culture as a collective programming of meaning, which differentiates the members of one category from another. He differentiates between two types of cultures; the high culture, and the everyday culture.

High culture is the artistic-aesthetic culture and the state of intellectuality, while everyday culture is the whole way of life of a group. This includes the collective patterns of thinking and acting of a society (Loffler, 2011, p.48).

After Krober and Kluckhorn (1952) collected and analyzed more than 100 definitions of culture, they wrote the following definition, which is still widely used today (Germ, 2006, p.4):

Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behaviour acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, in­cluding their embodiments in artefacts, the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e. historical derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values, culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other as conditioning elements of further action.

Krober und Kluckhorn (1952), cited after Germ, 2006, p.4.

Since ,culture’ is a very complex construct, the Core Beliefs of Lewis (2006), the Iceberg Model of Hall (1976) and the Organizational Model of Schein (1989) are explained below in order to further illuminate the topic.

2.1.1 Core Beliefs

Lewis (2006) is in the opinion that the so-called ,core beliefs’ have a signifi­cant influence on our culture.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1: Core Beliefs of Japan (Source: Lewis, 2006, p.18)

As the graph above shows, there is a base level that is the same from nation to nation. These can also be seen as basic needs. The middle level reflects the collective programming. These are the core beliefs of a nation, which get mediated by parents and society when growing up. The upper part shows in­dividual characteristics. Because of their personality, people have a variety of characteristics that distinguishes them from others. They often become known because of their peculiarity and change a nation far-reaching (like for example King Henry VIII) (Lewis, 2006, p.18f.).

2.1.2 Iceberg Model of Culture

The Iceberg Model is an instrument of cultural studies for visualizing the rela­tionship between directly perceptible and hidden culture. It makes clear that some areas of life are easily visible, such as language, clothing, food and traditions. At the same time it shows that the vast majority remains hidden ,under the surface of the water’ like norms, values and faith (see figure be­low).

The lower part of the iceberg is always larger and influences the upper part (Hall, 1976). If this is transferred into practice, our faith, for example, deter­mines what clothes we wear. Furthermore, as an example, many followers of Islam wear a headscarf because of their faith. The model shows that one cannot judge a new culture by its perceptible part, but has to go under the surface to understand it.

This model divided the culture into three different levels: Artifacts, Espoused Values and Basic Underlying Assumptions (see Figure 2). The artifact level is the visible level. It is composed of artifacts and behavioral patterns. Thus, a uniform can represent the corporate culture of an organization. While a suit is regarded as conservative and formal, the non-existent dress code suggests a loose and open corporate culture.

Espoused Values is the second level. It is a felt, but not visible, level. Behav­ioural standards are formed, which include guidelines, prohibitions and com­mandments that the members of a culture or organisation share with each other. An example of this is an active sustainability concept on which all or­ganisation members are committed. The third level is the foundation and de­scribes the basic assumptions. These influence a person’s perception and actions. The influences take place unconsciously, norms and rules are not considered, they are perceived as normal. This can also be understood as a world view (Vienna, Franzke, 2014, p.29). An example of this is the choice of address; is the other person addressed with the first name or with the last name? In some cultures even the parents are formally addressed, while other cultures have no formal form at all.

The assumptions taken for granted in society are carried into the felt and the visible level and influence them. This principle also works the other way around. For example, if you want an open communication in the corporate culture, you have to take this into account when designing your workplace. It is important to open up many communication channels that strengthen the feeling that open communication is the right thing to do and can lead to the basic attitude that open communication leads to better results (Youtube, 2017).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 3: Organizational Culture Model (Schein, 1989)

There are numerous other definitions and models for the representation of the cultural term but for reasons of space it is limited to the above. These models were chosen because they are considered particularly relevant in the literature.

2.2 Communication

Culture and communication are interdependent at many levels. Our culture influences our communication and without communication there is no culture (Hoikkala-Kiiha, 2008, p.7). The concept of communication is also defined in many ways. According to Watzlawick (2003, p.50f.) communication is a gen­eral term for a field of knowledge. It is about the exchange of messages and serves above all the transmission of information. If two or more people ex­change messages, one speaks of an interaction. It is thus a process on the other side of the exchange. Communication can take place intentionally, for example through words, or unintentionally, for example through body lan­guage.

Schulz von Thun (2005, p.34f.) explains the concept of communication as the transmission of information from a transmitter to a receiver with the help of meaningful signs or codes. Accordingly, no meanings are transmitted, but signs. These characters are encoded by the transmitter and decoded by the receiver. In the opinion of Schulz von Thun, a message has four different levels of messages. At the factual level, information about something is pro­vided. At the level of self-disclosure, something is revealed about oneself. At the same time one exposes what one thinks of someone else and how one stands to this through the relationship. The fourth message is an appeal, i.e. what one wants to achieve with the message to the recipient. A prerequisite for successful communication is an equal or at least similar understanding of the meaning of the signs (called semantics). Semantics depends, among other things, on speaking a certain language or belonging to a certain culture. For communication to be successful, the sender and receiver must give the message a synonymous meaning.

2.3 Cross-cultural Communication

Cross-cultural communication is a research field of intercultural communica­tion. In one case, bridging is emphasized (cross), in the other the opposites (inter). Intercultural communication involces communication between people from different countries. This term is also interpreted differently by every dis­cipline. In the context of this work intercultural communication is seen as in­teraction between interlocutors from different countries. They are aware that the other person has different attitudes and behaviors and takes this into ac­count when communicating. In interactions, these are experienced as foreign (Bruck, 1994, p.345).

The cross-cultural approach primarily deals with comparing the communica­tion of different cultures. This research direction has developed from various cultural anthropological studies of communication processes in different cul­tures (Gudykunst, 2003, p.1f.). Prosser (1978, p.291) defines cross-cultural communication as a communication between members of all cultures in con­tact with each other or between cultural speakers or in contact by establish­ing a basis between cultures. Wallace (1966, p.35f.) sees cross-cultural communication as a concept used when comparing cultures.

3 Lewis’ Model of Culture

While the models above have explained the concept of culture, Lewis (1996) classified entire nations in the form of homogeneous groups of different types. His model is based on the work of Edward Hall (1976), who classified monochronic and polychronic cultures. Monochronic cultures are attending to one thing at a time, such as concentrating on the job at hand, think about when things are achieved, put the job first, seldom borrow or lend things and emphasize promptness. Polychronic cultures are attending to multiple things at the same time, are easily distracted, think about what will be achieved, put relationship first, borrow and lend things often and easily and base prompt­ness relationship factors. Lewis further expanded these dimensions, calling them linear-active and multi-active.

He believed that the previous Cross Culture researchers ignored the powerful Asian mindset and therefore added a new concept, called reactive.


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Cross Cultural Communication. The Lewis Model and the Differences between Cultures
University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld
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